What If The House Of Representatives Had More Than 435 Seats?

What If The House Of Representatives Had More Than 435 Seats?

PUBLISHED AUG. 6, 2021, AT 10:25 AM

What If The House Of Representatives Had More Than 435 Seats?See how adding more seats makes Congress more representative

By Ryan Best

The number of voting members in the U.S. House of Representatives has been stuck at 435 for more than 100 years1 even though the country’s population has more than tripled in that time. This has created the perfect recipe for unequal representation: Every decade, these 435 seats in the House must be reapportioned to adjust for population changes, even though more seats aren’t added. This means representatives in some states like Delaware end up representing way more people than in other states like Montana.

Here’s how apportionment works and which states are over- and underrepresented as a result

We’ve now apportioned all 435 seats in the House! Notice how smaller states are much more likely to be further from the national average.

Start over ↻

SEATS ALLOCATED:

435/435

10m203040-200k-100kEVEN+100k+200kState populationAverage state district size vs. national average

UNDERREPRESENTED

OVERREPRESENTED

The closer states get to the national average (EVEN), the more equal their representation is

PRIORITY STATE POP. SEATS POP. PER SEAT
6 California 39.6m 52 761k
3 Texas 29.2m 38 768k
4 Florida 21.6m 28 770k
1 New York 20.2m 26 778k
11 Pennsylvania 13.0m 17 765k
15 Illinois 12.8m 17 754k
2 Ohio 11.8m 15 787k
13 Georgia 10.7m 14 766k
22 North Carolina 10.5m 14 747k
9 Michigan 10.1m 13 776k
10 New Jersey 9.3m 12 775k
7 Virginia 8.7m 11 787k
14 Washington 7.7m 10 772k
5 Arizona 7.2m 9 795k
12 Massachusetts 7.0m 9 781k
18 Tennessee 6.9m 9 769k
24 Indiana 6.8m 9 754k
19 Maryland 6.2m 8 773k
20 Missouri 6.2m 8 770k
29 Wisconsin 5.9m 8 737k
31 Colorado 5.8m 8 723k
33 Minnesota 5.7m 8 714k
30 South Carolina 5.1m 7 732k
34 Alabama 5.0m 7 719k
23 Louisiana 4.7m 6 777k
27 Kentucky 4.5m 6 752k
38 Oregon 4.2m 6 707k
21 Oklahoma 4.0m 5 793k
36 Connecticut 3.6m 5 722k
17 Utah 3.3m 4 819k
25 Iowa 3.2m 4 798k
28 Nevada 3.1m 4 777k
32 Arkansas 3.0m 4 753k
35 Mississippi 3.0m 4 741k
37 Kansas 2.9m 4 735k
40 New Mexico 2.1m 3 707k
42 Nebraska 2.0m 3 654k
8 Idaho 1.8m 2 921k
16 West Virginia 1.8m 2 898k
41 Hawaii 1.5m 2 730k
43 New Hampshire 1.4m 2 690k
44 Maine 1.4m 2 682k
48 Rhode Island 1.1m 2 549k
49 Montana 1.1m 2 543k
26 Delaware 991k 1 991k
39 South Dakota 888k 1 888k
45 North Dakota 780k 1 780k
46 Alaska 736k 1 736k
47 Vermont 644k 1 644k
50 Wyoming 578k 1 578k
Total 331.1m 435 761k

A scatterplot of states by state population and average district size versus the national average, where dots are sized by state population. With 435 seats in the House, the average state’s population per congressional seat is 50.2k people away from the national average.

With all 435 House seats apportioned, we see significant discrepancies in district sizes across states. Montana and Rhode Island, for instance, will each have about 215,000 fewer people per district than the national average. Delaware, by contrast, will be the most underrepresented state in the union: Its 990,837 residents will have just one representative. But it’s not just the smaller — that is, less populous — states that get a raw deal. Bigger states also suffer from underrepresentation compared with some smaller states. Take California: Its population is 68.5 times as large as Wyoming’s, but based on the 2020 census, California was apportioned only 52 seats compared with Wyoming’s one. This means the average California House member will represent more than 761,000 constituents, while Wyoming’s will represent just shy of 578,000.

