Proposals to Radically Grow the House of Representatives

A Washington Post column on February 28, 2023 argued in favor of radically expanding the number of seats in the House of Representatives. A couple of recent Congressional bills agree.

Columnist Danielle Allen insisted that the House was originally “supposed to grow with every decennial census. James Madison even included in the Bill of Rights an amendment laying out a formula forcing the House to grow from 65 to 200 members, then allowing it to expand beyond that.” While Representatives currently “represent roughly 762,000 people each,” that number could “reach 1 million by mid-century,” she said. The 1929 Permanent Apportionment Act, Allen continued, effectively limited the size of the House to only 435 Members and “set the decennial reapportionment of the House on autopilot.”

Allen cited as her rationale: (1) “representatives are too removed from their constituents”; (2) “Congress has a much larger budget to track and manage, and many more agencies to review”; (3) smaller districts could mean cheaper election campaigns; and (4) enhancing “equal protection and inclusivity.”

Meanwhile, in the House itself, a pair of bills would follow Allen’s lead:

  1. The Equal Voices Act (H.R. 643), introduced by Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL-06), would “require that the average number the average number of constituents represented by a Member from any State” would be “equivalent to the number of constituents represented by the Member from the least populous State and to apportion Representatives among the States accordingly.”
  2. The Restoring Equal and Accountable Legislators in the House Act (REAL House Act) (H.R. 622), introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), would expand the number of House seats for the post-2030 Census redistricting to 585, with increases at each census thereafter. Blumenauer has a 1-pager on the bill, and the bill’s impact was recently analyzed by the American Redistricting Project.