Growth in the nation's population is resulting in ever larger Congressional districts that reduce minority voices, increase the power of the wealthy, and pose a problem for members of Congress to truly represent the people of their district.
The Constitution created 65 seats in the House of Representatives, set a minimum size of 30,000 residents for a Congressional district, and mandated a reapportionment after each census. As new states entered the union and the nation's population grew, the size of the House increased every decade until 1912, when it reached the current size of 435 and the average district had 210,000 residents. Today the average district has a startling 650,000 people. The largest district – Nevada's Third – has 960,000 residents, and the smallest – Wyoming's single district – has 493,000.
These disparities will continue to grow. By 2040 the average district will have more than 900,000 residents. Districts could range from as few as 500,000 residents to more than 1.7 million. Almost one-third of the states in the "People's House" could have only one or two representatives. How can one person adequately represent the diversity encompassed in such a large district?
Congress might also consider a system that increases the size of the House by the growth of the population each decade (or, half of the growth to start slowly) and continue to leave the actual allocation among the states to the Census Bureau, as is now the case.
Given current population projections, there would be about 44 new seats in 2010 and 41 more in 2020. The House would increase gradually as our population grew. Another option is to determine the number of members based on the size of the smallest district – using this system we would have about 600 members today.
We can and must debate the size of the "People's House." The equity and effectiveness of a "government of the people, by the people and for the people" is at stake.
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