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December 23, 2010

Hey, Let's Add 100 Congressmen

Except for the small bump in overall costs, it's a good idea, as Congressmen now represent so many people they're sort of insulated from them. Plus, having so few Congressmen produces more hard calls. For example, last time we reapportioned, either Utah or North Carolina, but not both, was to pick up an additional seat; the difference between one seat getting it or the other came down to something silly like 500 people's worth of difference in total state population. I think Utah lost, after a court fight, contending its high number of missionaries serving overseas were not counted in the census. Too bad. They still lost out.

Anyway, with more Congressmen, the pain of just missing out like this is lessened.

535 is a good number to shoot for, or even up to a round 600.

Good idea I think. This has nothing to do with either partisan advantage or state clout: Neither would be much affected.

I think this would be great, just because it would improve most people's representation qualitatively. Quantitatively, though, the benefits are not so evident. I think the folks who have discussed this idea are confused on a number of levels. For one thing, Wyoming is not the most overrepresented state -- by a long way, that distinction goes to Rhode Island, with its two districts, average population 528,000. (As we'll see in a moment, you could add 100 seats to the Congress and Rhode Island, with two seats, would still be overrepresented.)

Second, their discussion seems to suggest that an enlargement of the House would benefit Democrats because it would add clout to larger states like California. This is incorrect. In fact, it would probably make little difference for either party. And large states like California and Texas are the least likely to benefit (or suffer) greatly from a change in the House's size. Their large numbers of districts guarantee that they are always close to mean representation, no matter how large the House gets, because they can add them at smaller increments without upsetting the average too badly.

In other words, over- or under-representation is mostly about the cut-offs, the rounding, if you will, and neither smaller states nor larger states, nor Democratic ones or Republican ones, ever know how they're going to fare with respect to rounding/cut-offs after their exact population is put through a strict mathematical formula. Might come out better in this ten year window; might come out worse in this one. It's unpredictable and therefore fair in that respect (as is the current system -- but with fewer Congressmen, there's more unfairness, as it hurts more to just miss that cut-off).

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posted by Ace at 05:36 PM

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