The Size of the House

Is 435 the right number?

Capitol Buidling Dayime2Quick:  what sets the number of seats in the US House of Representatives?   It’s the constitution, right?  After all, the Framers spent a lot of time debating the structure of the congress, so surely we base the size of the first chamber on the received wisdom of the Framers?

Well, no.  The current size of the House, 435 seats, is the result of federal law.  Indeed, a law passed in 1913 when the United States population was around 95,000,000 (it is now over three times that size).

Indeed, as Bruce Barlett points out in a recent column, one of the Framers (that Madison fellow) was concerned that there was no mechanism in the constitution to deal with the size of the first chamber and he proposed an amendment to automatically increase the size of the chamber as the population grew.  This amendment failed.  It is worth noting that the original ration of inhabitants to representative mentioned in the constitution was 30,000:1, and Madison’s proposed amendment spoke of ratios such as 40,000:1 and 50,000:1 (with size limits in terms of seats also part of the discussion).

The current ratio of inhabitant to representative is now roughly 729,000:1.

Now, clearly, Madison did not foresee the population growth that has taken place, and those originally proposed ratios would not have worked.  Further, Congress did, in the first century plus of US history, adjust the size of the chamber to accommodate growth.  To wit, the size of the chamber has grown thusly:  65, 105, 141, 181, 213, 240, 223, 234, 241, 292, 325, 356, 386, and 435 (and briefly 436 and 437 with the additions of the states of Hawaii and Alaska before reverting to 435 in 1963).  So while the chamber’s size was revised just over a dozen times in the 1800s into the early 1900s, it has remained static (save for a brief hiccup) for over a century, despite the addition of over 200,000,000 inhabitants in that timeframe.  Of course, the earlier growth was mostly linked to territorial expansion and the addition of states, rather than necessarily with the question of right-sizing the chamber to deal with population per se.

Why be concerned about this?  There are numerous reasons, but two pretty straight-forward ones are as follows:

1. The quality of representation.  The current ratio of Representation to inhabitant is roughly 730,000:1.   Really, the problem here should be pretty obvious.  If the purpose of the House of Representatives is to to provide representation of citizen interests in the central government, we should ask ourselves as to the degree to which this can be done for roughly three-quarters of a million people per representative.

Representation is a tricky business to begin with because even a smaller ratio of representatives to the represented would still mean that each representative would have a vast and varied set of citizens to represent in the congress.  However, the more people that a given member of the House has to represent, the more likely that various and divergent interests are contained in the district–more people per district means possible conflicting interests to be represented.  Yes, some level of conflict is impossible to avoid, especially since in a system of single seat districts that there are inherent tensions between true representation of interests in a national legislature and representation of geographical spaces.*  However, there is no doubt that as the number of persons who must be represented increases, the ability of a single representative to adequately represent those interests becomes all the more complicated.

There is also the question of constituency services to consider.

2.  The over-representation of some citizens.  Since each state is guaranteed a seat in the House, small population states get a bit more say in the House than does the vast majority of the population.  As noted, House districts are roughly 729,000 persons in size, but Wyoming has abut 576,000 inhabitants.  There is a real fairness issue to consider here.

At the most minimum of minimum reforms should be the adoption of the Wyoming Rule, which states that the the size of House districts (in terms of persons) should be linked to the size of the the population of the least populous state.  Such a rule would, at least, guarantee that citizens across the country would receive equal representation in the House and would fix some of the distortions of the electoral college (although not all of them).  I wrote about the Wyoming Rule here, and noted that based on the 2000 census that the size of the House would increase under it to 568 seats.  My friend and co-author on a pending book, Matthew Shugart notes over at Fruits and Votes that the US is also an oddity in terms of comparative legislatures, as we have one of the more undersized chambers in the world.  Bartlett in his piece notes a few comparative ratios that help illustrate the point:

In closing, let me note that according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the House of Representatives is on the very high side of population per representative at 729,000. The population per member in the lower house of other major countries is considerably smaller: Britain and Italy, 97,000; Canada and France, 114,000; Germany, 135,000; Australia, 147,000; and Japan, 265,000.

