Thirtythousand.org is a website and a great reference for the history and political practice of limiting the number of congressional districts despite the continuing growth in the nation’s population. This practice began about 100 years ago when the additions of Arizona and New Mexico brought the total number to 435 members. It started out at 60 members and grew after each census until it stopped at 435. It did briefly rise to 437 after the additions of Alaska and Hawaii, but returned to 435 after the 1960 census.
The Founders were very careful to create a House of Representatives that would be the closest to the people. Unlike the Senate chamber or the office of President, the constituents have a direct vote of their Representative every two years. The intent was for the districts to be apportioned on the one-person-one-vote principle. The intent was for each citizen to know and trust his Representative more than any of the other elected federal officeholders. This intent is no longer being met. The additions from the original 13 states to 50 states were a major factor, but there has not been any addition for over 50 years when Hawaii became a state. The Republic of Rome is reputed to have 1000, but the United States capped off at 435. Below is an excerpt of information from the thirtythousand.org website.
With some Congressional districts nearly twice as large as others, the House is now in egregious violation of the constitutional principle of one person one vote.
Achieving minimal parity among the districts requires that we reduce the population difference — between the smallest and largest districts — to less than 5%. At a current population level of approximately 300 million people, over 6,300 Representatives would be required to bring the House into compliance with one-person-one-vote.
The total staff size should not be increased as the number of Representatives increases. The principal justification for the congressional staffs in the first place was the need to provide constituency services to increasingly populous districts. In other words, Congress’s solution to the problem of super-sized House districts was to augment their personal staffs rather than divide their huge federal fiefdoms into smaller congressional districts.
Imagine if four new federal cities were created in four distinct locations around the country (in addition to the one already established in Washington, D.C.). To the extent that assembly was required, it could take place within the regional federal capitol buildings, which could be further interconnected via video conferencing.
Implementing geographically distributed governance — geographically decentralizing the House of Representatives — would also greatly reduce the value of Washington as a strategic military target for our nation’s enemies.
“The Convention endeavored to steer a middle course; and, when we consider the scale on which they formed their calculation, there are strong reasons why the representation should not have been larger. On the ratio that they have fixed, of one for every thirty thousand, and according to the generally received opinion of the increase of population throughout the United States, the present number of their inhabitants will be doubled in twenty-five years, and according to that progressive proportion, and the ratio of one member for thirty thousand inhabitants, the House of Representatives will, within a single century, consist of more than six hundred members.” —James Wilson, November 30, 1787
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