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It’s Time to Increase the Size of the House

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  • It’s Time to Increase the Size of the House

    It’s Time to Increase the Size of the House

    “Our founders put the first amendment first for a reason. It protects all Americans’ right to free speech, regardless of political affiliation or views.” This statement was made by former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) in 2007, but it expresses a commonly cited view among lawyers, judges, politicians and pundits.

    In fact, what we today know as the first amendment wasn’t originally intended to be the first amendment. Examine closely this copy of the original Bill of Rights, as submitted to the states. Today’s first amendment was originally the third article. The original second article, which prevented Congress from giving itself a raise without an intervening election, was ratified in 1992 as the 27th Amendment.

    The actual first article — what Congress thought should be the first amendment — dealt with congressional apportionment. It read:

    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.


    In simple English, this amendment, properly interpreted (most agree that there’s a scrivener’s error in the final line), would have fixed the maximum size of a congressional district at 50,000 people. It should technically be part of the Constitution: It was ratified by the requisite number of states in June 1792, but for whatever reason, Connecticut’s vote to ratify the article was not recorded and was only later rediscovered. Indeed, there has been (unsuccessful) litigation to force the Archivist of the United States to do so.

    With that said, it is probably just as well that it has never been recorded. We would be forced to choose between two bad options. First, we could allow the size of Congress to grow to over 6,100 members. When Congress was in session it would qualify as a top-20 city in eight states; California would have more than 700 representatives. The other option would have been to amend expressly our original Bill of Rights, a precedent we’ve thus far avoided.

    Nevertheless, this article really was placed first for a reason. The debates over the ratification of the Constitution, as collected in the Federalist Papers and less-well-organized Anti-Federalist Papers, contain a surprising amount of discussion over the size of congressional districts (the Federalists argued that large districts were beneficial to avoid elections from turning into personality contests), and there was an implied promise contained in the ratification of the Constitution to pass an amendment regulating district size.
    Colonel Vogel : What does the diary tell you that it doesn't tell us?

    Professor Henry Jones : It tells me, that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try *reading* books instead of *burning* them!

  • #2
    Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post
    It’s Time to Increase the Size of the House

    “Our founders put the first amendment first for a reason. It protects all Americans’ right to free speech, regardless of political affiliation or views.” This statement was made by former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) in 2007, but it expresses a commonly cited view among lawyers, judges, politicians and pundits.

    In fact, what we today know as the first amendment wasn’t originally intended to be the first amendment. Examine closely this copy of the original Bill of Rights, as submitted to the states. Today’s first amendment was originally the third article. The original second article, which prevented Congress from giving itself a raise without an intervening election, was ratified in 1992 as the 27th Amendment.

    The actual first article — what Congress thought should be the first amendment — dealt with congressional apportionment. It read:

    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.


    In simple English, this amendment, properly interpreted (most agree that there’s a scrivener’s error in the final line), would have fixed the maximum size of a congressional district at 50,000 people. It should technically be part of the Constitution: It was ratified by the requisite number of states in June 1792, but for whatever reason, Connecticut’s vote to ratify the article was not recorded and was only later rediscovered. Indeed, there has been (unsuccessful) litigation to force the Archivist of the United States to do so.

    With that said, it is probably just as well that it has never been recorded. We would be forced to choose between two bad options. First, we could allow the size of Congress to grow to over 6,100 members. When Congress was in session it would qualify as a top-20 city in eight states; California would have more than 700 representatives. The other option would have been to amend expressly our original Bill of Rights, a precedent we’ve thus far avoided.

    Nevertheless, this article really was placed first for a reason. The debates over the ratification of the Constitution, as collected in the Federalist Papers and less-well-organized Anti-Federalist Papers, contain a surprising amount of discussion over the size of congressional districts (the Federalists argued that large districts were beneficial to avoid elections from turning into personality contests), and there was an implied promise contained in the ratification of the Constitution to pass an amendment regulating district size.
    Nice cut & paste. You have an opinion or are you just fishing as usual?
    If it pays, it stays

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Frostbit View Post
      Nice cut & paste.
      Isn't that what we usually do with articles?

      You have an opinion
      Yes, I have an opinion on the matter. I also find it interesting that it may already be ratified; something I did not know. I think it is strange that those, like Mark Levin, who often talk of the Founders and suggest Amendments that they feel would bring our governing document back to what they belief our founders wanted never seem to mention Article the First.

      or are you just fishing as usual?
      I don't fish. I realize you are pathologically unable to cope with someone who disagrees with you. Seriously. Get help. It's a big world full of a variety of opinions.

      If you can't do that, go kill something that doesn't have opposable thumbs and can't shoot back. That should make you feel better.
      Colonel Vogel : What does the diary tell you that it doesn't tell us?

      Professor Henry Jones : It tells me, that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try *reading* books instead of *burning* them!

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post
        Isn't that what we usually do with articles?
        Yes, especially when we would like to share them or comment on them. You shared, but didn't comment.

        Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post

        Yes, I have an opinion on the matter. I also find it interesting that it may already be ratified; something I did not know. I think it is strange that those, like Mark Levin, who often talk of the Founders and suggest Amendments that they feel would bring our governing document back to what they belief our founders wanted never seem to mention Article the First.
        I would solely be concerned with the cost of increasing government even further than we already have.

        Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post
        I don't fish. I realize you are pathologically unable to cope with someone who disagrees with you. Seriously. Get help. It's a big world full of a variety of opinions.
        If you can't do that, go kill something that doesn't have opposable thumbs and can't shoot back. That should make you feel better.
        Before this statement you had no clue about whether I would have agreed with your opinion or not, simple because at that point you didn't post an opinion, only a cut& pasted article. Then you, who tell me I have a problem with someone not agreeing with me, turn to a foolish and childish attack about my hunting pursuits.

        Interesting, perhaps you should specify the exact "help" you think it is I need and then seek it yourself.
        If it pays, it stays

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm disappointed that this thread did not refer to a home improvement effort on Bok's part.
          "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Gingersnap View Post
            I'm disappointed that this thread did not refer to a home improvement effort on Bok's part.
            He needs a trophy room addition.

            Probably the only home improvement never covered on HGTV.
            If it pays, it stays

            Comment


            • #7
              He makes an interesting argument. He loses me a bit on the whole "statistical representation" thing, because what he's claiming there is basically that only Black people can actually represent Black people's interests (and thus the same for any other group: Hispanics, gays, Japanese, left-handed rodeo clowns, redheads, etc.). I reject that notion right out of hand. I would happily vote for a gay, Black, wheelchair-bound, left-handed, deaf, Muslim woman if I could feel assured that she shares my beliefs and that she will do her best to accurately represent my views to Washington. Representatives are, at the end of the day, our paid messengers to the Beltway. There is no truly valid reason that anyone of any creed or color cannot manage to do that effectively for any other creed or color.

              He is right that there is no specifically magical quality about 435, other than that it's an odd number, which probably should be a target just to help avoid ties. He's also right that 6100 would be quite ridiculous.

              There is a practical concern, in that there's really not really any more room in the existing House chamber to add a bunch of new Representatives.. If we're going to do this, then we've got to figure out a way to make the Capitol bigger, or else find a way to re-use some unused space, such as the Old Senate Chamber or the Old Supreme Court Chamber. Personally, I'd kinda hate to see these disturbed, just because there's so much history there. Physically expanding the Capitol would necessarily upset the symmetry of the place, which would bother me a little bit, just because I enjoy looking at the architectural symmetry of the place. But that's just me.


              Even adopting the so-called “Wyoming Rule,” which would set the size of a Congressional district at the population of the smallest state, would result in a House of only 547 members, tying for the 13th largest in the world. This would still decrease the number of constituents per district by 20%, and would help minimize the distortions from malapportionment. A variant of this would guarantee that every state receives at least two representatives; this would increase the House to around 1,100 members, about 40% larger than the British House of Lords (and still half the size of the Chinese National People’s Congress).
              That's a hell of a "variant." I don't really know what the math is there, but there's obviously a lot more going on than just having at least two Representatives per state.

              This "Wyoming Rule" is intriguing. It's an interesting way to at least fundamentally address Article I, in that no one state has a disproportionately small population for their Representative, therefore giving that state's population "more representation" than people in other states. It's a bit of an interesting irony that other states could theoretically be disproportionately negatively impacted if there is some manner of population boom in Wyoming, e.g the population boom in California in the 1840s with the gold rush. If Wyoming's population explodes by ten million people overnight, then California is going to lose a bunch of seats, even if those ten million people didn't proportionally come from California. An interesting potential "downside," though I guess there's an argument to be made that this is not necessarily a bad thing. At the present status quo, the most likely way that a state will lose seats is if people actually move out of that state. While it's possible that another state could "rob" California of a seat because they just happened to grow enough in population, I don't think that's been the case of late.



              The idea is not without merit, though I do have to wonder a bit whether increasing the House size would simply turn up the volume on the noise. I think that there is a valid argument to say that increasing the number of constituents per Representative is just a natural progression. When Article I was written, the Founders could not possibly have imagined the communications possibility of today, or even of 100 years ago. They figured upon people communicating with their Representatives with a hand-written letter that took days if not weeks to reach them in Washington. They could not have imagined the telegraph, the telephone, e-mail. Factoring those in, it's completely valid to say that people have far more access to their Representative today than they did even 15 years ago, and unimaginably more than they did during WWII or even Vietnam. The opposite side of that coin is that this basically turns Representatives into individual-issue finger-lickers: they rhetorically wet their fingers and stick them in the wind to see which wind is blowing the noisiest at this particular moment, and then try to second-guess what their constituency want the rest of the time, all the while scheming to see what they can get away with. If they have 5,000 people shouting "no" at them, and 5,001 people shouting "yes," then they'll vote yes if the polls show that they can do so and still get re-elected on the next even-numbered year.