This is an issue worth thinking about for both abstract and practical reasons.  The more abstract reason is simply that if we value democratic representation, then we should be concerned about issues such as this.  As John Adams wrote in Thought on Government:  “The principal difficulty lies, and the greatest care should be employed in constituting this Representative Assembly. It should be in miniature, an exact portrait of the people at large. It should think, feel, reason, and act like them.”  Such a notion becomes all the harder the more that representativeness of a a given representative is diluted.  In other words:  as the number of represented increases per representative, the less likely it is that the representative will be able to come anywhere close to representing the interests of the district in question.  More likely than not, dominant groups will have an easier time influencing a given representative, even if those groups are small relative  to the population of the district.  Two obvious examples:  those with money and those who directly influence nominations.

This leads into practical considerations.  The congress is increasingly a dysfunctional (or, at least, poorly functioning) institution.  It was designed to require frequent input from the citizens, but we know that despite biannual elections and high levels of public dissatisfaction that re-election rates are extremely high.  A larger House would mean smaller districts in terms of population.  Smaller districts would help (although by no means fix) the responsiveness issues.

No reform is a panacea, but this issue is worth some thought.   I would point those interested to both the Bruce Bartlett  column mentioned above (the proximate cause of this post, in fact) and the post from Matthew Shugart, also noted above.

*Indeed, a key argument for some form of proportional representation is that voters can vote directly for parties that represent specific constellations of interests rather than having to vote for candidates whose job it is to represent specific tracts of real estate.

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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. al-Ameda says:

    The congress is increasingly a dysfunctional (or, at least, poorly functioning) institution. It was designed to require frequent input from the citizens, but we know that despite biannual elections and high levels of public dissatisfaction that re-election rates are extremely high. A larger House would mean smaller districts in terms of population. Smaller districts would help (although by no means fix) the responsiveness issues.

    First, I’m not sure that smaller districts would result in both more responsiveness and in less dysfunction,

    Second, because I’m tired of the permanent campaign and the endless fundraising for a 2-year House term – I would definitely support a constitutional amendment that increases House terms to 4 years and limits total House service by any person to 4 or 5 terms.

  2. @al-Ameda: As I noted, there area actually multiple issues to consider.

    In regards to district size: what’s the upper limit? 800,000? A million? At some point we need to at least have a conversation.

  3. stonetools says:

    Look, Professor, I’m with you on this kind of reform of the House and all, but lets face it-“upsizing” the House will not help us with the fundamental cause of Congressional dysfunction. The dysfunction is caused by the reality that there is a “Clash of Civilizations” happening in the USA. Call it what you want-Blue America vs Red America, United States of Canada vs Jesusland, Yankeedom vs Dixie, Two Visions-this clash exists. Until its resolved, one way or the other, the kind of dysfunction we’re seeing will continue.
    Now reforms that move us to resolving the conflict might help-such as a move to a more “majoritarian” form of governing. But a bigger Congress would just mean more partisans fighting with each other. That’s how I see it.

  4. rudderpedals says:

    Wyoming’s a stunning example of unfair, unequal influence that rural areas hold over the people’s house. The Wyoming Rule would correct the disparate influence in the body that’s designed to be apportioned by population. As Prof Taylor says, it’s the very least that needs to be done.

  5. Tillman says:

    This is one of my dumber thoughts, but I always thought they hadn’t increased the size of the House because it’d require renovating the Capital.

    2. The over-representation of some citizens. Since each state is guaranteed a seat in the House, small population states get a bit more say in the House than does the vast majority of the population. As noted, House districts are roughly 729,000 persons in size, but Wyoming has abut 576,000 inhabitants. There is a real fairness issue to consider here.

    Could you expand on this? I understand the mathematical unfairness, but voting-wise Wyoming still only has the one vote in the House. I don’t see how this increases their say.

