Speaking of Political Reform…
Rob Prather has put the question of political reform on the table, notably changes to the Electoral College.
Here’s another one to consider: fixing the representativeness problem in the US House of Representatives by adopting what has been called the Wyoming Rule.
First, what’s the problem? As I wrote back in 2005:
Ok, so why do this or even consider such shift? The reason is pretty straightforward: as currently constituted the House does not equally represent citizens. For example, Wyoming citizens are significantly over-represented. With 495,304 citizens, and with House districts set elsewhere are an average of 646,952, the discrepancy is clear.
In other words, the citizens of Wyoming (and any other state with less citizens than the average congressional district) are over-represented. There are multiple ways to fix this, but the easiest is what is called the Wyoming Rule: take the population of the least populous state (currently Wyoming) and making that number the basis for congressional districts. In other words, instead of starting from a set number of seats in the House (set by statute at 435) and then apportioning seats to states based on that number (and meaning that each 10 years the average number of citizens per district increases), we would start with the population figure of the least populated state and derive the number of seats needed from there. This would mean, likely, an increase in the size of the House every ten years.
Really, if the main constitutional purpose of the House of Representatives is to represent the population, then it makes sense that it do so in as equitable a manner as possible.
Back in 2005 I calculated what the application of the Wyoming Rule would have meant after the 2000 census (the table is to the right).
Quite frankly, the House is on the small-side and because we have a set number of seats it is possible for a state to gain population, but lose seats. That actually doesn’t make sense if one stops and thinks about it for a moment. It is also a small chamber in comparative terms.
Interestingly, we used to adjust the House size with some frequency in a way that kept general pace with Taagepera’s Cube Root Law for the best fit of assembly size and population (see the graph at Fruits and Votes plus more discussion here). Indeed, as a historical note: the House has been the following sizes over time: 65, 105, 141, 181, 213, 240, 223, 234, 241, 292, 325, 356, 386, and 435 (and briefly 436 and 437 with the additions of Hawaii and Alaska before reverting to 435 in 1963). The current size of the chamber was set in 1929 when the population of the United States was only ~121,000,000 (source). It has grown roughly 250% since then.
Of course, if we are sticking with single-member districts, as this proposal does, we also need to institute a non-partisan redistricting process that would take the process out of the hands of state legislatures, which have every incentive to engage in partisan gerrymandering, which is a key malady in our politics.
Now, this is a relatively easy reform. If I was truly King for a Day and all that, I would almost certainly do away with our single-member district system and shift to probably a mixed-member proportional (MMP) system like they use in Germany, wherein half the legislature is elected by single member districts and half by nationwide PR. Such a system basically guarantees two large parties (and thereby stability) as well as enhanced representativeness via the PR segment. However, that’s for another post at another time.