Upside-Down Majority in the House of Representatives

There is an interesting piece in The New Yorker this week explaining that the Republicans retained their majority in the House this year even though Democrats got around 1 million more votes in House races overall.  This has happened a few times before (in 1996, for instance) and could be explained by a few factors.  One is gerrymandering.  Another is the fact that there are just more lopsided Democratic districts due to geography.

One explanation that is not mentioned in the article, though, is the fact that the House is malapportioned.  (I posted about this two years ago.)  The Constitution’s requirement that each state get at least one House member creates a distortion, because if we used a strict proportional formula some states (say, Vermont or Wyoming) really deserve less than 1.  Likewise, the fact that each state must have a round number of members is artificial.

For example, California has 66 times more people than Wyoming. (37.25 million vs. 563,000).  But California has only 53 times as many House members (53 vs. 1).  There is nothing that can be done about this, because the courts have held that interstate malapportionment is not subject to the rule of Reynolds v. Sims.  How much did this contribute to the 2012 result?  Get Nate Silver on the job!

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5 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    It is in theory possible to address this somewhat by increasing the size of the House to compensate for the requirement that each state has at least one member. But, unless the Equal Protection Clause etc. is deemed to have altered the requirement somehow, the one member rule unbalance would be in place somehow.

    Thinking about delegations having fractions is interesting.

  2. A.J. Sutter says:

    “Likewise, the fact that each state must have a round number of members is artificial.”: Au contraire, I think this is rather natural, outside of science fiction (and here in Japan). Whether every member should have an integral number of votes is maybe a different story.

  3. Brett Bellmore says:

    If you’re going to go with fractional votes to permit representation to correspond more closely to population, you may as well just go ahead with my favorite proposal: Weighted vote proportional representation. (In a nutshell, everybody who runs gets seated, they just have votes weighted according to how many votes they received in the election.)

  4. Joe says:

    Brett’s idea to me is impracticable but regardless the space between fractional votes and it seems fairly sizable.

  5. Fraud Guy says:

    Why not weight representation by population? Lowest population state get one representative, and every multiple thereof (round off) adds one representative.