Recently I’ve been thinking about representation, redistricting, and reapportionment. With the 2010 Census right around the corner, this is something we should all consider. I found a game online, called the ReDistricting game, that points out the often-questionable, certainly partisan, and very manipulable process that happens when districts are re-drawn. Even if you’re as savvy to the process as I am, I still recommend to play this game just for fun. If you’re not, then this could be a real eye-opener.

However, that leads to another issue that I have with the current system that we have: the “fixed” number of 435 members of the House of Representatives. For one thing, what’s so special about the number 435?  That seems awfully specific. It turns out that it was set that way back when our population was less than half what it is now. I’m not here to give a history lesson; my point is that our influence on a given representative is diluted to less than half what it was when this became the law. Before that time, the number of representatives in the House grew at a proportion about 2/3 that of the general population growth.

The effect of putting a cap on representation is that each person how has less power over the government. The web site http://www.thirty-thousand.org/ points out many reasons why this is a bad thing. The most basic reason is that more representatives means greater accountability and more local control.  Doubters would say that this would grow the size of government, draining more money. I believe that it would actually lead to more responsible government. It is but one change, but it is a good one.  I would personally like to have about 900 members of the house. That seems like a lot, but it would take about half the workload off each member of the house, and it would also have the (beneficial) effect of making local interests trump partisan or special interests.

When it comes to redistricting all those new districts, I think the best approach would be to first try to keep “communities of interest” together. This typically would mean that cities and counties should not be divided except as absolutely necessary. This could be done by each state having an independent commission, comprised of apolitical volunteers, such as retired judges or similar, with nothing to gain by the decision. Those people could be given only information on the populations of the areas to be divided. They could sit down and draw up a map, which would then be used for elections during that decennial period.

If 900 members were indeed used, as I advocate, then we’d have 3 representatives to each million people. That seems a lot better than 650,000: 1.

This is not really a constitutional question, though. The Constitution sets a minimum ratio, but is silent on a maximum one. Thus, this could be done with a standard bill.




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