DC to Get a Vote in the House?

Last week Chris noted that a plan to give the District of Columbia a full-fledged Representative in the House had been introduced with bipartisan support and that he, too, was endorsing the plan. As Mary Beth Sheridan reported yesterday for The Washington Post, that plan has now passed out of committee.

A congressional committee overwhelmingly approved a bill yesterday that would grant the District a permanent, full voting member of the House of Representatives and add another legislator from Utah.

The House Committee on Government Reform voted 29 to 4 in favor of the proposal sponsored by its chairman, Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.). The measure now goes to the House Judiciary Committee, whose chairman has agreed to bring it up for a vote.

[...]

Davis said he thought the legislation could be approved by the full Congress this year. But congressional aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, were more cautious.

They noted that the Judiciary Committee is busy with other issues and might need time to analyze changes Davis recently made to his bill. In particular, to gain Democratic support, Davis agreed that the extra House seat going to Utah would be at-large, to avoid redrawing a district held by a Democrat.

On the surface, this sounds like a plan that I, like Chris, would support. Enfranchisment, particularly of underrepresented groups (such as African-Americans, of which the District is largely comprised), is always a good thing. Nevertheless, there are a few questions that I would like to see answered before this bill moves to the floor.

  • Will passage of the Davis legislation inhibit the effort of granting DC full statehood -- with two Senators as well as a Representative -- rather than move it forward?
  • Is it constitutional for Congress to mandate that the seat given to Utah be at-large? Unless I'm mistaken, the manner by which members are elected to the House (i.e. the designation of districts) is decided by the state government, not the federal government. If the measure is not clearly constitutional, what assurances can be given to Democrats that the Utah legislature won't redraw districts mid-census to gerrymander Democrat Jim Matheson out of office?
  • How will Davis' measure affect DC's electoral votes? How will it effect those of Utah? Will it be the case that DC's electoral votes stay at 3 -- which would seem to make sense -- while Utah's increase by one, thus giving the GOP an extra electoral vote?
While each of these concerns, alone, would not be enough for me to warrant opposition to this bill, they are nevertheless important to consider as the Davis legislation moves towards passage.

Tags: DC-AL, election reform (all tags)

Comments

40 Comments

Those are important concerns

but I think the idea that it would inhibit the effort toward DC statehood shouldn't be a top concern.  First, DC statehood doesn't really seem to be moving much.  Second, its always dangerous to say "well, we don't want the half measure because it might stop our chances of getting the full measure later."  That argument was used by Nader against the Department of Consumer Protection (he didn't think it was strong enough), and 30 years later, there is no office of consumer protection.  I think it tends to go the other way---once you get the partial measure, the other side has acknowledged that your argument has merit, and then has less ground to oppose giving you everything you want in the future.  

by bosdcla14 2006-05-20 03:04PM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

DC statehood isn't going to happen, since the Republicans will never agree to two extra Democratic Senators (the amendment giving DC three electoral votes was passed in the 60s, the height of Democratic influence).  And DC is really too small to be a state, yes, it has a higher population than Wyoming, but Wyoming is really too small to be a state as well.  The country has too many micro states like Wyoming, the Dakotas, and Delaware.

Liberals should support retrocession to Maryland, which is hard to argue against on the merit, and will have the effect of locking down Maryland as a Democratic stronghold for the forseeable future.  Any measure to give votes to DC residents, even halfway, both helps the pary and gives half a million citizens their voting rights.

On a purely political basis, insisting on the at-large district for Utah is a big miscalculation.  Matheson's district is already gerrymandered to ensure he loses, its just the gerrymander didn't work.  With four districts, it will be hard due to simple probably for the legislature to avoid drawing one that is simply very Republican, instead of just extremely Republican.  The three way gerrymander didn't work, I don't think a four way gerrymander will be easier to pull off.

Besides, if Congress can mandate an at-large distict, surely it can mandate an independent redisticting committee?  But maybe we don't want to go there.

by Michels 2006-05-20 03:13PM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

Retrocession to Maryland is something I would support, as I don't think DC SHOULD get statehood (that is, reps or senators). It was never meant to be that way, but we shouldn't disenfranchise the residents at large either.

by MNPundit 2006-05-20 04:14PM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

Well, I think the real danger for Matheson in any scenario under which Utah gets another seat is that they'll redraw his district in order to pit him against a GOP opponent.  On the other hand, what Utah Republican in their right mind would agree to a fight with perhaps the only Democrat in the state that could win their seat out from under them?

So I guess you're right: I'm not too worried about Matheson being gerrymandered out.  He's just too good, I guess.  Here's hoping that Matheson has a long career that includes a successful race for the Senate.

by Ryan Anderson 2006-05-20 06:45PM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

Is it constitutional for Congress to mandate that the seat given to Utah be at-large?


Well if it is constitutional for Congress to do a mid-decade change in how many representatives a state gets based on population then I suppose you could argue that the actual redrawing should have to wait until the next census. But a court could rule the other way.   But are we sure that Utah the only state that looks like it might rate another representative based on mid-decade information?  Suppose we get the courts to OK this and then next year a Republican controlled congress (it could happen you know) uses that law to hand out a whole bunch more seats and cause a lot more mid-term redistricting.  This Utah thing sort of tastes like a poison pill to me. 


Will it be the case that DC's electoral votes stay at 3 -- which would seem to make sense -- while Utah's increase by one, thus giving the GOP an extra electoral vote?


Right they get one more for Utah and them still more electoral votes from any other other red states that they can justify more votes for next year and trigger reapportionment -- the Republican get to pick the states.    How many extra votes would it take in solid red states to force the Democrats to have to take one more swing state?  This gives me the creeps.  Has anything like this Utah thing ever been done before?

This seems like a cleaver wedge issue.  An offer that the Democrats can't accept for reasons that would be hard to explain to DC voters and let the Republicans attack Democrats for "playing politics with DC's rights".  I wish this deal would just go away.

by Fred in Vermont 2006-05-20 03:30PM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

No, you're missing the importance of the way this law was written.  It only specifically mentions DC.  The other added seat goes to Utah because it was next in line if there had been 436 seats in Congress to apportion after the 2000 census.

Turns out, in fact, that if there were 437 seats, Utah would have gotten one (436), and the next would have gone to New York (437).  Add more seats?  You get Texas (438), then Michigan (439).  The Priority Values that determine these things are worked out through a mathematical formula based strictly on population count and the number of representatives each state has already.

The fact that Utah was #436 on the list was very convenient in terms of getting Republican support for this bill.  But there is absolutely no precedent being set here that would allow Congress to arbitrarily start handing out new seats to red states.

Here are the Census' most recent priority values.  Here is a discussion in Wikipedia of how they're generated.

by arenwin 2006-05-20 03:53PM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

The fact that Utah was #436 on the list was very convenient in terms of getting Republican support for this bill.


