Thursday, January 12, 2017

Want Better Representation? Fix Congress

The election is over, the results have been ratified by Congress, and like it or not, Donald J. Trump is going to be the 45th President of the United States. But the popular vote! The Electoral College! The voice of the people wasn’t really heard!
Map via
Okay, leaving aside the point that people love/hate/call to abolish the Electoral College in direct correlation to whether their candidate of choice won, the Electoral College isn’t broken. It was established to prevent very populous states from completely overriding smaller, less populated states in the country’s only national election, and that’s as true today as it was in 1787. What’s broken is how we apportion Electoral College votes.

See, the Constitution originally apportioned one representative for every 30,000 people in a state, with a minimum of one representative per state. Subsequent Congresses amended that apportionment number, and the number of seats in each congress expanded or shrank (mostly expanded) with each ten year reapportionment, but the number or representatives (and electoral votes, since those are apportioned for each congressional representative) was never a fixed number until the Apportionment Act of 1911 capped the number at 435.

Now at the time, this kind of made sense. There wasn’t room for a potentially unlimited number of seats in the congressional building, travel to Washington was difficult for the representatives in Western states, and it helped the sitting members defend their seats against being redistricted out of a job. But what was true a hundred years ago isn’t necessarily true now.

We have teleconferencing. Secure VPN systems. The ability to work remotely in collaboration with software teams around the globe. There’s no reason (other than the increased gathering of power that is Washington D.C.) for a majority of congress to not spend their times in their home district, casting their votes via a secured system. This neatly solves the problem that the Apportionment Act of 1911 (and the subsequent acts of 1929 and 1941) were ostensibly meant to fix.

Want to fix the Electoral College, and break up congressional power at the same time? Bring back congressional seats apportioned directly by population, and not by shuffling the same 435 seats around.

Let’s take a couple of examples. Using the original Constitutional method of one rep per 30k population, a new House or Representatives would have 10,630 members. Okay, that might actually be a little unwieldy (good luck trying to get 5,316 people to agree on ANYTHING, no matter what party they all happen to belong to), so let’s use a more reasonable 250,000 people per representative. That gives a slightly more manageable 1,275 member House.

Interestingly enough, this DOESN'T change the results of the 2016 election. It DOES reduce the percentage win from 56.8% of 56.6%, but that's barely statistically significant.

Granted, this is really just a thought experiment, and a bit of math to prove out what has been a wacko theory. The idea that enough members of congress would willingly give up most of their power in the name of better democracy is, sadly, laughable.

It just goes to show that the Founding Fathers had the right idea.

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