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Currently district sizes can be widely disparate. Montana, with a population of 1,042,520, has one Representative in the House. Wyoming, with a population of 586,107, also has one Representative. A district with almost double the population as another has the same level of representation. This means that a voter in Wyoming has more power than a voter in Montana.

One solution would be to introduce weighted voting in the House according to the population size of each district. So a vote from the Montana Rep. would be worth 1,042,520 / total pop. or 0.33%. And a vote from the Wyoming Rep. 586,107 / total pop. or 0.18%. Each Representative's vote would be worth a given weight according to the population level of their district. This would allow mathematical equality among voters, at least as far as the House is concerned.

What would be the pros/cons of having weighted voting in the House of Representatives?

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    Most states get fairly well balanced in terms of population per representatives due to the way we allocate them. Feb 15, 2017 at 17:32
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    It’s the Senate that needs weighted voting. The disparity in number of voters per Senator is far larger.
    – Mike Scott
    Nov 28, 2023 at 20:34
  • Montana has 2 in the next house. Removing one of the extreme examples.
    – matt_black
    Nov 29, 2023 at 16:28
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    @MikeScott The senate isn't designed to represent the people rather the states themselves. Originally members of the senate where picked by the states themselves and it only changed after states kept failing to fill empty seats.
    – Joe W
    May 1 at 15:18
  • @MikeScott If both houses have proportionate voting (HoR due to the number of representatives, and Senate due to weighting), what's the point of having two houses? The founders designed it this way as a compromise between direct democracy and federalism.
    – Barmar
    May 1 at 22:03

4 Answers 4

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The representation in the House is already weighted. Each state's delegation count is based on their total population. For the few, smallest populated states there will be disparity as they don't meet the minimum threshold, but then the alternative which would make that more perfect would have to be a more flexible total count of Representatives, which would, in turn, lead to a more flexible count of total electoral votes.

They chose, instead, to preserve the current overall numbers in each house, with a minimum allocation of one for all states.

EDIT: From my comments below, since it's directly responsive to the question:

Monitoring/whipping votes, tabulating them, figuring out support needed and impacts of votes by representatives would be nightmarishly impossible and completely opaque to the citizens with what you suggest. There would be no point in more accurately representing the exact number of citizens if they can't figure out what's going on. Also, the system would become instantly obsolete for its intended purpose as soon as people aged up to be eligible to vote, died, went to prison or moved to another district.

Also, individual members of the House would then (and still) hold disproportionate power compared to others, which would lead to a host of issues where less-weighted representatives would largely be ignored in terms of compromise and concessions to their interests, since their votes would literally count for less.

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    I don't think you understood the question. Yes, the representation in the House is already somewhat weighted, but as stated in the question, there are still sizeable disparities. You propose another alternative which is to flex the total number of reps, but you fail to answer the question as to the pro/cons of the alternative contained in the question. Oct 4, 2023 at 23:00
  • I'm not sure why you think I didn't understand the question. You can't eliminate disparities. Those "sizable" disparities are only for a couple of the least populated states. Basically, they came up with a normal size that fits most more equitably, and it's only where the choice is no representation or the minimum of one where any sizeable difference happens. Which is exactly as I explained in my answer. I don't think you understood the answer. Nov 15, 2023 at 19:47
  • Disparities per se are not the point. The attribution of representatives to the states is not the point. The reasons why this attribution method has been chosen is not the point. So, you're confirming that your answer misses the point. The point is of weighting the individual vote of each representative once they are named and seated. Nov 17, 2023 at 13:26
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    @Gouvernathor - The current system IS weighted. It's not just weighted to the microscopic level that you seem is needed to be "fair." Just because I don't accept that assessment doesn't mean I don't understand it. I feel like your fundamental definition of it being a problem is flawed. Disagreeing with your premise doesn't mean I don't get it. It means I don't agree. Monitoring/whipping votes, tabulating them, figuring out support needed and impacts of votes by representatives would be nightmarishly impossible in opaque to the citizens with what you suggest. Nov 27, 2023 at 22:41
  • It's amazing how you still fail to see how you're missing the point. If you disagree with the question's premise (which was never mine, it's amazing to see the extent of you "getting it"), then don't answer it. If someone asks how to make banana bread, you don't go bothering them with how corn bread is much better and fairer and whatever. Even if that's what you think, nobody cares, what they want is to know about banana bread, period. If you disagree with the question's premise, ignore it. Dec 24, 2023 at 1:05
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Pros of your proposal

  1. Shifts power from a few really small districts to a few larger districts.

  2. Eliminates the advantage of adding an extra district to a state in apportionment.

Cons of your proposal

  1. Requires a constitutional amendment to change, because the current system of equal by district is constitutionally set.