  6. @Tillman: They would need more office space, but getting the House chamber workable would be no barrier (consider how many people are in there for the SOTU annually).

    (Or, look at the British House of Commons, which has 660 members)

  7. legion says:

    I had not heard of the “Wyoming Rule” before, but it does sound like an eminently reasonable proposal. However, I also have concerns about the other end of the spectrum – at what point does the sheer number of people in the House render it completely incapable of functioning? If the population of the US is roughly 350m, the Wyoming Rule could push the number of Representatives above 600. While I do think reducing the size of districts might mean better representation, I don’t know how effective _any_ Representative can be in that large a group. There’s a reason we have a _representative_ rather than _direct_ legislature…

  8. legion says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    (Or, look at the British House of Commons, which has 660 members)

    I would hardly put forth the HoC as a functioning example of “good representation”…

  9. Tillman says:

    @legion: The bar is really low right now.

  10. The size of the House is irrelevant when so many seats have been gerrymandered into unchanging blocks of predictable votes. In 2014, Democrats earned more votes in House races overall but gerrymandering kept seats “safe.”

    Eliminate the safe seats and get much better representation.

  11. @legion:

    There’s a reason we have a _representative_ rather than _direct_ legislature…

    Increasing the chamber to the ~600 is a fair cry from going to a direct democracy! 🙂

    Indeed, I would submit that the only reason 600 sounds big to you and 435 sounds ok is simply because you are used to 435. Indeed, I would submit that most people’s immediate reaction to increase is to say “no” and they say no because they are subconsciously treating 435 as “normal.”

    First, the ration of seats to citizens in the US, in a comparative sense, is simply off (see Shugart, or even the rations cited by Bartlett).

    Second, at a minimum objections need to at least start to deal with an explanation for how a chamber size set for 95 million persons is adequate for 310 million. I

  12. @James in Silverdale, WA: Again, I am not suggesting that this fixes everything,

    I would note, however, that the larger the districts (in terms of pop) the easier it is to gerrymander.

  13. Andre Kenji says:

    Brazil, that has two thirds of the population of the United States, has 513 people in the Lower House of the Parliament.

  14. Andre Kenji says:


    The dysfunction is caused by the reality that there is a “Clash of Civilizations” happening in the USA. Call it what you want-Blue America vs Red America, United States of Canada vs Jesusland, Yankeedom vs Dixie, Two Visions-this clash exists

    There are Liberals in the South, there are Conservatives in the Coasts. That reminds me of the Atheist Woman on Oklahoma on CNN..

  15. Scott says:

    Perhaps something more innovative. Rather than cramming large quantities of representatives in a building in Washington without all the additional logistics costs, how about creating a class of super representatives to spend time in DC. Each super representative would have 5 independently elected sub reps who never leave their districts. Each vote by the super rep would have to be supported by a majority of his/her sub reps.

    Just thinking out loud. Always a dangerous proposition.

  16. Woody says:

    No, increasing representation would not “solve” the dysfunctional House.

    Remember, even a nut like Rep. Gohmert votes the way his constituents want. How a Congressional District is designed is up to the State Legislatures and/or the Governor of the States.

    More representatives would ostensibly encourage Congressfolk to better represent the voters within one’s district. As it is, with the current numbers, Representatives represent too many people, and can therefore pay attention to relatively few of them.

  17. @legion: I was, in that response, referring solely to the physical space.

  18. trumwill says:

    A minor clarification… while the small number of representatives increases the representation of some small states, the primary losers are… other small states. This isn’t like the senate where the benefits are unidirectional. The most overrepresented state is Rhode Island (not Wyoming, contrary to popular belief). The most underrepresented state? Montana.

    Top five most overrepresented states: Rhode Island, Wyoming, Nebraska, West Virginia, and Vermont.

    The five most underrepresented states: Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Idaho, and Oregon.

