User Tools

Site Tools


maximum_number_of_constituents_for_house_representatives

Everyone knows the Bill of Rights comprises the first 10 amendments to the United States constitution. What few people realize is that 12 amendments were put forth. Articles 3 - 12 were ratified and became the first 10 amendments known as the Bill of Rights. Over two hundred years later, Article 2 was finally passed as the 27th amendment (congressional pay raises do not go into effect until an election has passed–a fine rule, I'd say). Article 1 has never been passed mostly because the version finally set forth after all comprimises were made was unworkable due to fatal logic and redundancy flaws. Here is the version which was set before the states for ratification:

Article the first . . . After the first enumeration required by the first Article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which, the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.

http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?doc=13&page=transcript

The last bit “nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousands persons” is the real kicker. By switching from minimum to maximium logic errors kill this amendment. The original version proposed made more sense:

Article the First.

After the first enumeration, required by the first Article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.

http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch14s54.html

Now that makes sense! Clearly, at this point, this could be simplified to merely state that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons, but what if our poplation drastically shrinks? The flexibility to adjust for very small populations is possibly useful and worth preserving, if for no other reason, than for others to look to when establishing new congressional bodies for whatever reason (maybe moon/mars colonies!).

This second, logically sound, version should be a part of any reasonable constitution. It ensures that there is adequate representation of the people for the house which is designed very clearly for this very purpose. Many argue it would be nightmarishly large, however. The CIA world fact book estimates the US population at 293,027,571 as of July of 2004. By these rules, that would mean the House of Representatives would have 5861 members. Chicago alone would have 58 representatives, outnumbering their city aldermen by 8! Certainly the ability to house that many representatives would present challenges. And does anybody really want to see the congressional payroll go up from the current ~$68,773,500.00 to ~$926,624,100.00, or nearly one billion dollars? Probably not.

What we have now, however is equally untennable. House representatives have wildly differing constituency sizes. Some represent tens of thousands, some represent many hundreds of thousands. At the very least, there should be consistency. The article as written increases the maximum number of consituents by ten thousand every time the total seats in the house increases by one hundred. If that rule were used as an open ended formula, then a list of thresholds could be figured out. The first 100 seats must have one representative for every 30,000 people so when the house equals 100 members they are representing 3,000,000 people. When the total number of seats exceeds 100 there can be no less than one representative for each 40,000 people and no less than 100 representatives. The second part is required because 101 representatives could, concievably, represent groups so large that there would only be need for less than 100 representatives. This paradox is eliminated by stating that the total number of representatives can not drop below 100 when making adjustments for this new threshold. So when the house reaches 200 people, it is representing 8,000,000 people. Moving along, let's complete that chart:

Total House Maximum

 Members    Constituents

———– ————–

  1-100       3,000,000 (no more than 1 per 30,000 people)
101-200       8,000,000 (no more than 1 per 40,000 people)
201-300      15,000,000 (no more than 1 per 50,000 people)
301-400      24,000,000 (no more than 1 per 60,000 people)
401-500      35,000,000 (no more than 1 per 70,000 people)
501-600      48,000,000 (no more than 1 per 80,000 people)
601-700      63,000,000 (no more than 1 per 90,000 people)
701-800      80,000,000 (no more than 1 per 100,000 people)
801-900      99,000,000 (no more than 1 per 110,000 people)
901-1000    120,000,000 (no more than 1 per 120,000 people)

1001-1100 143,000,000 (no more than 1 per 130,000 people) 1101-1200 168,000,000 (no more than 1 per 140,000 people) 1201-1300 195,000,000 (no more than 1 per 150,000 people) 1301-1400 224,000,000 (no more than 1 per 160,000 people) 1401-1500 255,000,000 (no more than 1 per 170,000 people) 1501-1600 288,000,000 (no more than 1 per 180,000 people) 1601-1700 323,000,000 (no more than 1 per 190,000 people) 1701-1800 360,000,000 (no more than 1 per 200,000 people)

…and so on.

The population of the US when the last census numbers were officially filed for representation purposes (April 1, 2000) was 281,421,906. Using this population, we would be at the “no more than 1 per 180,000 people” threshold so 1564 House representatives would be required. This is a approximately three and a half times the current house representation of 435 members. Certainly they would not fit in the current house chamber, but it's certainly better than 5861 members! No matter what you do, you are either dealing with very large bodies or very large constituencies. You could just decide that a quarter of a million people is totally reasonable and leave it at that. You'd still have 1125 representatives. Half a million constituents per representative? 563 member house. Ok, now we're nearer to our current size which averages one representative per 646,947 people. Can 646,947 people be adequately represented by just one person? I think not. Should we have 1564 representatives? Quite probably. This would mean 17 representatives for Chicago alone. That is a lot, but Chicago is the third largest city in the nation. It's certainly less by more than a half (instead of more than) the 50 aldermen it takes to represent the local interests of the citizenry.

maximum_number_of_constituents_for_house_representatives.txt · Last modified: 2008/10/08 06:37 by earth