The Size of the House

Linking to a piece I wrote for The Conversation.

Just a quick link to a piece I wrote and was just published at The Conversation: Why the US House of Representatives has 435 seats – and how that could change.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. just nutha says:

    Interesting article. Thanks for the link.

  2. Kathy says:

    I’m pretty sure in one of our discussions on the subject here at OTB, I proposed taking the least populous state and making that the standard for the population size per district.

    I’m not claiming credit for the idea, just pointing out I am on to something.

  3. MarkedMan says:

    Interesting, Steven, and thanks for sharing. I’m curious about the cube root “law” you mentioned. Does anyone have any idea what has lead to that? Could they be all modeling themselves on a common archetype?

  4. Moosebreath says:

    Good article. Something which can be done at any time one party has a trifecta, and which the Supreme Court would have a hard time finding unconstitutional. It would have a significant effect on Presidential elections, as it would reduce the influence of the 2 electoral votes per state from Senators.

  5. Andy says:

    Excellent article.

    I’m not particularly set on any new method for apportionment, but I do like the mathematical simplicity of the cube root rule, which will probably last a long time without the need for adjustments.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Aside from the political opposition from current members to expansion and the costs involved (salaries, staffs, but also a need for new office buildings and probably fairly significant renovations at the Capitol), there’s really no good reason not to expand. The cube root seems like a pretty good number—roughly a 50% increase—but the Wyoming Rule would be a start and much easier to explain to people. The former sounds like some Poindexter mumbo jumbo; the latter is just basic fairness.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    Following proportion and going to 1560 from 435 would be a major change. Going to 692 per a cube root root rule or 571 per a Wyoming rule seems a modest change, but probably worthwhile. In any case, in the 21st Century is there any reason they all have to be in the Capitol at the same time? Would it make sense to set up regional Capitols, maybe half a dozen or maybe one per time zone? Or just allow them to Zoom from home or a local office. Maybe also spread government agency offices, and their employment, around the country. There’s a segment of the country that sees DC as some alien planet. Maybe it would help to get Reps closer to their constituents. And I like that they might actually live in their district full time and not maintain a residence around DC.

  8. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR08: I’d think they’d be even more insular and less collegial if they only saw one another on Zoom. Most (all) Reps already have one or more offices in the district with staffers to handle constituent service requests.

  9. Kathy says:


    It’s my understanding that not all of the UK’s MPs can fit inside the Commons chamber. I assume others watch proceedings on video on overflow rooms.

  10. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner: I’m honestly not sure if it would be better if our congress critters spent more time in Washington getting to know their colleagues so they can work with them more effectively, or more time puttering around their home districts, and calling in for meetings and votes.

    I’m inclined to lean towards the latter, lacking any real information.

    I think there’s a whole swath of our Representatives who stir up shit in the heartland without having to actually face the lunatics they are creating on a regular basis. (Or maybe they will start becoming true believers in the lunacy?)

    Let’s increase the size of the House until they don’t fit in the building.

  11. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher: Hard to say but, anecdotally, a lot of old-timers complained that the post-1994 crop was flying home for three- and four-day weekends to campaign, fundraise, and the like because it had become practical to do so rather than staying in DC like they used to. I suspect the decline in collegiality is overdetermined but that surely factored into it.