A quick search located this


For the 1850 census and later apportionments, the number of seats was determined prior to the final apportionment ("fixed house size"); and thus, the ratio of persons each was to represent was the result of the calculations. In 1911, the House size was fixed at 433 with provision for the addition of one seat each for Arizona and New Mexico when they became states (U.S. Statutes at Large, 37 Stat 13, 14 (1911)). The House size, 435 members, has been unchanged since, except for a temporary increase to 437 at the time of admission of Alaska and Hawaii as states.


And this


This number was set in 1911, and in current law, does not change even upon admission of new states (though the number can temporarily increase to accommodate new states until the next census). These 435 seats are divided among the states every ten years, following the Constitutionally-mandated decennial census.


So if this procedure were applied straight up to giving DC one representative (though not creating a "new state") it would involve creating a #436 for DC until it comes time to reapportion again when that number presumably would either be changed for the first time in 100 years or go back down to #335.

So I suppose the theory is that giving DC this seat in 06 should be viewed as sort of "letting it cut in line" in front of Utah which would have gotten that seat in 00 if the number had been set in 1911  to 436 instead of 435.  So to fix this "problem" we make an increase to 437 and give 437 to DC so that it does not cut in front of Utah.


Turns out, in fact, that if there were 437 seats, Utah would have gotten one (436), and the next would have gone to New York (437).  Add more seats?  You get Texas (438), then Michigan (439).


OK but now there is still a problem because DC has cut in 06 in front of all those other states (and many more I suppose) in the 2000 priority listing.  I suppose we could also solve these "problems" by starting up the list adding new reps for new states and triggering more reapportionments.  I bet with the right  computer program you could figure out  (given the known control to the legislatures) how each number of new seats added to that 2000 line would benefit or harm each party.

But of course here we just stopped after adding just one mid-decade rep to just one state because that gave the Republicans what they wanted.

OK now I think I understand the argument, but I sure don't like it.  I think it sets a dangerous precedent.  Next time perhaps it will be several new seats for several worthy areas that don't have them and the math will work out so that the "as if" seats just happen to give one party a big advantage because they will control the reapportionment and they will pick up 5 or ten seats. And if there were enough votes in the Senate to block a filibuster one party could just push this through and cement their majority.

It seems to me that this would set some bad precedents that would change the law we have been working under for almost 100 years without too many big fights.  Three main problems:


  1. It lets new voting representatives be handed out without granting statehood.

  2. It gives more reps to a state based on a strange backward looking "as it" idea that was not used in the past when Alaska and Hawaii were admitted.

  3. It could let the majority federal party trigger targeted state legislative reapportionments.


It also accepts  the idea that you can have all sorts of non-state units get their own representative in a way that seems unauthorized by the constitution. 

I think this idea is just nuts.  When are the judiciary committees going to hold hearing on this idea?  It should be interesting to watch.  I don't think those legal eagles will be much impressed about how the numbers this time work out to make it look like a fair deal partywise.

by Fred in Vermont 2006-05-20 06:16PM | 0 recs
Non-states

> It lets new voting representatives be handed out without granting statehood.

I actually don't think this is such a bad idea.  Doesn't Puerto Rico deserve some representation?  (Personally, I think statehood is in order there, and not just because I suspect they'd be a blue state)  Giving a territory a lone House member seems like a decent half-measure that falls short of full statehood, but enfranchises US citizens not living in one of the 50 states.

Of course, I don't think any of this - including the D.C. measure - is constitutional.  Shouldn't they be proposing an amendment if they want to change Congress?

by schroeder 2006-05-20 06:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Non-states

 Doesn't Puerto Rico deserve some representation?  (Personally, I think statehood is in order there, and not just because I suspect they'd be a blue state)  


I agree if they agree.   But the with over 60 senators agreeing the other day to the Ihofe Amendment to the immigration reform bill I hope we would not demand that as a new state State Puerto Rico's people had to conduct all their affairs in English.


Of course, I don't think any of this - including the D.C. measure - is constitutional.  Shouldn't they be proposing an amendment if they want to change Congress?


That is really my point.  If the courts permitted such big things to be done this way it would be a big time erosion of the constitution and more importantly could plant the seeds for a future national crisis.

This is such a sensitive area that anything that changed the 1911 law or number, or modified the way things worked for Alaska and Hawaii, ought to be avoided altogether. That rule ought to be treated as though it were part of our basic law unless there is a very strong reason to change it (and a broad majority supporting the exact way it ought to be changed) before we reopen such critical stuff.  Handing out extra congressmen according to new ad hoc rules just to appease the opposition to a back room deal is a road we don't dare go down, notwithstanding constitutionality, and even if the cause seems just this time.

by Fred in Vermont 2006-05-21 03:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Non-states

>  I hope we would not demand that as a new state State Puerto Rico's people had to conduct all their affairs in English.

Well, that's one reason I'd like to see PR get statehood - it'd shut the door on this "official language" nonsense.  

by schroeder 2006-05-22 12:49PM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

You appear to be attributing arguments to proponents for this bill that I haven't heard them making.  No one, to my knowledge, has been arguing that the number should be increased to 437 rather than 436 because DC would be "cutting in line" in front of Utah.  It's been pretty clear from the outset that the argument for Utah is strictly about political balance.

If your point is that the bill creates a legal just-so story in order to balance a Dem seat with a Republican seat, while not openly and arbitrarily cherry-picking a single state - of course!  This is a political trick that could only have worked between 2001 and 2010, after one set of priority values were released that happened to put a very red state in position 436, and before the next one (who knows, Massachusetts may be 437 next time!)

But crass political motivations don't change the fact that naming Utah in the statute and expanding the numbers while only naming DC... but knowing (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) where the other seat will go... are very different precedents.  Even if they begin with the same motivation and the same result, only one of these precedents sustains the principle that seats are only apportioned amongst states based on population, after giving each state its guaranteed 1 slot.

Sometimes the difference between two routes toward the same result does matter.

You're right, of course, that Congress could begin repeatedly changing its own size to the advantage of whichever party is currently in control.  But they have always had that ability.  The question is, does this bill create a new political precedent that increases the acceptability of "playing the numbers" like that in the future?  

If you are right that this is about "cutting in line," then we do indeed have a problem - there is no limit to how many new seats have to be created to compensate.  But if it's about political balance - not adding a new likely Dem seat without also adding a new likely Repub seat and vice-versa - then it's singularly unamenable to partisan mischief.  Neither party can gain a clear advantage that way.

