What If Congress Increases the US House to 500 Members to Give Large States More Electoral Votes?

2020 election


California has about 40 million people and Wyoming has 577,000. It takes nearly 70 Wyomings to equal one California, though both are represented by two Senators as the constitution requires.

Add one congressperson to the Senators and Wyoming has three electoral votes. California gets 55 electoral votes which is 18.3 times larger — far less than is due by population difference alone. While I’m picking on Wyoming as the least populous state, all the smallest states are vastly over represented in the Electoral College.

You could remedy this disparity in electoral votes by eliminating the Electoral College and using the popular vote, but Republicans in alliance with the small states would block a constitutional amendment.  I know that there is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact where states pledge to give their electoral votes to the popular vote winner, but no Republican state and probably no swing state will join. The courts may well declare such a plan unconstitutional, anyway.

But a power Congress does have is changing the total number of members who sit in the US House thus changing the number of electoral votes. In fact the number of members has been changed many times in the past as the Constitution only requires that districts should be allotted among the states by population as determined by the census.

The advantage of increasing the number of seats is that it gives more districts to all the large states, but not all the smaller states and it can be done by merely passing an act of Congress. Wyoming’s members of congress and some of the other small state members will still vote against such a measure, but some of the small states will actually benefit.

Rhode Island will likely lose one of its two congresspeople after 2022 but would likely keep that second member of the population requirements are smaller. West Virginia might also avoid losing one of its three districts.

This is not a strictly partisan plan but a modest equalization in the relative strengths of the states in the US House and in Electoral Votes. It would generally benefit Democrats since CA, NY, and IL are so reliably Democratic and the other large states are swing states or states trending Democratic.

The number of voting members in the US House has been set at 435 since 1913, but was changed often before then. It was increased temporarily in 1959 when the new states of Alaska and Hawaii were allotted US House seats.

Increasing the US House from 435 voting members to 500 is arbitrary, just based on a round number that ‘s no so big a change as to be extremely controversial. The larger states would get about 15% more members, about eight more districts for California, five more for Texas.

Since it would take fewer people to equal a district, more minority communities could be large enough to be represented in Congress.  Cities that are currently too small to have their own complete district will now fit better and not have to share a district with some distant, unrelated population. Of course, this does nothing about gerrymandering which will have to be dealt with in other ways.

  • February 2, 2020