    Generally speaking, the largest states are represented roughly in proportion to their population, with Texas, Florida, and (to a lesser extent) California being underrepresented by a bit and New York and Illinois being over-represented. Texas, California, New York, and Illinois are all within 10,000.

    (Statistics from 2010.)

  19. Rob Prather says:

    We’ve discussed this before and I’m kind of a fan of the cube root rule (I got it from you Steven). If our population is 320,000,000, that would lead to a House size of 684 representatives.

    I actually think that gerrymandering would matter less with a larger House and would like to see a House size of 1000 or 1500. Also, it would do the things Steven suggests, such as avoiding having representatives represent so many different constituencies.

  20. Pinky says:

    As a rule, the more people involved, the harder it is to get results. My guess is that a larger House would make the current one look like a model of cooperation and output. I understand the reasoning behind the proposal, but it would take a lot of rule changes to keep the House from grinding to a halt.

  21. @Pinky: By this loigc, the Senate should be the more productive of the two chambers of Congress. However, this is not the case (quite the opposite, in fact)..

    There is no particular reason to assume that a larger chamber would require different rules of operation.

    Now, if a larger chamber would lead to more factions, that could lead to less efficiency. However, if that meant that more divergent interests were being represented, I would find that to be a worthwhile trade-off.

  22. legion says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I suppose my concern is driven by how utterly dysfunctional it is now. Frankly, it looks like even the current 435 is too many people to be split between only 2 parties. If we had a more multi-party landscape, 600, 700, or even more Reps might be split up enough that they’d be forced to work together, but with just Ds and Rs to choose from there’s too much temptation for the majority party to try & act monolithically.

  23. @trumwill: True about RI.

    And yes, the smaller states would lose, because they are over-represented until the current system.

  24. Dave Schuler says:

    There are 650 members in Commons representing 63 million Britons, 577 members in the French National Assembly representing 65 million residents of France, and 631 members of the Bundestag representing 82 million residents of Germany. Either the people in those countries are grossly over-represented or we are grossly under-represented. I think the case that we are as democratic as the Brits, French, or Germans is a hard one to make.

  25. @Dave Schuler: Well put.

  26. Andre Kenji says:

    The problem of today´s districts is that there is little relation between the people that lives in the districts. One could argue that the one similarity between the counties of Louie Gohmert´s district is that they are mostly inhabited by Whites and that Evangelical have a large share of the vote there. There are suburbs, there are rural areas, it´s very large.

  27. Tran says:

    @Dave Schuler: Although it should be noted that only half of the German parliament represents districts, the other half is chosen according to proportional representation (Look up Mixed-member proportional representation for a better explanation), so there would be about 315 MP’s for roughly 80 million people.

    Would a bigger House size help with gerrymandering? I would suspect it would at least lessen the influence of gerrymandering, but this is more of a gut feeling.

  28. @Tran: True, Germany uses MMP (which I would be more than happy to adopt in the US). Of course, France and the UK use single seat districts, with the UK using a system like ours (plurality winners) and France uses a two-round system.

  29. Vast Variety says:

    Throwing caution and our poor education system to the wind, why shouldn’t we just go to a direct democracy for the House. The senate creates the bills and votes on them then passes them to the general public to vote on every 3 to 6 months. The public could also create and vote on public referendums that would then move to the Senate to be voted on there. You would still have the President and the Supreme Court to balance them out.

    Note: While I’m throwing it out as a serious question I don’t really support the idea of direct democracy. Too many people out there believe the crap they read on websites like World Nut Job Daily and Natural News. People are too quick to believe crap without verifying the facts.

  30. Vast Variety says:

    I may have answered my own question.

  31. trumwill says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Depends on which “smaller states” you’re looking at. Four of the five most underrepresented states in the House are among the nation’s smallest states (population-wise, of course).

    Or, to put another way, there are seven states that are small enough to only have a single representative. Two or three (depending on if we count ND as “dramatically”) of those seven states are dramatically over-represented, and three are dramatically under-represented. Alaska is right on the nose. If we include states that are small enough to have two representatives, then we have between 4-7 that are dramatically overrepresented (depending on if you count NH, ND and/or Hawaii as “dramatically”) and four that are dramatically underrepresented.