That's how Eleanor Holmes Norton sees it.  She also sees the Alaska/Hawaii precedent differently than you do - as precedent, amongst others, showing that seats are never added to Congress except in partisan political balance.

by arenwin 2006-05-20 09:19PM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

You appear to be attributing arguments to proponents for this bill that I haven't heard them making.  No one, to my knowledge, has been arguing that the number should be increased to 437 rather than 436 because DC would be "cutting in line" in front of Utah.  It's been pretty clear from the outset that the argument for Utah is strictly about political balance.


Well I was just trying to create some sort of logic to this however weak because I could not believe that such a thing would just presented without a justification in prior law or practice.  Are we really ready to grant to the majority in congress the power to trade around seats in congress like ranchers at a Texas cattle auction?  Are we really ready to permit the majority to trigger mid-decade reapportionment this way?


This is a political trick that could only have worked between 2001 and 2010, after one set of priority values were released that happened to put a very red state in position 436, and before the next one (who knows, Massachusetts may be 437 next time!)


When I first heard about this I assumed that the priority values for the new seat were ones that were "projected" of 2010.  Would that not be just as constitutional as doing it looking backward.


But crass political motivations don't change the fact that naming Utah in the statute and expanding the numbers while only naming DC... but knowing (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) where the other seat will go... are very different precedents.


But of course in this computer age everyone will know almost in advance the exact political result of adding any particular number new seats mid-decade including the likely result of the resulting mid-term reapportionment  by the legislatures involved.   That is why no one should  wink at anything that starts down this road.


The question is, does this bill create a new political precedent that increases the acceptability of "playing the numbers" like that in the future?  


There can be no doubt it does.  This sounds like an idea that they found when they cleaned out Tom DeLay's old leaders office.  One of those ideas that was put aside as just too blatant for even DeLay to move on. But some GOP wiseguy dug it out of the trash and decided to try to inject it into the perennial argument about DC.


But .. .  it's about political balance . . . .That's how Eleanor Holmes Norton sees it.  She also sees the Alaska/Hawaii precedent differently than you do - as precedent, amongst others, showing that seats are never added to Congress except in partisan political balance.


Well perhaps but they were full states and they didn't involve hoarse trading involving ad hoc mid-decade adjustments.  Of course Norton supports anything that get her to be a real member of congress and we should expect DC to support that.  But the problem with this "political balance" argument is that we can't assume that a party with a supermajority plus the presidency would need that in the future.

BTW this is the Wikipedia article on "District of Columbia voting rights" presently says this about the question


Proposals to grant voting representation only in the House

A compromise may even be reached which would allow the District's delegate to Congress to be raised to the status of a full voting member of the U.S. House but still leave the District unrepresented in the Senate. This would reflect the original logic that Senators are supposed to represent states (which the District is not), while members of the House represent the people. Most legal experts believe that even this compromise would require a constitutional amendment.

However, a recent bill, the DC Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act of 2006 introduced by Congressman Thomas Davis of Virginia and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia; in order to prevent defeat by the Republican majority, the House would grant one more seat to Utah, almost certainly going to the Republicans. Because the Democrats do not wish to see Jim Matheson, the only Democrat
in Congress from Utah, gerrymandered out of his seat, the new Utah seat is to be at-large (i.e. elected statewide). It is given good marks for likelihood of passing. [emphasis added]


This article seems to be open to editing.  Perhaps someone should add a pair of footnotes to support both of the highlighted section above.  I suppose it would not be the first time even a clearly unconstitutional law was passed.

by Fred in Vermont 2006-05-21 04:08AM | 0 recs
non-severability clause in this?

PS: Will this bill have a non-severability clause in it so that Utah will lose its new representative if the courts find that the new representative for DC is unconstitutional?  If we are going to trade horses we need a clear contract saying that is what we are doing.

by Fred in Vermont 2006-05-21 04:19AM | 0 recs
Re: non-severability clause in this?

This I agree with. Even though this is pretty clearly a constitutional law, a non-severability clause should be there just in case.

by bschak 2006-05-21 08:07AM | 0 recs
Re: non-severability clause in this?

Yes, it has a non-severability clause.

by arenwin 2006-05-21 08:59AM | 0 recs
Re: non-severability clause in this?

Thanks. Have you found a copy of the bill text online? thomas.loc.gov doesn't seem to have it up yet, and a Google search for "HR 5388" didn't come up with anything.

by bschak 2006-05-21 09:02AM | 0 recs
Re: non-severability clause in this?

Sorry, I was rushing, and should have been clearer.

No copy is available online yet, to my knowledge.  The closest thing is the DC FAIR Act, which HR 5388 was modeled after.

To be more precise about the current bill, I understand from personal correspondence that 5388 also included a non-severability provision - at least as of a few days ago, before committee markup.  I was curious about this and had someone I could ask.  Norton has shown a sensitivity to this issue in the past (e.g., here).

Still, we'll clearly need to see the text that actually comes to the floor.

by arenwin 2006-05-21 09:52AM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

What do you mean, are we ready to give Congress the power to trade around seats? Congress currently does have the power to do so whenever they choose, by any reasonable method. And the majority does already have the power to reapportion with more seats, fewer seats, or or a different method whenever they want. So why don't they, you might ask? Because: 1) Expanding the size costs sitting reps power; 2) decreasing the size or changing the apportionment method costs sitting reps seats; 3) adding seats costs sitting reps committee placements; 4) incumbents want to run in new redrawn districts as seldom as possible; 5) state legislators hate the hassle of redistricting. The precedent for horse-trading seats is already there, but Congresses just don't want to get into it. This is a truly silly objection.

Right now, they use the equal proportions method, under which NC got the 435th seat and UT is due for the 436th seat. What exactly would you prefer to do? Simply add the DC seat? That would risk having a 218-218 partisan tie next term, which would surely be unacceptable. Or would you add the DC seat and remove a NC seat? That would be politically untenable since every NC congressman would oppose it and the NC senators might very well block it. Also, it would force NC to perform new redistricting. Granted, the NC governor and legislature are Dem, but Dems are already overperforming and any redistricting plan would risk costing Dems a seat there. If there's another option besides risking a partisan tie in the House, adding a seat in UT, and removing a seat from NC, I'd love to hear it.

"But of course in this computer age everyone will know almost in advance the exact political result of adding any particular number new seats mid-decade including the likely result of the resulting mid-term reapportionment  by the legislatures involved. That is why no one should  wink at anything that starts down this road."

Dems can use computers as well as Republicans. House Dems knew that the UT legislature could pit Matheson against an incumbent Republican, and that's why they insisted on the extra UT seat being at-large. In the future, Dems will still be able to use computers to ensure that new proposals don't harm us.

As for 2010, nobody can predict state populations well enough to know who will get the 436th seat, no matter how much computer power they have. If the Census projections come true precisely, AL will get the 436th seat. AL has a vastly Democratic legislature, and the 436th seat could save an outstanding Dem like Artur Davis as easily as it could save a Republican. If the Census projections are a bit off (particularly if LA loses significant population from Katrina), the 436th seat could be NY's, which would benefit Dems (particularly if we can capture the NY state senate and governor's mansion).

