When the House of Representatives was established in 1789, there were 65 seats, with a representation ratio of 1 to 60,000. The number of seats in the House steadily increased as the population grew and the United States expanded, until the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929 which capped the "People's House" at 435 seats, where it remains today. In the past century, while the the size of the House has remained stagnant, the population has continued to grow and the representation ratio has ballooned to 1 representative for every 747,000 constituents. Not only does the U.S. have one of the most disproportionate representation ratio is the world, the average constituencies is likely to reach 1 million residents between 2040 and 2050.
Increasing the size of the House would help to mitigate partisanship and gerrymandering, lessen the impact of money in politics, and improve the descriptive representation of women and people of color. Expanding the House to 593 seats, as per the cube root rule, implementing ranked choice voting and multi-member districts, women's representation would rise from 101 (the number as of January 2020) to 193. Due to the protections enjoyed by incumbents, most of whom are white men, the most effective way of increasing women and people of color's representation is through open-seats. By expanding the size of the House underrepresented populations will have a greater opportunity to elect a representative of their choosing.
Read through our brief below for further detail on why House expansion is needed, the benefits of the Fair Representation Act, and our recommendations for expansion.
Data from the 2020 Election demonstrates how success rate for women varies across seat type. Ninety-three percent of women incumbents won their race. In comparison, less than 5% of women who ran as challengers won their race. Women that ran in open seat races won nearly 40% of the time. Without more open-seats through House Expansion (as there are currently no term limits for Congressmembers), women will continue to struggle to be elected.
Little is written about the what the size of the House should be in the U.S. Constitution, it only mentions there should be no more than one representative for every 30,000 constituents and the number of representatives should be determined by the population as calculated in the decennial census. James Madison wrote in Federalist 55 "I take for granted ... that the number of representatives will be augmented from time to time in the manner provided by the Constitution." Many Americans feel alienated from their representatives in what was supposed to be the "People's House," the only body to be directly elected by the people from its establishment, increasing the size is not only constitutional but will have many positive effects.
Want to help to get the House expanded? Take Action