    Seven of the ten most underrepresented states are small enough to have fewer than five representatives The ten most overrepresented states have a combined population of 2.5m while the ten most underrepresented states have a combined population of a very similar 2.8m.

    If we look at states with a difference in representation greater than 50,000 from the national average, the (four) underrepresented states actually have a smaller average population than the (six) overrepresented ones. (The difference is minute – both under a million.)

    There may be a slight overall skew in favor of smaller-than-average states being overrepresented, but Rhode Island’s overrepresentation doesn’t help Montana much and small states also comprise the biggest losers in the status quo (of the House) and the big states get quite proportional representation (in the House). Which, when you think about the math involved, makes sense. Rhode Island and Montana had 50,000 people separating them. The primary difference is that one of them divides that by two and the other doesn’t. So Rhode Island gets nearly twice the representation as Montana. And the top and bottom are stacked with small states.

    Expanding the House (which I wholeheartedly and ambitiously support) would hurt some small states in terms of representation, but be a great help to roughly the same number of them (Again, all of the above using 2010 data, which is the pertinent dataset.)

    While I am throwing things out there, the problem with the Wyoming plan is that as Wyoming growth outstrips the nation’s, it would lead to a contraction of the US House. I’d prefer to expand the House by some other metric.

  32. @trumwill: Gotcha.

    It is less that I support the Wyoming Rule as the answer than it is that I find that people get the Wyoming Rule as a matter for discussion (far more than, say, discussing the Cube Root Rule).

  33. trumwill says:

    People don’t understand Cube Root? What happened to our education system?!

    I actually think the simplest way to discuss it is to point out:

    1) Rhode Island gets nearly twice the representation as Montana.

    2) A House district was initially envisioned as representing 30-50k and now represents over 700k .

    3) Ergo, we need more representatives.

    The best counterargument I’ve heard to this, other than the unwieldiness that Pinky brings up (that I not concerned about) is that it would actually lead to even more extreme congressional districts. Less gerrymandering, but gerrymandering may be less important as our self-sorting would make micro-districts more ideologically homogeneous (gerrymandering is only partially responsible for ideological rigidity – the data on county-level separation is out there). The only counterargument I have to this is state House districts, though if someone argued that state house members do tend to be nuts, I am not sure I can disagree :).

  34. @trumwill: I would be less concerned with homogeneous districts if they were more “natural” so to speak (and, of course, I would prefer–as noted above and elsewhere–to go to MMP, which would solve a lot of the representation problems),

  35. trumwill says:

    MMP is a potential antidote, though that takes us back to individual representatives representing larger constituencies again (Issue #1 from the OP). Which is one of the things I want expanding the House to remediate.

    Of course, my master plan of expanding the House to 6,000 and moving the capital to the Great Plains would fix everything because it would allow for MMP and smaller districts. Unfortunately, nobody listens to lil ole Trumwill.

  36. HarvardLaw92 says:


    Culture wars are never pretty

  37. Bob says:

    A point about the comments first. There are 3 America’s, Urban, suburban, and rural. Suburban and rural voters tend to vote closer together, which helps to negate what would otherwise be an over representation of urban districts in the House.

    Secondly, until we kill the rules on caucusing in the House, and some of our campaign laws that force us into a two party system, it doesn’t matter how big you make the House, it’ll still represent party interests and $$, not citizens.

  38. Andre Kenji says:

    @Bob: .

    There are 3 America’s, Urban, suburban, and rural. Suburban and rural voters tend to vote closer together,

    There are dozens of Americas: the suburban voter in New Jersey has different interests from the suburban voter in California and the suburban voter in Arkansas. The voting patterns of rural voters are even more complicated, and one could argue that´s highly dependent from the agricultural subsidies politics.