  2. Still weights voters in some states over others. In many districts, there is no opposition candidate, so the primary is dispositive. So only a small number of voters actually choose the winner. Also, population gives voters in districts with many ineligible voters (children, felons, etc.).

  3. Still unfair in that someone with 100,000 votes may outweigh someone with 200,000 votes who lives in a bigger district.

  4. Still allows for unfairness in apportionment. Not at the district level but at the population level. Currently adding population only matters if it changes the district apportionment. This would make small and moderate changes in counting population more important, increasing the chances of politicians doing so.

  5. Apportionment would presumably still change only every ten years. So a previously balanced state could undercount or overcount until the next census.

  6. Mostly increases the power of small states who are already overrepresented by the Senate. While Rhode Island has the smallest congressional district by population, the largest by population is Montana. This is because larger states can divide their districts more evenly.

An alternative

Note that several of the problems revolve around the difficulties of counting people. But you said that you want to increase the power of voters. So why not do that directly? There are two changes that would vastly increase the influence of voters.

  1. Weight representation by voter instead of by population. We count voters at every election.

  2. If there are N districts in a state, take the top N vote getters and make them Representatives.

This has several advantages:

  1. Eliminates gerrymandering as a concept.

  2. Makes the census counting unimportant in terms of representation.

  3. Encourages people to vote, even if their favorite candidate is an overwhelming favorite.

  4. Weights each voter who chooses a winning candidate the same.

Now, the last one might suggest a weakness. What if there are only three Representatives and I vote for the one who is fourth? To fix that, I would make the ballots ranked. So I might rank the candidates Libertarian, Constitution, Republican, Democrat, and Green. If the Libertarian and Constitution candidates don't make it, my vote would roll down to the Republican as my first choice among the actual winners. Then my vote is never wasted.

Note that we can do some of that with just legal changes and not a constitutional amendment. Proportional representation with some variant of Single Transferable Vote, possibly one of the Condorcet-compliant versions, is just changing the law. So that change can be made on its own first. Later the constitution could be amended to distribute representation by number of voters rather than evenly among districts.

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One issue which could come up is "at-large" districts. Currently, US law indicates that at-large districts are only legal for states with 1 house seat. If this law were repealed (it isn't a constitutional amendment; so, this is entirely possible and would be relatively simple) and, say, NY changed one of its district seats to an at-large seat, what would the weight be for such a representative?

One good thing is that I see no need for a constitutional amendment to enact such a proposal thought it would likely need debated in the supreme court as it would almost certainly be challenged. But I see no where in article 1 which addresses that each member has equal voting power.

I've only read the introduction but this article seems to be of interest: https://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1357&context=flr

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  • The proposition would likely (assuming it's not a const amendment) be implemented by law. The responsability of not having laws contradict one another is the responsibility of the body passing these laws, so the legislature. It just means a law re-enabling at-large districts for multi-representative states, would need to also repeal the law implementing the question's proposition. Oct 4, 2023 at 22:57
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Frame challenge: You don't want to put a weight on members votes but instead should remove the rules placing membership at 435 members. The fact that it is set at that means that it is impossible to more finely adjust the number of voters per member of the house. If instead it was able to fluctuate based on population breakdown they would be better able to account for the small states.

In the example you gave Wyoming could have 1 member and Montana could have 2 members if the total wasn't set at 435.

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  • Isn't this already suggested in PoloHoleSet's answer? Nov 28, 2023 at 20:08
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    @EmilJeřábek It seems to mention it but doesn't really go over the details in a good manner from what I am reading. And really it seems to talk more about why the issue happens instead of suggesting that it get changed to fix it.
    – Joe W
    Nov 28, 2023 at 20:42

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