"Well perhaps but they were full states and they didn't involve horse trading involving ad hoc mid-decade adjustments. Of course Norton supports anything that get her to be a real member of congress and we should expect DC to support that.  But the problem with this "political balance" argument is that we can't assume that a party with a supermajority plus the presidency would need that in the future."

Dude, are you the least bit familiar with how apportionment works? This is not ad hoc---UT is next in line, and probably should've had the 435th seat instead of NC. There's a list of which states are due for which representatives. If you want to add representatives (and, as I wrote above, nobody ever will particularly want to), you have to choose off the list. That means that no "party with a supermajority plus the presidency" could hope to make serious gains by changing the size of the House. Since you've probably never looked at the list, let's look at which states are due for seats 436-475 since the 2000 census. The first column is the state abbreviation, the second column is whether the state voted Bush or Kerry, and the third column is whether the state has a unified state government (D or R) or a mixed state government (X):

436 UT R R
437 NY D X
438 TX R R
439 MI D X
440 IN R R
441 MT R D
442 IL D D
443 MS R X
444 CA D X
445 WI D X
446 OK R X
447 PA D X
448 FL R R
449 OR D X
450 MD D X
451 KY R X
452 NJ D D
453 TX R R
454 NY D X
455 WA D D
456 CA D X
457 CT D X
458 SC R R
459 VA R X
460 OH R R
461 CA D X
462 GA R R
463 IL D D
464 MA D X
465 TX R R
466 AZ R X
467 FL R R
468 MI D X
469 NY D X
470 KS R X
471 TN R X
472 CA D X
473 PA D X
474 AR R X
475 LA R D

It should be obvious from this list this it will be very, very difficult for either party to gain political advantage by adding seats to the House. In fact, adding seats makes partisan gerrymandering slightly more difficult, which would tend to benefit the minority party slightly.

(It should also be clear from this list that the Dems' biggest problem is that we control the state government in only one of the five largest blue states. Hopefully, NYers, CAns, PAns, and MIders will change this.)

Despite what Wikipedia says, this proposal is far from "clearly unconstitutional." In fact, it can probably survive the sort of restrained scrutiny that the courts apply to Congress's DC legislation.

Congress has sweeping power to enact legislation implementing a federal district. For example, in the past, Congress has used this power to allow DC residents to vote in MD and VA. As early as Hepburn v. Ellzey in 1805, the Supreme Court held that Congress could enact statutes to treat DC as a state for specific constitutional purposes. (That case dealt with diversity jurisdiction, which Congress did indeed extend to DC residents in 1940, which was upheld in National Mutual Insurance Co. of D.C. v. Tidewater Transfer Co.) Congress also treats DC as a state in other constitutional and statutory settings: For example, DC possesses a state militia (which states get under the 2nd amendment), DC is a state for purposes of alcohol regulation, the DC Court of Appeals is understood to be included in the phrase "the highest court of a State" for purposes of Supreme Court appeals, Congress may give DC 11th amendment sovereign immunity, etc., etc.

Adams v. Clinton in 2000 (heard by the D.C. Circuit Court and decided in an unpublished opinion) held that DC residents lacked a constitutional right to a House seat. Nevertheless, it suggested that Congress could choose to provide it with one, which makes sense in light of all the precedent regarding Congress's vast power over implementing a federal district.

by bschak 2006-05-21 08:06AM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

the majority does already have the power to reapportion with more seats, fewer seats, or or a different method whenever they want. So why don't they, you might ask? Because: 1) Expanding the size costs sitting reps power; 2) decreasing the size or changing the apportionment method costs sitting reps seats; 3) adding seats costs sitting reps committee placements; 4) incumbents want to run in new redrawn districts as seldom as possible; 5) state legislators hate the hassle of redistricting. The precedent for horse-trading seats is already there, but Congresses just don't want to get into it. This is a truly silly objection.


Well that is a something that I had not clearly understood.  Perhaps when we Democrats get back in power we should use it to make sure we keep it.  Those reasons for not doing so seem small considerations relative to the potential gains involved.  They may have stopped Republicans but we Democrats ought to be able to take a longer view.  I just can't understand why this powerful tool has gone unused for 100 years.


Right now, they use the equal proportions method, under which NC got the 435th seat and UT is due for the 436th seat. What exactly would you prefer to do?


It sounds fair to me, but since there was no 436th at the time it should stay that way  -- unless we have to give it temporarily to a new state (as I had thought the rule was).


Simply add the DC seat? That would risk having a 218-218 partisan tie next term


The Senate managed to survive that situation.


Or would you add the DC seat and remove a NC seat?


Why do that? The rule is that you temporarily add a seat for a new state.  If we are going to give reps to non-states I assume the same rule should apply.


 House Dems knew that the UT legislature could pit Matheson against an incumbent Republican, and that's why they insisted on the extra UT seat being at-large.


Right.  But that does not make it constitutional to place that requirement on a state.  That is why I hope that the bill is written so that if the courts strike that part down (and/or the part about letting a non-state like DC have a real representative)  Utah would lose its new seat.



"Well perhaps but they were full states and they didn't involve horse trading involving ad hoc mid-decade adjustments.


Dude, are you the least bit familiar with how apportionment works? This is not ad hoc---UT is next in line


It was next in line.  I call this ad hoc because it has never been done this way before.  The "line" was real enough in 2000, but it no longer existed until it was "discovered" as supposedly being the only fair way to ad a single new representative.  Why not just give DC two representatives until 2010 to solve the odd number problem?  Why not wait until next year when we Democrats will be in the majority and then we can just cram that onto the Republicans?  (Though what do you bet the crafty GOP would find some legal argument against it?)


If you want to add representatives (and, as I wrote above, nobody ever will particularly want to), you have to choose off the list.


It has never been done this way before and from what I can tell it has never been seriously proposed.  I don't think the majority as a right just to add representatives any time it wants and part of the reason I think that is that there is no clear rule as to how to apportion them mid-decade.  It makes me  uneasy when people claim that they have discovered a "self-evident" rule for something this important which has never been done in the past.


adding seats makes partisan gerrymandering slightly more difficult, which would tend to benefit the minority party slightly.


That makes no sense.  If the majority party gets to decide if, and how many, and when, seats will be added then the majority party will be able to pick a time and a number that will be to their advantage when the resulting reapportionment is done in the states involved and thereby reinforce their majority.


Despite what Wikipedia says, this proposal is far from "clearly unconstitutional." In fact, it can probably survive the sort of restrained scrutiny that the courts apply to Congress's DC legislation.


