Just how big should the House of Representatives be? In Article I, Section 2 of the U. S. Constitution, the Founders wrote, “The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative…” Congress has been limited in size to 435 Representatives since the 1910 Census. This has caused the average district size to go from 34,437 after the 1790 Census (state population total of 3,615,925 according to the population of free persons plus 3/5 the population of slaves divided by 105 Representatives) to 710,767 after the 2010 Census (state population total of 309,183,463 divided by 435 Representatives). That’s almost a 2,064% increase. It’s no wonder Washington feels out of touch with much of the country.

Currently, there are large variations in the populations of the various Congressional districts across the country. One of Rhode Island’s districts has a population of 527,624 while Montana’s at-large district encompasses 994,416 people. That’s one district that’s 25.77% less than average size versus 39.91% more than average.

What would it look like if we were to return to a minimum district size of 30,000?

State Current Representatives Current District Size Expanded Representatives Expanded District Size
Alabama 7 686,140 156 30,788
Alaska 1 721,523 23 31,370
Arizona 9 712,522 209 30,682
Arkansas 4 731,557 95 30,802
California 53 704,565 1,215 30,734
Colorado 7 720,704 164 30,761
Connecticut 5 716,325 117 30,612
Delaware 1 900,877 29 31,064
Florida 27 700,028 615 30,732
Georgia 14 694,826 317 30,686
Hawaii 2 683,431 44 31,065
Idaho 2 786,749 51 30,852
Illinois 18 714,687 419 30,702
Indiana 9 722,398 212 30,667
Iowa 4 763,446 99 30,846
Kansas 4 715,953 93 30,793
Kentucky 6 725,101 142 30,638
Louisiana 6 758,993 148 30,770
Maine 2 666,537 43 31,001
Maryland 8 723,741 188 30,797
Massachusetts 9 728,849 213 30,796
Michigan 14 707,973 323 30,686
Minnesota 8 664,359 173 30,721
Mississippi 4 744,560 97 30,703
Missouri 8 751,434 196 30,670
Montana 1 994,416 32 31,075
Nebraska 3 610,608 60 30,530
Nevada 4 677,358 88 30,789
New Hampshire 2 660,722 43 30,731
New Jersey 12 733,958 287 30,688
New Mexico 3 689,091 67 30,854
New York 27 719,298 632 30,729
North Carolina 13 735,829 311 30,758
North Dakota 1 675,905 22 30,722
Ohio 16 723,030 376 30,767
Oklahoma 5 752,976 123 30,608
Oregon 5 769,721 125 30,788
Pennsylvania 18 707,494 414 30,760
Rhode Island 2 527,623 34 31,036
South Carolina 7 663,710 151 30,768
South Dakota 1 819,761 27 30,361
Tennessee 9 708,381 207 30,799
Texas 36 701,900 822 30,740
Utah 4 692,691 90 30,786
Vermont 1 630,337 21 30,016
Virginia 11 730,703 262 30,678
Washington 10 675,336 220 30,697
West Virginia 3 619,938 61 30,488
Wisconsin 8 712,278 185 30,801
Wyoming 1 568,300 18 31,572
Total 435 10,059

In this case, the state with the lowest district size is Vermont, with 30,016, and the largest is Wyoming, with 31,573. The average size is 30,737, and the percentage differences are 2.35% below and 2.72% above. That’s a much smaller difference, and everyone would be represented more equitably. The Electoral College would also be brought more in-line with the individual state populations.

congress-2You would be a lot more likely to know your Representative and be able to speak with him or her personally on matters important to you. Instead of having to deal with hundreds of thousands of constituents, only a few tens of thousands would matter. You’d be much less likely to be represented by someone against your views. Even if you were, a nearby district would likely be more in line with your views instead of one hundreds of miles away. Your neighbor down the street might be your Representative.

How would all this work? With modern communications, not everyone has to be in the same room to hold a meeting. There could be regional capitals (and Capitols) around the country for House meetings. Votes would be conducted electronically. Debates could still be held much as they are now, with audio and video being sent around the country. Committee meetings could be held the same way. Imagine the bills that would pass if you had to corral 5,030 votes instead of 218. It would certainly be difficult to get anything extraneous passed!

One important change would be the cost to run for office. With smaller districts, it doesn’t take as much money to win a campaign. It would eliminate a lot of the money in politics. If our officials didn’t have to solicit enormous amounts of donations, there would be much less appearance of scandal or bribery. In 2012, the winners of  House races spent $734,967,300 to win their seats. If there were 10,059 Representatives, that amount of money comes out to a bit over $73,000 each. That’s well within the possibilities of a much larger group of people.

If the House were to expand like this, it would truly become a House of Representatives instead of a House of Elites.