Congressional approval ratings have been the consistent loser for nearly a decade. Op Eds and scholarly journals alike scorn our Congress for over-reach in sentence and plead for greater stalemate in the next. From the enfeeblement of the Senate filibuster to the cyclical debt-ceiling fiasco, there is a great deal of civic dissatisfaction with our Congress, yet little talk about what remedies we as the governed may administer upon our sickly representative body.
So lets talk about changing Congress, more specifically the House of Representatives. And I don’t mean the kind of ‘change’ we talk about every two years, where we play a little ‘Out with the old – In with the new’, I am talking about drastic, power altering changes that require Constitutional Amendments.
This is by no means the first time I have thought on restructuring Congress, yet this time it was spurned on by class discussion, as we ended up on the topic of ideal representation in our participatory democracy, and what form we would rather see implemented within the US. On the table lies: a linear system of representation suggested by Thomas Payne amongst others, where every X amount of people are represented by a member of the House, a number only bounded by the population of the US; or a system of more direct participation, where technology and civic participation meld together to a point of informed citizens capable of regular, secure voting: lastly a system of absolute representative governance, where we draw citizens by lottery to serve in the halls of Congress for an appointed time. Each option has merits and drawbacks, and there are numerous possibilities beyond the ones I have listed, but they all have potential. And they will all spark discussion.
Before delving into possible ways to restructure the House, I would like to examine its current face. For those unaware, each state is allotted a percentage of the 435 seats within the House by the formula
where P is the state population and n is the number of seats the state holds. This formula is used in a round-robin senario, where every state is ranked, allocated a House seat, and sent to the bottom of the list. The system is meant to preserve the most balance between state population and equal representation for each citizen. But how worthwhile is said equal representation? In recent decades the concern has been raised that our representation is no longer keeping up with our population growth. In fact, we have the same number of representatives as we did in 1912, when Arizona joined the Union. In effect, our population has tripled while the number of representatives remains static. The strength of our vote has been diluted generation by generation.
Next Week… Suggestions for change !