Well please give me a hint as to how it could be constitutional to create something with only some of the attributes of a state.  And as to fitting this under Congress' broad powers to deal with DC affairs that seems like a stretch.  This would add two new representatives mid-decade and that is nothing  like the sorts of DC legislation that the federal courts are reluctant to micromanage.


Adams v. Clinton in 2000 (heard by the D.C. Circuit Court and decided in an unpublished opinion) held that DC residents lacked a constitutional right to a House seat.


Too bad that would have been the strongest argument that congress could do this.


Nevertheless, it suggested that Congress could choose to provide it with one, which makes sense in light of all the precedent regarding Congress's vast power over implementing a federal district.


Did that court really opine that Congress would be free to do this without all of the other accoutrements of statehood?  And even if it did, how much is an unpublished trial court opinion worth in a major constitutional issue like this?  Was the issue even briefed and argued?

But thanks for thinking about this hard.  It is clear that there are some arguments to be made.  It is not "nuts," just a very long reach.

 

by Fred in Vermont 2006-05-21 09:47AM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

Perhaps when we Democrats get back in power we should use it to make sure we keep it. Those reasons for not doing so seem small considerations relative to the potential gains involved.  They may have stopped Republicans but we Democrats ought to be able to take a longer view.  I just can't understand why this powerful tool has gone unused for 100 years.

Actually, the current method and number of seats has only been in effect since 1940. Before then, Congress had to decide on the method and number every decade, and it was indeed an extremely partisan, tendentious process. For example, in 1920, Congress couldn't agree on anything, so the 1910 apportionment applied. A report of the Nat'l Academy of Sciences around 1940 recommended the "equal proportions" or "Huntington-Hill" method of apportionment, and the Congress, weary of the political difficulties of apportionment, adopted that method (and the number 435) to be used in the future.

With equal proportions (or other related methods like Dean's, Adams's, Jefferson's, and Webster's), the specific number is not as important as with other methods. It is easy to calculate what the line-up is for states to get seats, and it is very, very difficult for a bunch of red or blue states to appear in a row in the list, so neither party can ever hope to benefit much by playing around with the number of seats.

Contrast that with Hamilton's method, used through most of the 19th century. I won't go into the mathematical minutiae, but Hamilton's method suffered from the Alabama Paradox: A state could actually lose a seat by increasing the House size. (Also, adding a new state with a commensurate increase in the House size can affect the distribution of other states' seats; also, a state with a higher growth rate can lose a seat to one with a lower growth rate.) With Hamilton's method, the number of seats can be a much more powerful tool. For example, in 1901, one congressman submitted a bill to set the size at 357, since any other size between 350 or 400 would give one more seat to Colorado.

Although there's good precedent from the days of Hamilton's method for the majority to work its will, the equal proportions method has neutered the power. The majority simply can't make big enough gains under equal proportions to overcome house members' desire for a small House. And certainly not to overcome the hassle of mid-decade redistricting. (Personally, I'd like to see the House increase to over 10,000 over a period of several decades, but that's neither here nor there, because House members are so loath to fuddle with the size. For various reasons, I think that increasing the House size would slightly help Democrats in the short-term and would be politically neutral in the long-term.)

The Senate managed to survive a tie situation (and has done so several times) because it has a presiding officer (viz., the Vice President) whom the Constitution names to break ties. The House has absolutely no way to break ties when it comes to organizational votes.

Why do that? The rule is that you temporarily add a seat for a new state.  If we are going to give reps to non-states I assume the same rule should apply.

That's not the rule; the rule is that Congress can do what it pleases, as long as it apportions in some reasonable manner by population, as long as each state gets at least one rep, and as long as no state with more than one rep gets more than one rep per 30,000 people. Those are the only constitutional prescriptions. In addition, there's an informal rule to use the method of equal proportions; it's not my personal absolute favorite method, but it has served us well, doesn't fall prey to paradoxes, and nobody has the political foolhardiness to want to rehash the debates of the first half of the 20th century.

Anyhow, what you call the rule is what happened for AK and HI, but AZ and NM followed a slightly different "rule": the House size went up by 2 permanently. Other things have happened for various other states. Through the 19th century, Congress just kinda guessed what the right number of representatives was for a new state. When WV was formed in highly exceptional circumstances, VA was stripped of some reps and WV was granted three all at once. Perhaps the most extreme and famous example: When MO was formed, MA was broken into two separate states for political expedience. Compared to the Missouri Compromise, giving a seat for a few years to the state that is indeed next in line (and which probably got cheated out of a seat in 2000) seems like a small deal.

Right. But that does not make it constitutional to place that requirement on a state. That is why I hope that the bill is written so that if the courts strike that part down (and/or the part about letting a non-state like DC have a real representative) Utah would lose its new seat.

You're right. Mere political expediency doesn't make it constitutional for Congress to require UT's 4th district to be at-large; the Constitution makes it constitutional. Article I, Section 4: "The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Chusing Senators." Currently, Congress uses this power to force states to create single-member districts elected on a Tuesday falling between November 2nd and 8th, and it is unquestionably constitutional that Congress does so; if Congress takes a notion for UT to have an at-large district, then that too is constitutional. (Well, it might not be if Congress did so completely arbitrarily or capriciously, for example if a Democratic Congress announced in 2010 that all states bordering the ocean would elect reps at-large, all states bordering the Missouri River would use single-member districts, and all other states would use proportional representation.)

It was next in line. I call this ad hoc because it has never been done this way before.

And UT is still next in line. Just because Congress takes a notion to declare DC a state for apportionment purposes and to increase the House size to 437 doesn't mean that the equal proportions method has changed. The equal proportions method is still there on the statute books, all decade long, and UT-4 is still next in line after NC-13. It's just that now DC-1 is at the front of the line along with CA-1, UT-1, MN-1, PA-1, HI-1, etc. Things have been done this way before: In the late '50's, AK and HI were added, the House size went up, and they were assigned reps in accordance with equal proportions---one apiece. Same with AZ and NM, except that Webster's method was in use at the time, and that the size increase became entrenched after the 1920 Congress failed to reapportion.

The "line" was real enough in 2000, but it no longer existed until it was "discovered" as supposedly being the only fair way to add a single new representative. Why not just give DC two representatives until 2010 to solve the odd number problem? Why not wait until next year when we Democrats will be in the majority and then we can just cram that onto the Republicans? (Though what do you bet the crafty GOP would find some legal argument against it?)

The line has been "real" all along. It has been understood all along that if Congress wanted to increase the size of the House to 436, 437, 500, 1000, or whatever, it would have to follow the equal proportions method. (It could, of course, change the method, but that would be really politically infeasible.) It's merely good luck that a permanent increase to 437 is the only politically practical way to achieve DC representation.

