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Saturday, July 3, 2021

House Size and the Electoral College

Keith Rothfus at National Affairs:
Expanding the House would amplify those voices in our national government, thereby returning a greater measure of sovereignty to the people. It would also have positive effects on more peripheral issues, including campaign finance, the diversity of thought in Congress, and the influence of special interests.

But what should the number of members be? Whatever quantity chosen will be unavoidably arbitrary in some respects, but as a starting point, I would propose a House of 601 members. Based on the 2020 census, this would give the average member a constituency of 551,000 persons — which is more in line with the constituencies of representatives in comparable democracies. If the United States had the same average number of residents per representative as other democracies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development do, then the House should have around 593 members. The number I am proposing simply rounds that figure up to the nearest hundred, then adds one additional member to avoid tie votes.

Changing the number of seats in the House would also affect the Electoral College, since each state receives the number of electors equal to the number of senators and representatives it has in Congress. With a House of 601 representatives and a Senate of 100, the Electoral College would consist of 704 electors (the additional three electors are from the District of Columbia). The following table shows how apportionment in the Electoral College would have looked during the 2010s with a House of that size.

To assess the impact that increasing the number of members in the House would have on the Electoral College, I evaluated whether any of the presidential elections since 1980 would have changed if there had been 601 representatives instead of 435. Table 2 compares how many electoral votes presidential candidates received with a 435-member House with what they would have received with a 601-member House.

As the table indicates, the only election that would have resulted in a different outcome was the razor-thin Electoral College victory George W. Bush secured over Al Gore in 2000. With an Electoral College based on 435 House members, Bush received 271 electoral votes and Gore received 267 — a four-vote margin in favor of Bush. If there had been 601 House members that year, Gore would have eked out an Electoral College win by the same number of votes, winning 354 to 350.