Thursday, January 25, 2007

The fixed history of 435 Representatives

#17
The number "435" is not in the US Constitution. It was not selected by the founders as a method of representation. It was never ratified by the 50 states. Instead, it was created by an act of the 70th Congress in 1929. But how did we get to that point?

After George Washington’s veto of the first apportionment bill in April 1792, the House of Representatives voted to change the representation ratio to “thirty-three” thousand instead of the constitutional number of “thirty” thousand. This initial way of ignoring the Constitution and assigning representation by congressional act became known as the “fixed ratio” method.

Congress used the fixed ratio method until 1850. Then, under pressures built into the constitutional system because slaves were counted in representation, Congress began setting a limit for membership in the House of Representatives. In other words, Congress stopped using the ratio altogether. They called this method “fixed house size.”

After the census in 1920, Congress, for the first time, did not address House membership: they added no new members. This coincides with the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, women’s suffrage, and the obvious challenges women posed to institutional power.

But the big change came nine years later, in 1929. During that summer, only months before the great depression began and less than a year before the next census, the 70th Congress passed a law setting the number of Representatives at 435. This congressional (and not constitutional) law is known as 2 U.S.C. Sec. 2, Election of Senators and Representatives:

Section, act Aug. 8, 1911, ch. 5, Secs. 1, 2, 37 Stat. 13, 14, fixed composition of House of Representatives at 435 Members, to be apportioned to the States therein enumerated.

"Fixed composition" means constantly declining representation. That is where things stand. Our Constitution has never been amended to reflect this usurpation, this change in power. One Representative for every thirty thousand is the constitutional standard for We the People. Today's 435 Representatives for a nation of 300 million is the congressional standard based on the census of 1910 and the Congress of 1929.

It is time to update the US House of (un)Representatives.

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13 Comments:

At 3:05 PM, Blogger Christian said...

old post for sure, but do you know of any legal challenges to this law? who has standing to challenge this in court?

 
At 11:32 PM, Blogger Bob/Paul said...

Well, the constitution states:

"The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand"

but gives no minimum. So the current situation is constitutionally sound: we do not have more than 1 member for every thirty Thousand people. The constitutional concern was that the house might acquire too many members, not that the population might become underrepresented. It was expected that each state would want to send as many people as possible to get the biggest voice, but at some point you get too many people in the same room and government all but stops.

As far as setting the number, it might be possible to argue that this is a states rights issue and that each state, and not congress, should get to decide how many Representatives they send, provided they don't send more than 1 for every 30k.

But the constitution grants congress the power "To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;"

I'm sure the courts would agree with congress that setting the number or representatives falls under "making rules for government".

So I don't think anyone has any standing to challenge it.

 
At 10:24 PM, Blogger Jim said...

Nice explanation for something I've often wondered about. Thanks for posting it.

 
At 9:12 PM, Blogger RedDawgEsq said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9:14 PM, Blogger RedDawgEsq said...

Your assertion that the limit of 435 representatives was established in 1929 is incorrect. It was established in 1911 following the 1910 census. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_United_States_Congress

 
At 4:45 PM, Blogger Kickyourace said...

I'm surprised to see you saying it was supposed to be One Representative for 30,000 citizens. We hit more then 8,000,000 million citizens and Congress never had a constitutional right to overturn Article the First that was proved to be ratified in 1792. (Boldtruth.com has copies of all the ratification paperwork from 12 of 15 states or 80% to be ratified). There is court case in the 3rd circuit court of Appeals asking the courts (which never ruled on this) to restore Congress to what it was suppose to be. 1 Rep for every 50,000 citizens. While some may not like that we'll have 6100 reps in the House, the law is the law and more so it's our ratified Bill of Rights. How the hell do you ignore that. The answer as citizens is, we don't! Boldtruth.com is an interesting read and factual and researched. With the Appeal, John Boenher and others have stated they don't have an objection to saying that Article the First was ratified in 1792 (most people didn't know it was) but have an argument that there shouldn't be 6100 Reps in the house. This will wind up in the Supreme Court at some point.

 
At 4:53 PM, Blogger Kickyourace said...