As for giving DC two votes, there are many problems with that, one of whose initials are GWB. (Such a proposal wouldn't necessarily be popular either with Democratic congressmen, who would have to explain to constituents why they voted to give DC a disproportionately high skewed amount of representation. Nor would Del. Norton necessarily like the prospect of fighting a fellow incumbent for DC's seat in 2012 when DC would go back down to one seat.)

Also, the GOP wouldn't have to find a crafty legal argument against it; the plain language of the Constitution will do just fine. Representatives must be "apportioned among the several States [which Congress can legislate to include DC] according to their respective numbers." While the Court has allowed Congress considerable leeway in deciding how to apportion according to population (most notably in the MT case in the 90's), there's no way the Court would accept an apportionment that gives DC (under 600,000) more seats than MT (over 900,000).

It has never been done this way before and from what I can tell it has never been seriously proposed.  I don't think the majority as a right just to add representatives any time it wants and part of the reason I think that is that there is no clear rule as to how to apportion them mid-decade. It makes me uneasy when people claim that they have discovered a "self-evident" rule for something this important which has never been done in the past.

Uh, what do you mean by "it"? Do you mean adding seats in conformance to equal proportions? That's been done (AK and HI). Or do you mean finding novel gimmicks to make admission of one party's seats more palatable to the other party? That's been done (MO and ME). You're flat-out wrong (please, please, cite any passage of the Constitution that you think supports you on this) that the majority lacks the right to reapportion at any time, and the clear history that no majority has used that power for over six decades is strong evidence for my position---it's not something that anyone in Washington wants to touch without good reason, and it's not something to worry about.

That makes no sense.  If the majority party gets to decide if, and how many, and when, seats will be added then the majority party will be able to pick a time and a number that will be to their advantage when the resulting reapportionment is done in the states involved and thereby reinforce their majority.

Please tell me how Republicans could have done that this time around. They could have grabbed one  more seat in UT by going up to 436. Going up to 437 would have added seats in UT and NY. Because of how effectively NY is gerrymandered for the GOP at the moment, redistricting again would probably give the Dems a seat, maybe more if Spitzer wins and Dems take the NY Senate. (In fact, redistricting again could get bogged down in NY's split legislature and could go to the courts, who might draw a more neutral map favorable to Dems.) Going up to 438 would have added seats in UT, NY, and TX. With the TX seat going to Republicans, the Republicans are back to gaining a net 1 (assuming no disaster for them in NY). MI is much the same story as NY: The GOP would be unlikely to improve over the currently pro-GOP map and could suffer disaster if (for example) the Dem governor refuses to protect all the GOP incumbents. Next is IN, where the GOP would likely get a seat. Then MT, where a unified Dem government would have a shot at creating a Dem seat. Then IL, where the unified Dem government would make modest gains revising the GOP-leaning 2000 map. After that, it's hard to see how the GOP could hope to make up enough to offset Dem gains in IL. So, overall, the GOP could hope for at most one additional seat by tweaking the number of reps, and the Dems couldn't do much better.

This inability of the majority to get a substantial gain from tweaking the number of reps is not a fluke of this particular data set. It's the main reason that the number hasn't been tweaked for decades except for new representation. The order of states given by equal proportions is extremely unlikely to give either party a real advantage by adding seats. Under the regime of equal proportions, the queue of states is everything, not just something that "no longer existed until it was 'discovered' as supposedly being the only fair way to ad a single new representative."

Well please give me a hint as to how it could be constitutional to create something with only some of the attributes of a state.

The Supreme Court and Congress have given hints enough. Since Congress acted in 1940, DC residents have been able to sue foreign nationals or other states' citizens in federal court (so-called diversity jurisdiction) just as citizens of states have the right to do under Article III. Although the Constitution only expressly allows this for citizens of a state, the Court upheld Congress's decision to treat DC like a state for this limited purpose in the Tidewater case. As I also mentioned above, Congress decided that DC may have a militia (known as the National Guard) on the same basis as states, which is allowed specifically to the states by the 2nd amendment. Congress has protected the District from lawsuit by calling it a state for 11th amendment purposes. DC is also a state for 6th and 21st amendment purposes. And those are examples where Congress has decided to treat DC like a state for constitutional purposes. There are even more examples where DC is treated as a state for mere statutory purposes, but those are not as obviously on point. Also, even without specific congressional intervention, courts have considered the District a state for some treaty interpretations.

And as to fitting this under Congress' broad powers to deal with DC affairs that seems like a stretch. This would add two new representatives mid-decade and that is nothing  like the sorts of DC legislation that the federal courts are reluctant to micromanage.

Adding two new representatives mid-decade is within Congress's powers of apportionment, not the District Clause. The District Clause is what justifies Congress's powers to give DC a representative in the first place. In the past, Congress has done even more remarkable things under the District Clause, even such as allowing DC residents to vote in MD and VA! Given that the Court has allowed (and even encouraged) Congress to give the District constitutional privileges that are very much state-based---diversity lawsuits, a militia, and sovereign immunity---it's hard to see how the current Supreme Court, filled with fans of deferring to Congress, would create new restrictions on one of Congress's most breathtakingly broad powers. The District Clause isn't there so that Congress can fill potholes outside the Capitol; it's there so that Congress can decide how a federal district can best fit into our federalist system.

Too bad, [Adams prevailing in Adams v. Clinton] would have been the strongest argument that Congress could do this.

I mentioned Adams because Adams is the most anti-DC-representation decision out there. (I mentioned it even though, as you rightly point out, it's an unpublished opinion with no precedential value.) But look closely. All the appellate court said was that DC residents didn't have the right to a seat in the absence of Congressional action, which makes sense since Congress (not the courts) has power over District affairs. This is parallel to the Court's holding in Hepburn in 1805 that DC residents didn't have the right to file diversity cases in the absence of Congressional action. However, the Hepburn case encouraged Congress to use its power under the District Clause to grant DC residents that ability. Congress did so, and the Court upheld it in Tidewater, the most important case on the District Clause. Likewise here, there's no reason to think that Adams prohibits Congress from treating the District as a state for Article I purposes.

In fact, I defy anyone to find a single case where the Supreme Court refused to treat DC as a state in the face of specific congressional legislation.

The right to vote is the most important right because it is preservative of all other rights. Indeed, it is much more fundamental than the rights to sue other states' citizens in federal court, form a local militia, enjoy sovereign immunity, or regulate transport of alcohol. There's no reason to think that the Court will be more constrictive of the right to vote in interpreting the word "state" than it has been for any of these other lesser rights.

by bschak 2006-05-21 01:56PM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

Yes, those quotes do need support.  I realize that there is a controversy regarding the constitutionality of the bill.  But I'm not aware of any systematic analysis that would support the idea that "most legal experts" believe the law is unconstitutional.  In fact, the opinion of "most legal experts" appears to depend on the particular journalist, pundit, politician, or legal expert writing the story.  (I've also seen undocumented claims that "most legal experts" believe this is just fine under the DC clause and the inherent powers of Congress.  Since IANAL, I'll leave it to others to sort that out.)

