Would a larger House be fairer? | New NY 23rd

Steve Vladeck proposes a good government reform–more members in the House. At first glance this idea seemed inconsequential to me; a legislative body with 435 members is large enough already that members may never learn each others names,  but after reading Vladeck’s reasons, I see his point.

Vladeck gives three reasons for a larger House:

  • First, and most obviously, it is difficult — if not impossible — for any one person adequately to represent the interests of three-quarters of a million people.
  • Second, the size of contemporary congressional districts leads to massive over-representation of some states and under-representation of others, since each district must be entirely within the same state, and every state must have at least one representative.
  • Third, and perhaps most importantly, a smaller House undercuts the representativeness of the Electoral College and, with it, presidential elections.

Vladeck’s first reason is weak–a representative can little more effectively represent a half million than three-quarter million in my opinion. The second seems stronger–states with small populations are over represented in House and Senate, so improving this in at least one body could be worthwhile. The third reason is important as Vladeck notes–too often the electoral college vote hasn’t reflected the popular vote, which does weaken the legitimacy of presidential elections.

Vladeck notes that the size of the House is set by law, so no Constitutional Amendment would be needed to change it. However, it is unlikely that a majority in Congress would vote for this reform, if the leadership did bring it to a vote.

Yet another proposal  is to create more states. Vladeck mentions adding Puerto Rico and Washington, DC. This would increase the number of Senators thus weakening the influence of less populated states. There is also the possibility of dividing large, populous states–California for example.

An alternative proposal for reforming presidential elections is the National Popular Vote movement. Unlike Vladeck’s proposal, NPV would be implemented by agreement among the States of the Union. No congressional action would be needed.


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