Saturday, August 1, 2009

Big House Part 1

Also out there today is a proposal from Nick Beaudrot to more-or-less triple the size of the House.

I've always been intrigued with this idea. The history of this is that the Constitutional gave us 30,000 people per district. Then, as the nation grew, the House grew, although not in proportion. The first House had 65 Members, and the size of the House grew rapidly, reaching 240 in the 23rd Congress (1833-1835), which seems to work out to in the neighborhood of 60K per district. After a lull for forty years (I don't know why, but presumably it had to do with sectional controversy), the House started growing again in 1873, hitting 435 Members after the 1910 census. At that point, the average district had grown to a bit over 200K people.

And that's it. In 1929 the House set a permanent size at 435 Members, and that's where it's been ever since.

So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of a much larger House?

Intuitively, it does seem that representation would work better in smaller districts. If the goal of the House is to allow particular and specific interests to have a voice, then our current districts (larger than all but a handful of American cities) are on the large size. As far as Member and constituent interactions, it again seems to most of us that those interactions will be more meaningful if there are fewer than a quarter-million people to interact with.

In Part 2, I'll move on to elections for the Big House.

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