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Fixing American Democracy: Increase the House

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Fixing American Democracy: Increase the House

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Part 2 of a six-part series. See Part 1: The Right to Vote For Everyone

In my first installment, I asked why our choice of candidates to vote for is limited to just one? Such a system mathematically guarantees a two-party stranglehold on our politics. It represses the full expression of the voters’ will by splitting the votes for qualified candidates to the benefit of an unqualified candidate.

The right to vote, surprisingly, is not defined in the Constitution; only the guarantee that our right cannot be denied is contained within the amendments. Defining the right to vote would strengthen it and lead to greater participation in our democracy.

However, as we’ve seen with the issues of gun control, medical marijuana, and immigration reform, to name a few, it matters not what the people think after our votes have been tallied. In our next step, we make a radical change to ensure that once elected, our representatives are more responsive to the will of the voters.

Step Two: Increase the House

Imagine a House of Representatives the size of a small town, where each Rep serves a constituency no larger than typical college football stadium, rather than Reps serving some districts that have greater populations than some states.

Homework: Learn about our original Bill of Rights at articlethefirst.net and thirty-thousand.org.

How it could happen: Congress decides to finally ratify Article the First as the 28th Amendment to the Constitution.

Why it will not happen: Too many sparsely-populated interior state Senators and Representatives would not be onboard with reducing their power relative to large coastal states.

I saw a meme that compared California with seventeen other red states that equal it in population. California pays more in taxes than those states combined, yet it has thirty-odd fewer Electoral Votes, 2 Senators to their 34, and only a couple more Reps in the House.

How is it fair that the votes of 3.7 Californians are equal to that of one Wyomingite when choosing our president?

It’s like eighteen people went to have pizza, two of them kicked in $50 for the pies, but have as much say in what the toppings are as the sixteen who kicked in $20.

The reason is because one of the original twelve amendments to the constitution – Article the First – has never been ratified. The Bill of Rights you know and love are actually Articles the Third through the Twelfth. Article the Second, preventing Congress from raising its own pay, was finally ratified in 1992 as the 27th Amendment.

Article the First is the one that mandates that a congressional district can (eventually) represent no more than 50,000 citizens, rather than the average 700,000 we have today. It means we’d have a House of Representatives with about 6,400 congresspeople.

Sometimes people express alarm over that – how could we have 6,400 people meeting and ever getting anything done? Well, we have only 435 now… how much are they getting done? What is it we’re afraid of… gridlock?

The answer is that we’d abandon the idea that our Congresspersons (not our Senators) have to be on Capitol Hill meeting together in some building three days a week then flying home for the weekend. They’d stay home in their Districts, hearing from their constituents, each of whom has more influence as a 1/50,000th share than a 1/700,000th share of their votes. Aside from flying to DC for the occasional committee hearing, they’d meet, debate, and vote online… and then be right there in their home district to face the accolades or protests resulting from their vote.

Also, as a result of increasing the House, the proportional representation in the Electoral College would be much ameliorated. California with 38,800,000 people would have 776 reps and 2 senators for 778 EVs, while Wyoming with 584,000 people would have 12 reps and 2 senators for 14 EVs. The California:Wyoming ratio of 39M:384K population is about 66:1. The new CA:WY EV ratio of 778:14 is about 55:1. Our current CA:WY EV ratio of 55:3 is about 18:1.

The Electoral College would still imbue less-populated states with more electoral power than their population deserves, but not so much more that it takes 705,454 California voters to equal 194,666 Wyoming voters (3.7:1). Instead, one EV would represent 49,871 Californians and 41,714 Wyoming voters (1.2:1).

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