  39. trumwill says:

    As a general rule, as goes suburbs so goes elections. In New Jersey the suburbs go Democratic and tend to vote more like urban voters. In Texas, they tend to vote more like Republican rural voters.

  40. gVOR08 says:

    I’m not sure about the overall effect of a larger House, but some of our smaller issues are pretty easy to fix. Yes, a larger House would need more office space. I forget who proposed this recently, may have been a commenter here, but moving parts of the government out of Washington would be a good idea. Shouldn’t be too tough to build a nice, large House building in, say, suburban Albuquerque. Is there any reason that in the 21st Century the House and Senate need to be in the same building? Overrepresentation of Wyoming is also easy. Leave them with one Rep, but give him .790123 votes. Again, in the 21st Century, this sort of thing is pretty easy to deal with.

  41. @gVOR08: I am honestly not sure what moving the Congress out of DC is supposed to accomplish. Yes, it would initially be in a backwater away from all that is DC, but then again, that was what DC was when DC was created: in the middle of nowhere away from established power centers. The power center will follow Congress where ever we put it.

  42. Andre Kenji says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Yup. Take a look at Brasilia, it was built there precisely because the Brazilian government wanted to develop that underpopulated region of prairies.

  43. ernieyeball says:

    @Andre Kenji:Shouldn’t be too tough to build a nice, large House building in, say, suburban Albuquerque.

    Better yet. Get them out of the country. Move Congress to Arizona!

  44. trumwill says:

    @Andre Kenji: Do you think Brazil, and its government workers and such, benefit from having a relocated-designated capital? Do you think it should have stayed in Rio? Been relocated but somewhere closer to Rio?

    I like the idea of moving the capital in large part because while DC was in the middle of nowhere before, it’s not in the middle of nowhere now. It’s in a well-populated part of the country with limited ability to expand. The “start from scratch” option is attractive to me. Knowing how big the city is likely to become, it seems to me you can plan for higher density and more people.

    The current capital was not situated for a nation our size (or a government its current size) and I think it would be advantageous to have a capital so built. Stimulus!

    And it’d be easier to house 6,000 congresscritters(!!!), eliminating one of the objections to significantly increasing the size of the House.

    At the very least, I’d like to see a cost-benefit analysis and feasibility study. And I’d like to know more of the Brazil precedent.

  45. @Andre Kenji: Exactly.

  46. I Can't Help Myself says:

    Size Matters!

  47. @trumwill: As a development project, a major problem (it seems to me) is that it was eviscerate the DC area. Government IS the industry there. At least with the creation of Brasilia Rio was still Rio without being the seat of government (just as New York remained New York after the cap was moved).

  48. Andre Kenji says:


    Do you think Brazil, and its government workers and such, benefit from having a relocated-designated capital? Do you think it should have stayed in Rio? Been relocated but somewhere closer to Rio?

    The problem about Brasilia is that most of the Brazilian population is located close to the coast. I myself never visited Brasilia, and I know very few people that did. I probably know more people that visited Washington DC than people that visited Brasilia. That creates distance between the government and the people.

    You can take a look in the region around Brasilia via Google Maps and Google Streetview. There is plenty of empty spaces for hundreds of miles. Take out Goiania and Anapolis, then all you have are basically farmland and very small cities for hundreds of miles.

    Historically, Rio became capital for the lousiest reason possible( The then Portuguese Royal Family decided to fled to Brazil because Napoleon decided to invade Portugal – they saved their a* while the people had to deal with a Foreign Invasion). But Rio de Janeiro at least is close to the most populated states in the country. It´s not a coincidence that there were dozens of popular revolts there when Rio de Janeiro was capital. In Brasilia, it´s possible to meet with the most unpopular Foreign Leaders, there is no one to demonstrate against them.

    I don´t know if keeping the capital in a city that is as large as Rio de Janeiro is a good idea. But keeping a capital in the middle of nowhere definitely is not a good idea.

  49. Andre Kenji says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Rio was still Rio without being the seat of government (just as New York remained New York after the cap was moved).