To be sure, perfectly equal representation in the House isn’t actually attainable — the fact that each state is guaranteed at least one seat and that districts can’t cross state lines limits what’s possible. But we could get much closer to equal representation if we expanded the size of the House beyond our current (and rather arbitrary) cap of 435.

One method we could use to add more seats to the House is the small state rule, where we’d divide the total U.S. population by that of the smallest state (Wyoming). Another is the cube root law, or the trend observed in political science that the number of seats in many countries’ lower chambers is quite close to the cube root of that nation’s population. And in some countries that have even more representatives like the U.K., France and Germany, political scientists have found that number is closer to the cube root of twice the country’s population (2x cube root law).

Try implementing these strategies — or any House size up to 1,000 seats

With 435 seats in the House, the average state’s population per congressional seat is 50.2k people away from the national average.

seats

SMALL STATE RULEDivide the total U.S. population by that of the smallest stateCUBE ROOT LAWTake the cube root of the total U.S. population2X CUBE ROOT LAWTake the cube root of two times the total U.S. population 10m203040-200k-100kEVEN+100k+200kState populationAverage state district size vs. national average

UNDERREPRESENTED

OVERREPRESENTED

The closer states get to the national average (EVEN), the more equal their representation is

PRIORITY STATE POP. SEATS POP. PER SEAT
6 California 39.6m 52 761k
3 Texas 29.2m 38 768k
4 Florida 21.6m 28 770k
1 New York 20.2m 26 778k
11 Pennsylvania 13.0m 17 765k
15 Illinois 12.8m 17 754k
2 Ohio 11.8m 15 787k
13 Georgia 10.7m 14 766k
22 North Carolina 10.5m 14 747k
9 Michigan 10.1m 13 776k
10 New Jersey 9.3m 12 775k
7 Virginia 8.7m 11 787k
14 Washington 7.7m 10 772k
5 Arizona 7.2m 9 795k
12 Massachusetts 7.0m 9 781k
18 Tennessee 6.9m 9 769k
24 Indiana 6.8m 9 754k
19 Maryland 6.2m 8 773k
20 Missouri 6.2m 8 770k
29 Wisconsin 5.9m 8 737k
31 Colorado 5.8m 8 723k
33 Minnesota 5.7m 8 714k
30 South Carolina 5.1m 7 732k
34 Alabama 5.0m 7 719k
23 Louisiana 4.7m 6 777k
27 Kentucky 4.5m 6 752k
38 Oregon 4.2m 6 707k
21 Oklahoma 4.0m 5 793k
36 Connecticut 3.6m 5 722k
17 Utah 3.3m 4 819k
25 Iowa 3.2m 4 798k
28 Nevada 3.1m 4 777k
32 Arkansas 3.0m 4 753k
35 Mississippi 3.0m 4 741k
37 Kansas 2.9m 4 735k
40 New Mexico 2.1m 3 707k
42 Nebraska 2.0m 3 654k
8 Idaho 1.8m 2 921k
16 West Virginia 1.8m 2 898k
41 Hawaii 1.5m 2 730k
43 New Hampshire 1.4m 2 690k
44 Maine 1.4m 2 682k
48 Rhode Island 1.1m 2 549k
49 Montana 1.1m 2 543k
26 Delaware 991k 1 991k
39 South Dakota 888k 1 888k
45 North Dakota 780k 1 780k
46 Alaska 736k 1 736k
47 Vermont 644k 1 644k
50 Wyoming 578k 1 578k
Total 331.1m 435 761k

As you’ve probably discovered, the more seats we add to the House, the more equal representation generally gets across all 50 states. That said, there are some pretty big limitations to how many seats we could realistically add to the chamber. (Can you imagine the electoral and logistical chaos that would ensue from doubling the size of the House in one fell swoop?) Bottom line: Each seat we do add to our current cap of 435 does get us just that much closer to the one-person, one-vote ethos that the House was ultimately created to fulfill.

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