House of Representatives

2012 Election: The House

With it being a presidential election year, it is easy to lose track of the fact that there is an institution called Congress. You may not have heard, but as is the case every two years, approximately one-third of the Senate and all 435 House seats are up for election. I hope to look at the Senate races in the coming week, but this post is for the House of Representatives.

The least suspenseful aspect of the 2012 election are the House races. Certainly there is some drama within individual races, but in the aggregate, the Democratic chances of recapturing the House are somewhere between slim and are you kidding me. Real Clear Politics already has the GOP at 226 seats with lean-R and likely-R districts, with an additional 26 races listed as toss-ups. No matter what happens with the presidential election, Republican control of the House is a near certainty. The main question with regard to the House is how big will the Republican majority be? Even though the Republicans had an historic mid-term pickup, there were a number of close elections that Republicans lost in 2010, many of them in districts favorable to Republicans. Throw in post-census re-districting, and the GOP should retain a fairly strong majority.

I’m not going to go into detail into every tossup race. Consider this an open invitation for those of you either in swing districts or neighboring swing districts to inform us how things are shaping up in your neck of the woods.

I’ll kick things off by taking a look at the People’s Republic of Maryland. Currently two of Maryland’s eight House districts are held by Republicans, which is just too many for the overwhelming Democratic majority in the state. In attempt to knock off the longest-serving Republican – Roscoe Bartlett in the sixth district – the Democrats drew up a laughably gerrymandered map. This is actually a map of Maryland’s 8th district, currently served by Democrat and Nancy Pelosi lackey Chris Van Hollen (click on 2012 map). What they’ve done is place a part of heavily Reublican Frederick County in the northern part of the state and magically patched it with Maoist Montgomery County to the south. At one point the district basically just runs up I-270. The area to the west is the sixth district, which now combines portions of Montgomery County with the more conservative northwest section of the state. In other words, they’ve taken one heavily Democratic district and one Republican district and converted them into two Democratic-leaning districts. The gerrymander is so ridiculous that it is one of the five major state-wide ballot initiatives in Maryland. (Even if the voters decide to reject the altered districts, those elected will serve the districts as currently designed for the next term, and the Democrats just get to re-draw the lines).

Bartlett is facing challenger Joe Delaney, and things do not look good for Bartlett. It would be the ultimate justice if instead of ousting Bartlett, the re-drawn eight district winds up in the Republican column. Ken Timmerman is challenging Van Hollen, and has drawn the support of luminaries such as John Bolton. The district is now “only” 50% Democrat, which means that instead of this being a lock-solid Democrat district, it’s just a very strong Democrat district. Timmerman is going to have to pull a lot of independents to have any chance, but stranger things have happened. In the end, it looks like the state of Maryland will be a net pickup of one for the Democrats.

An Analysis of the 2010 House Elections

I’m a bit late with this post, but it seems appropriate now as a sort of follow-up to my previous post regarding the House of Representatives.  When someone is both a political junkie and a stats nerd like I am, it’s hard to resist the temptation to delve into the numbers of any election.  So I am going to take a closer look at some of the more interesting figures from last November’s election results for the U.S. House of Representatives. Continue reading

Increasing the Size of Congress: Would It Work?

One of the main objections that critics of the Constitution had was that the proposed U.S. House of Representatives would be too small.  Article I, Section 2 decreed that the number of representatives should not exceed one for every thirty thousand.  Critics feared that such an enumeration would mean that the districts would be far too large, and the representatives would not be close enough to the people they represent.  State ratifying convention offered up several amendments to this plan, and the first Congress included a revision to this section as one of the twelve original amendments to the Constitution.  In fact, if it had been ratified it would have been the first amendment, and it so read:

Article the first … After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.

As it turned out, this was only of the original twelve never to be ratified by the states.  Ten were immediately ratified and became known collectively as the Bill of Rights, and an 11th – dealing with Congressional pay raises – was ratified in 1992 and became the 27th Amendment.

If critics were outraged at congressional districts of 30,000, imagine their horror at today’s apportionment.  After the 2000 census the average size of a congressional district jumped to 646,952, a number that has swelled to just over 700,000 in light of the recent census.  In other words, Congressional districts are roughly 23 times larger than originally planned.

So if the states ever got around to ratifying what would have been the first amendment, Congress would increase about fifteen-fold, or to 6,525, as opposed to the current total of 435.   And if we went with the original number prescribed in the Constitution, there would be just over 10,000 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.  Yee-haw!

It’s probably safe to assume that we will not be increasing the number of representatives by that margin anytime soon.  But as something of a fun little thought experiment, what would happen if we “merely” increased the House by triple it current size? Continue reading

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