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From The Vaults

If We Listen To Founding Fathers — We Need Fifteen-Fold Increase In Membership Of U. S. House of Representatives

The current size of the U.S. House of Representatives is much smaller than that envisioned by our founding fathers, who felt each member of the House should represent no more than 50,000 citizens. Now each member represents about 750,000 citizens. If the ratio recommended by the writers of the constitution was in force today, the House of Representative would have fifteen times as many members as it presently has — 6525 members. Ohio would have 240 members.

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If we followed the Founder’s wishes, the OH-10 region that now has one vote in the House — Representative Mike Turner — would instead have fifteen votes. OH-10 would be divided into regions of about 35 precincts each and each region would elect a representative. With such few precincts composing a region, efforts to gerrymander would have marginal impact. The influence of special interests would be diluted. There would be much more opportunity to elect representatives reflecting the diversity of points of view and backgrounds in the region. More minor political parties would have an opportunity to be represented.

If we followed the Founder’s wishes, the House would be closer to being the “People’s House.” It would come closer to fulfilling the ideal described by John Adams: “It should be in miniature an exact portrait of the people at large. It should think, feel, reason and act like them.”

A fifteen-fold increase in the number of representative would not mean a fifteen-fold increase in expense since at present a representative with 750,000 constituents employs multiple helpers and such a multitude would not be needed for a constituency that is fifteen times smaller. The elected representative of a miniaturized district would do the work now assigned to staff in the current huge district.

A fifteen-fold increase in the U. S. House of Representatives would require new rules for how the House operates — bringing the operation of our republic into the 21st century. These new rules would allow most debate and votes to occur online, with members empowered as participants in an online deliberative democracy, and with constituents invited to observe and to give input in ways not now possible.

Changing the size of the membership of the House of Representatives can be done as an act of Congress. We need to ask House candidates to commit to working in Congress to greatly increase the size of House membership.

Here is some history:

For the first 130 years, the House of Representatives grew every decennial census (with one exception in 1840), in accordance with the Framers’ intent as seen in Federalist No 57. (1:50,000 ratio) In 1910, the House grew to its present size of 435 members. In 1920, due to a political stalemate, no reapportionment took place (a clear violation of the Constitution).

The Reapportionment Act of 1929 permanently froze the size of the House of Representatives at 435 members. While clearly out of step with the Framers’ intent, the Constitution did not prohibit Congress from placing this ceiling on the House size.

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