Since the U.S. is a federated republic of 50 sovereign states and the House of Representatives is supposed to represent the people, why have Representatives elected by state? The Senate represents the states, so that’s already handled.
Why not divide the U.S. population up into representative districts that don’t follow state lines? Make each Representative truly a representative of the citizens of the United States?
Get set for some serious cocktail-napkin math here…
According to Census Bureau estimates, 22.4% of the U.S. population is under the age of 18, so they don’t vote. Extrapolating from 2018 data, slightly more than 90% of those 18 or older are U.S. citizens.
So representatives would need to represent slightly more than 230 million people.
If we set a benchmark of 150,000 citizens per Representative, the House would have 1,534 members.
If we want to pare the number down, we can go by registered voters. Once again, extrapolating from 2018 data, we would have about 138 million people to be represented. With the same number of people per Representative, the House population would shrink to 920.
Obviously, any of these numbers would outstrip the seating capacity in the Capitol Building, but who says they actually all have to be in Washington, D.C. all the time? One week a month in the capital should be plenty of face time; the rest of the time they could actually be in their districts, accessible to their constituents and do their deal-making and politicking electronically or via the phone. A secure network for recording votes and they’re good to go.
As a bonus, Congressional pay would go farther since the Representatives don’t have to maintain multiple residences.
We have a census coming up next year. It would be a perfect time to refigure apportionment of Representatives. If we started the process after the 2020 census, we might be able to have everything in place by the 2028 Presidential election. If you’re wondering why it might take eight years, check out the length of time it’s taken other amendments to be ratified.
So why would this be better than simply doing away with the House and going direct to the voters and switching to a system based on referenda?
Direct democracy sounds fine, in theory. However, it would truly suck in action.
If you look at the percentage of citizens that register to vote, it’s pretty embarrassing, even without the political maneuvering. Then there’s the question of access; every citizens would need to have regular access to a secure computer.
But the real issue is involvement. Sure, all of us are passionate about one issue or other, but how dedicated are we to the daily nuts and bolts? How willing are we to actually pay attention to what’s going on when it’s something that we don’t really care about?
The House is charged with control of the public purse. The budget that President Trump sent to the House is 160 pages long and, while it isn’t mind-bogglingly dull, millions of Americans would be face down, snoring into their eggs or cereal if they tried to read it at breakfast. If you want to try, you can read it here.
I am not saying the current crop of Congresscritters reads everything, or even knows what’s going on. However, we pay to provide them with staffs who usually do read the stuff and can explain it to the politicians.
We don’t have that luxury. We have to figure the stuff out ourselves. We would actually have to read legislation — not the summary; the text. I routinely do that when a proposed bill might have an impact on me or upon which I have strong feelings. I actually read the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: it was not any fun at all and I don’t recommend it.
The upshot is that technology is perfectly capable of handling a direct democracy; we’re not.
So we might as well think about better ideas for legislative apportionment.