              Anyway, he mostly makes a compelling argument for somehow increasing the number of Representatives. It's worthy of at least consideration, but it's not an idea without ramifications, not all of them necessarily good ones.
              It's been ten years since that lonely day I left you
              In the morning rain, smoking gun in hand
              Ten lonely years but how my heart, it still remembers
              Pray for me, momma, I'm a gypsy now

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Adam View Post

                ........

                Anyway, he mostly makes a compelling argument for somehow increasing the number of Representatives. It's worthy of at least consideration, but it's not an idea without ramifications, not all of them necessarily good ones.
                I don't see how he makes a compelling argument for increasing the number of Representatives at all. His specious reasoning is equivalent to the "DO SOMETHING" argument.
                "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."
                -John Locke

                "It's all been melded together into one giant, authoritarian, leftist scream."
                -Newman

                Comment


                • #9
                  In my opinion the main part of this article is all about this:

                  A number of Northern states are likely to find themselves forced to draw fewer majority-minority districts in the upcoming round of redistricting. At the same time, many Southern states have congressional delegations that underrepresent the minority share of the population. Mississippi is 37% African American, but only one of its four-seat delegation is majority black. Louisiana is 32% African American, but only one of six is majority black. Alabama is 27% African American, but only one of seven is majority black. Florida is 16% African American, but if Democrats are successful in pressing a redistricting lawsuit against the state, it may be the case that only one of its 27 members is African American.
                  The rest is just a vehicle to deliver the point.


                  This is not about fair representation, it's about maximizing the representation for a single interest group. What's the point of "majority-minority" districts?
                  "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."
                  -John Locke

                  "It's all been melded together into one giant, authoritarian, leftist scream."
                  -Newman

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Billy Jingo View Post
                    It’s Time to Increase the Size of the House

                    “Our founders put the first amendment first for a reason. It protects all Americans’ right to free speech, regardless of political affiliation or views.” This statement was made by former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) in 2007, but it expresses a commonly cited view among lawyers, judges, politicians and pundits. .
                    Apportionment has bothered me for some time. Every now and then I check to see how out of whack it is. I think the last time I checked, a Wyoming Representative represented 480,000 people while one from Florida represented 650,000 or more. Clearly, this is not fair as it means that a vote is worth less in Florida or California than it is in Wyoming, or as we like to put it "Cows are voting." Because states are guaranteed one seat, theoretically 49 states could each have three residents, each a Congressman.
                    Obviously a six thousand member House is not practical either. So my suggestion is to use the smallest state as a baselines and weight the other seats.

                    Here's how that would work:

                    If Wyoming has 500K people then that is the baseline. Wyoming gets one seat worth one vote.
                    If Montana has 750K people, then it get's one seat worth 1.5 votes.
                    If Delaware has 1M people then it gets two seats with two votes.
                    If Rhode Island has 1.25 million people, then it gets two seats worth 1.75 votes each.
                    If Maryland has 3M people then it gets six seats with six votes.
                    And so on.

                    When Congress fixed the size of the House, it also broke the Electoral College.
                    The year's at the spring
                    And day's at the morn;
                    Morning's at seven;
                    The hill-side's dew-pearled;
                    The lark's on the wing;
                    The snail's on the thorn:
                    God's in his heaven—
                    All's right with the world!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by scott View Post
                      In my opinion the main part of this article is all about this:



                      The rest is just a vehicle to deliver the point.


                      This is not about fair representation, it's about maximizing the illusion of representation for a single interest group. What's the point of "majority-minority" districts?
                      fickst
                      The year's at the spring
                      And day's at the morn;
                      Morning's at seven;
                      The hill-side's dew-pearled;
                      The lark's on the wing;
                      The snail's on the thorn:
                      God's in his heaven—
                      All's right with the world!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by scott View Post
                        In my opinion the main part of this article is all about this:



                        The rest is just a vehicle to deliver the point.


                        This is not about fair representation, it's about maximizing the representation for a single interest group. What's the point of "majority-minority" districts?
                        Are black people over-represented in the House? Is the percentage of black representatives higher or lower than the percentage of black citizens in the country?
                        Enjoy.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Norm dePlume View Post
                          Are black people over-represented in the House? Is the percentage of black representatives higher or lower than the percentage of black citizens in the country?
                          That is a rabbit hole that leads to political ghettos. Tokenism doesn't increase minority political power; it ensures it remains impotent.
                          Colonel Vogel : What does the diary tell you that it doesn't tell us?

                          Professor Henry Jones : It tells me, that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try *reading* books instead of *burning* them!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Norm dePlume View Post
                            Are black people over-represented in the House? Is the percentage of black representatives higher or lower than the percentage of black citizens in the country?
                            What's the Muslim ratio? What's the White, Catholic, Veteran ratio?
                            "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."
                            -John Locke

                            "It's all been melded together into one giant, authoritarian, leftist scream."
                            -Newman

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by scott View Post
                              What's the Muslim ratio? What's the White, Catholic, Veteran ratio?
                              Offhand, I imagine they're under-represented. Now, what's the point of "majority-minority" districts?
                              Enjoy.

                              Comment

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