    Rio de Janeiro also faced economic problems when the capital was moved to Brasilia. Partially, that´s why the city was a state for some years. And some important public institutions never left the city – the BNDES, the powerful development bank is still based there, Petrobras still has it´s corporate headquarters there, most of the Command of the Army is still there.

    But I think that doing the same process in Washington DC would be even worse. It would create a large Detroit in the Northeast.

  50. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Late to the party so I am probably just p!ss!ng in the wind but a couple of thoughts.

    As a liberal living in outstate MO, I have ZERO chance of ever being represented by a Congress person anywhere close to my own political leanings under the present system. Where I presently live I doubt that would change, but my previous location was a Democratic stronghold. While I doubt it would be enough to sway any election on it’s own, if there were smaller populations in a district that enclave would certainly be enough to moderate the positions a Rep might take, because it could swing an election.

    More Reps equals greater representation, more honest representation, and more swing districts.

  51. Tony W says:

    I had forgotten, until Trumwill’s comment, that the house was originally designed for 1 rep-35-50K constituents.

    If we went back to that ratio – 300 Million Americans would require a minimum of 6,000 folks in the House. Preposterous? Not really actually. This would be a House of Representatives that essentially could never be gerrymandered. Those 1.5 million votes that went to Democrats but resulted in a Republican-controlled House would suddenly count. The people would be represented.

    I cannot imagine the stadium-logistics required to seat such a congress, not to mention the DC office space required, but I’d be in favor of such a move to dilute power in the House.

    That said, not sure what to do about the Senate which is far worse.

  52. Grewgills says:

    We have the technology to have the House be of any size. Not everybody has to be in the same room.

  53. gVOR08 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: My point is mostly just that building new office space for a larger congress need not be much of a problem. I think the person who originally suggested moving parts of the government had in mind that they’d be less clubby, they’d be exposed to a wider variety of citizenry, and the citizenry might feel less estranged. I’ve been reading This Town. Breaking that crowd up, even by a little bit, would be a plus. Also, DC is a very wealthy town. Wouldn’t hurt to spread the wealth around a little. And what’s the downside?

    (Probably won’t finish This Town. If you aren’t surprised by, or part of, the massively self absorbed government/media “cocktail party” circle jerk in DC, the details are pretty boring. I admit I didn’t know Arianna Huffington and the late Tim Russert hated each other. On the other hand, I don’t care.)

  54. trumwill says:

    Another precedent would be to look at (West) Germany’s Bonn-Berlin transition. Bonn was left with a lot of the government activity and jobs to keep its economy afloat. I wouldn’t oppose making DC a “Federal City” equivalent.

  55. Rick DeMent says:

    Well if the house were a lot bigger (on the order of 2-3k) it would be a lot harder for any individual (or groups) to buy enough votes to guarantee legislation passing.

  56. PJ says:

    Wikipedia has a good page on the sizes of different legislatures.

    Only India has a lower or unicameral house with more people per seat than the US. Each member of its lower house represents 2,192,379 people.

    If the size of the House would be increased to 600, it would mean that the US would go from second place to third place, with Pakistan taking the second place (each member of its lower house represents 537,023 people.)

  57. Tony W says:


    Not everybody has to be in the same room.

    This is something most state legislatures have looked into actually – and there are significant constitutional and operational concerns.

    Vote coercion becomes much more of a problem when there are only 301 (or 3001) votes required to pass legislation – you know the lawmaker is “logged in” to whatever identity system is set up, but you don’t know who else is in the room holding what weapon. Also, many lawmakers are lackadaisical about their passwords – delegating permissions to their assistants, affording an opportunity for voter fraud that actually matters.

    Lastly, some states have “Call of the Senate” laws, (or similar for the House) in which the president of the body can leverage the state patrol to literally gather, take into custody, and ‘imprison’ the lawmakers in the chamber to force their presence for a vote.

    These are a few of the obstacles to remote voting at the state level, and most of them probably apply at the national level as well.