Re: looking forward vs. backwards - I don't think it's clear that they're equally constitutional.  Projected priority values aren't based on an actual enumeration.  But, again, I won't go any further down the road of offering unqualified opinions on constitutional law - smile.

Re: your other points, I agree with the analysis by bschak suggesting that repeated resizing of Congress for partisan advantage is highly unlikely, with or without this precedent.   Not sure how much more there is to say that he, I, or you haven't.

One could imagine a compromise making the legislation effective as of the 2010 reapportionment.  That would address your concerns about mid-decade gamesmanship.  Of course, that could be a poison pill, since it would eliminate the incentive for Utah Republicans to support it (they seem to think they're getting an extra seat in 2010 regardless).  And I suppose it's a pretty a pointless hypothetical, anyway, since I don't know of anyone in Congress who has suggested such a thing.

by arenwin 2006-05-21 09:23AM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

The UTans are right about getting an extra seat in 2010 regardless. It's one of the fastest growing states, and it barely missed out on a fourth rep this past cycle. Even using the Census Bureau's estimates for July 2000 (three months after the census), UT would get the 435th seat instead of NC.

by bschak 2006-05-21 01:35PM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

I really don't know what you mean my "DC cutting in front" of states. If DC had been treated as a state in 2000, it would have been given one rep right at the beginning of the apportionment process, along with all the other states. If DC had been treated as a state, NC's 13 would have been 436th in line, and UT's 4th would have been 437th in line. (DC's 2nd, by the way, would have been the 698th distributed.) So no, DC is not in any sense "cutting in line." It's being placed at the beginning of the line, right where it should be.

"It gives more reps to a state based on a strange backward looking "as it" idea that was not used in the past when Alaska and Hawaii were admitted."

I can hardly parse this misbegotten sentence. AK and HI were admitted as a pair; so were AZ and NM. In both cases, it worked fine to give each a single representative. Since it is unacceptable for the House to have an even number of seats (unlike the Senate, there is no tie-breaking mechanism), we need to either add a seat to some state (which has to be UT) or remove a seat to some state (which has to be NC) in order to add a vote for DC in the middle of the decade. Removing one from NC is unacceptable to both parties and would trigger redistricting, which you say you're against. That leaves the option of adding one to UT. This has the additional benefit of keeping Republicans happy, but the main reason is that UT is next in line.

"It could let the majority federal party trigger targeted state legislative reapportionments."

They already can. If the Republicans wanted to, they could increase or decrease the size of the House to whatever they want right now. Obviously, they don't want to, for reasons I've laid out in other comments.

"It lets new voting representatives be handed out without granting statehood.
"It also accepts  the idea that you can have all sorts of non-state units get their own representative in a way that seems unauthorized by the constitution."

No it doesn't. Read the Constitution. This is being done pursuant to the District Clause, which gives Congress sweeping power to decide how the federal district works in our system of government. Obviously the District Clause doesn't apply to "all sorts of non-state units."

"I think this idea is just nuts."

I think you're just nuts. This idea gives DC voters the House seat they deserve, gives the Dems another vote in the House until forever, preserves Democratic incumbent seats, and does all that in a way that is palatable to Republicans (who, in case you forgot, control the federal government). No Democrat in his right mind should be against this.

"I don't think those legal eagles will be much impressed about how the numbers this time work out to make it look like a fair deal partywise."

Um, this isn't a fair deal partywise. Starting with the 2010 apportionment cycle, it's a pro-Dem deal partywise. The only reason some Republicans are okay with it is that it is a fair deal over the next six years. We get an extra House member, one of the parties (unclear which after the 2010 census) gets an extra House member, and Congress doesn't grab any new powers like you say it does.

by bschak 2006-05-21 08:06AM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

There's another wrinkle in this that shows that it's taken the stars lining up just perfectly for this to happen.

Not only is Utah the next state in line, but there was some controversy as to WHY it's the next state in line. Back during the 2000 census Spot's #435 and #436 were extremely close together. North Carolina got the last district (and went up to 13 congressional districts). The democratic legislature drew a new democratic district and Brad Miller is now a great Democrat from North Carolina.

However, there were some reported irregularites in the census taking in NC. It seems that a couple of thousand students in dorms were counted twice. If all those double counts were really double counts and were taken away from NC's population, it would have been very very close as to whether Utah or NC got the extra house seat. Utah cried foul and I think even took the case to court to no avail.

So now this DC voting plan came up. I believe this is the original reason that Davis thought of the idea, because it gives a form of redress to both DC and Utah. So not only is it politically neutral (except for the extra EV, which would have happened for Utah anyway by 2012, so that's a silly point), but it serves to right more than one wrong in many people's eyes.

by adamterando 2006-05-21 04:33AM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

"(except for the extra EV, which would have happened for Utah anyway by 2012, so that's a silly point)"

As I mentioned elsewhere, the extra EV for UT actually is politically neutral. The only change that could happen is that a 269-269 tie in the electoral college could be transformed into a 270-269 Republican win. Since Republicans have a lock on state delegations in the House, Republicans are guaranteed a win in case of a tie, so this extra EV doesn't matter.

Oh, and of course you're right that UT (one of the fastest growing states) will get a fourth House seat in time for the 2012 election.

I didn't know about the dorm issue. Overseas missionaries from UT weren't counted, while overseas soldiers from NC military bases were. That was the basis of UT's first lawsuit, which SCOTUS refused to hear. UT's second lawsuit, in which SCOTUS against UT, dealt with a technical matter of census methodology---maybe the dorm issue fell in there.

by bschak 2006-05-21 08:26AM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

How will Davis' measure affect DC's electoral votes? How will it effect those of Utah? Will it be the case that DC's electoral votes stay at 3 -- which would seem to make sense -- while Utah's increase by one, thus giving the GOP an extra electoral vote?

In a word, yes.  The constitution is very specific in how it allocates electoral votes to DC - nothing Congress does will change that (short of amending the constitution of course):

The District constituting the seat of Government of the United States shall appoint in such manner as the Congress may direct: A number of electors of President and Vice President equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives in Congress to which the District would be entitled if it were a State, but in no event more than the least populous State

Utah, on the other hand, will get the extra electoral vote for having a larger Congressional delegation.