I'm surprised to see you saying it was supposed to be One Representative for 30,000 citizens. We hit more then 8,000,000 million citizens and Congress never had a constitutional right to overturn Article the First that was proved to be ratified in 1792. (Boldtruth.com has copies of all the ratification paperwork from 12 of 15 states or 80% to be ratified). There is court case in the 3rd circuit court of Appeals asking the courts (which never ruled on this) to restore Congress to what it was suppose to be. 1 Rep for every 50,000 citizens. While some may not like that we'll have 6100 reps in the House, the law is the law and more so it's our ratified Bill of Rights. How the hell do you ignore that. The answer as citizens is, we don't! Boldtruth.com is an interesting read and factual and researched. With the Appeal, John Boenher and others have stated they don't have an objection to saying that Article the First was ratified in 1792 (most people didn't know it was) but have an argument that there shouldn't be 6100 Reps in the house. This will wind up in the Supreme Court at some point.

 
At 5:43 PM, Blogger oathkeeper said...

A minimum is given. It is at least one representative. If we are allowed no more than 1 for every 30k we do not have enough reprsentatives. Washington state has over 6 million citizens that is at least 200 reprsentatives just for our state. I understand that we would end up with alot and it could creat problems. However, this was not amended by a constitutional amendment but by statutory law which is a violation of Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution and also a violation of the purpose for a census. If we allow congress to legislate this because it seems good then they can legislate away our gun, religion and free speech rights. Since this is unconstitutional any one shoud have standing. The courts have no authority to make law because we do not have co-equal branches of government.

 
At 5:46 PM, Blogger oathkeeper said...

A minimum is given. It is at least one representative. If we are allowed no more than 1 for every 30k we do not have enough reprsentatives. Washington state has over 6 million citizens that is at least 200 reprsentatives just for our state. I understand that we would end up with alot and it could creat problems. However, this was not amended by a constitutional amendment but by statutory law which is a violation of Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution and also a violation of the purpose for a census. If we allow congress to legislate this because it seems good then they can legislate away our gun, religion and free speech rights. Since this is unconstitutional any one shoud have standing. The courts have no authority to make law because we do not have co-equal branches of government.

 
At 12:19 PM, Blogger George said...

Perhaps it's high time to rethink this whole representation process? As the TV program, "American Idol" have shown, people vote with their cell phones or smartphones and over 50 million did vote. Apply that to House of Representatives (eliminate all those seats and put up huge TV screens to tabulate all those incoming votes. That means you represent yourself only when voting. Hmm?

 
At 12:28 PM, Blogger Asking Him said...

Goes to show, the current administration and congress aren't the first to abrogate the constitution. It's high time to recognize we now live under a lawless government and the agreement which binds the States together, the constitution, no longer exists. Each State should be given the opportunity to separate from the union, so those of us who do not want to live under a Westernized version of the Soviet Union have a place to go.

 
At 11:30 AM, Blogger Dhe said...

The 1:30,000 as a maximum was to prevent over representation, not to allow for underrepresentation. The same is true for the slaves (all other persons) being counted as 3/5 of a person. The south, with many slaves were prevented from counting them to give them more representatives, it actually was a free state idea, because most of the people lived in the north, but with the slaves the southern states could equal them in representation. The, "at least one representative" is not a minimum either, it gives small states representation at the 30,000 level, but if they had any fractional number between 30,000 to 60,000 where they would have 2 representatives they would still only be entitled to 1, same goes for states with larger populations, any fractional representatives they were entitled to would be rounded down to the whole number of representatives.

This discussion is very important because today we are not represented in the House, where the ratio is 1:750,000 @ 435 representatives, but it also effects elections and the electoral college where the number of electors is equal to the number of representatives and 2 Senators, for each state. This is why we have the two party system controlling our politics and our government today, and why voter suppression and gerrymandering are effective tools to maintain the two party system.

Who has legal standing and the right to challenge this in court, the same entities that the constitution was written for, the States. The States have the constitutional right to maximize their representation to the constitutional level of 1:30,000, and they also have the right through their state sovereignty to control their delegations and mandate that they represent their states, not parties in the legislature. Affiliation through parties to form majorities to usurp the power and authority of the States is not in the best interest of the States, and not constitutionally provided for. If you doubt that statement just look to California, the most populous State, which has no power, authority, or influence in a Republican led congress supported by the defection of their 14 republican representatives to join nationally with other republicans to form a majority and work against the interest of their own State.

 
At 12:40 PM, Blogger James Howe said...

So my question is how does this affect the electoral college. Is this the reason for such a large disconnect between the electoral vote Ann the popular vote in the latest election? (By the way I'm not partisan) I was just thinking since the electors are fixed the the congressional delegations from each state and that bacame a permanently fixed number in 1929 that the citizen repesentation is no longer proportional when electing our president, thoughts?

 

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