Honestly, this is a sacrifice I'm willing to make in order to take a step away from the travesty of having a major US city with no congressional representation.  And remember that, while DC's congressional rep under this scheme is permanently locked in to DC, there is no guarantee that Utah keeps theirs indefinitely.  If you call DC's rep the 436th, then the new 437th rep. goes wherever the census says it should, changing every 10 years, just like all the others.  In fact, Utah isn't mentioned in the proposed new law at all.  The law specifies that whichever state was entitled to the next seat, according to the last census, gets it until the next census.  That's Utah, which experienced explosive population growth in the 1990s.

by arenwin 2006-05-20 03:44PM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

I have to say that I think giving Utah one extra EV isn't really that big of a deal, especially when you consider that that EV will be up for grabs in 2010. Getting the people in DC represented is a far more important concern.

by Mullibok 2006-05-20 04:08PM | 0 recs
NOLA election anyone just wondering

where the coverage is? Anyway on this I think we should be careful I personally would want to wait till congress is in our hands before we debate giving D.C a vote Republicans can screw with it to much when they are in the majority.

by Liberal 2006-05-20 04:45PM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

One fact is not well known -- DC's Delegate was allowed to vote from Jan. 1993 until the GOP took over in 1995 after the 1994 elections.  The very first thing that the new Gingrich controlled Congress did was take away Eleanor Holmes Norton's right to vote.  

by howardpark 2006-05-20 04:56PM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

Sort of, but not really. During that time, delegates were allowed to vote on matters where there vote didn't decide the outcome.

by bschak 2006-05-20 04:57PM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

There is no constitutional issue with forcing Utah to elect one congressman at large. There is also no constitutional problem with changing the number of representatives at any time. Read the Constitution. Article I, Section 4 says that "the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations [i.e., state regulations for choosing representatives], except as to the Places of chusing Senators." The Federalist authors devoted three papers (59-61) to this power, and it seems clear that they intended Congress to have broad power that it would use in rare circumstances.

It absolutely makes sense for Dems to insist on it being an at-large seat. Republicans failed to gerrymander Matheson away last time, but they very well might not fail again. They could even draw Matheson into a matchup against Chris Cannon.

Also, the electoral college is absolutely not an issue. Currently, there are 538 electors (5 from Utah). Because Republicans have a lock on state Congressional delegations, the Republican needs only a 269-269 tie to win. With an extra EV in Utah, the College would have 539 electors, and either party would need 270 to win. Either way, no matter which states vote which way, the same party wins the presidency in 2008.

Actually, this could work to our advantage, because if a blue state gets the 436th representative in the 2010 census, it's the Dems who will benefit in both the House and in the Electoral College. New York or California, for example might very well get the extra seat.

Really, I can't see why giving an extra vote for Utah (the next state in line for another congressman) would give anyone the creeps when paired with a DC vote. Folks, the DC vote is forever---the Utah vote is two Congresses!

Furthermore, the number and distribution of house members has been changed many times before, often for baldly partisan reasons. This legislation is neutral in the short-term and favorable to Dems in the long-term. I really don't get why you're so suspicious of it, Fred in Vermont.

For the record, the next ten representatives after Utah's fourth would go to NY, TX, MI, IN, MT, IL, MS, CA, WI, OK. Nobody in Congress, of either party, wants to expand the size of the House. Obviously, the larger the House is, the less influence the average rep has. Also, unless a couple committees get larger, some back-benchers would lose committee seats. Also, no incumbent ever wants to run in a new district. Also, more redistricting would be a real hassle for the states and for the courts, which very few states want to go through. It'd be wonderful if the size of the House increased, but it's not going to happen any time soon.

by bschak 2006-05-20 04:56PM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

That's a great point about the Electoral College.

by dantheman 2006-05-20 06:31PM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

I don't think it's a good idea to award Utah an extra seat just because they were #436.  Big deal.  Someone comes in at #436 after every census - why is it different now?

It would be better to take care of all the non-states at one time by counting their citizens along with those in the closest state for apportionment in the House:
-Count DC residents as part of Maryland
-Count Puerto Rico & Virgin Islands with Florida
-Count Guam & Samoa with Hawaii

All of them are American citizens and deserve representation.  Plus, this makes MD more solidly blue and likely turns FLA blue as well.

As long as there are at least 40 Red Senators, they will block representation in the Senate for DC becasue DC senators would always be Dems.

by Bear83 2006-05-20 08:48PM | 0 recs
At large districts

There is nothing in the Constitution prohibitting states from electing representatives from multi-member districts.  In fact, a number of states have chosen that method at various times.  For example, in 1842, six states were electing at-large representatives.  http://www.fairvote.org/reports/monopoly /mast.html  

In the late 1960s, however, Congress passed a statute prohibitting the election of Representatives from anything other than single-member districts.  2 U.S.C. section 2c. Technically, that statute could prohibit the deal giving Utah an at-large district, although a court would probably rule that the statute embodying the deal was an implied repeal of 2 U.S.C. section 2c, and thus allow the deal on that basis. But advocates of multi-member districts will have to get that statute repealed before they can achieve their goals of getting states to select the multi-member district method.

by Shermaclay 2006-05-20 09:02PM | 0 recs
Re: At large districts

No, it's a pretty basic legal principle that a later, more specific law trumps an earlier, less specific law. This isn't an "implied repeal" of statute; it's an express exception. There's nothing "technically" about it.

by bschak 2006-05-21 08:28AM | 0 recs
If GOP let it through, it's a Trojan horse...

I have a very bad feeling about this. If the GOP is greenlighting this, it's not going to be for the benefit of DC voters, now, is it? And either they've gone completely bananas, or they've had sharp legal minds figuring the angles.

Where are our sharp legal minds on this?

by skeptic06 2006-05-21 07:35AM | 0 recs
Re: If GOP let it through, it's a Trojan horse...

This has been kicking around for years and years.  Rep. Tom Davis just believes DC should have a vote and there have been several approaches to getting it done -- such as removal of Tom Delay.  The Utah formula is the only idea that has had any legs politically.

by howardpark 2006-05-21 07:43AM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

Yeah, Tom Davis may be a Republican, but he sincerely believes that American citizens of all parties should have representation in Congress. This really shouldn't be so unbelievable---I'd like to think that I'd support a D.C. representative if D.C. were solidly Republican.

Sensenbrenner (the Judiciary chair) has also pledged to hold a vote on the bill.

by bschak 2006-05-21 08:12AM | 0 recs
Re: DC to

WoW, Nice article. Thanks!

by sscrul 2006-05-21 08:17AM | 0 recs
Re: DC to Get a Vote in the House?

This is far from a done deal.  It still needs to go to the Judiciary Committee, where Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (Ugh) is opposed.  Also, a leadership aide to Boehner pooh-poooed the idea.  It's too bad, Davis is pretty good on Distict issues because it makes him look good to his swing-district Fairfax VA constituents.  I just can't see Republicans from districts outside the Beltway supporting the bill because their constituents don't care about or even consider DC voting rights.

by ctd72 2006-05-21 08:20AM | 0 recs

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