Representation – The Main Spring of Democracy
One of the key factors leading to the the American Revolution was legislative representation – “Taxation without Representation” being a rallying cry of the leaders. In effect, the issue of representation created the United States. And it is the lack of representation that is undermining democracy today in America.
The Constitution of the United States established the House of Representatives to serve as the one and only direct link between the people and their federal government. Recognizing the importance of this critical link, the writers of the Constitution gave careful thought on how best to achieve effective representation. Their plan, as defined in the First Article to the Consitution: count our people every ten years and add Representatives as necessary to keep representation in step with the growing population.
And this is what the country did until 1910.
With the Apportionment Act of 1911, the members of the House, acting to preserve their own seats in Congress, decided not to increase the size of the House beyond 435. This number was made permanent for all future censuses by the Reapportionment Act of 1929. A hundred years on, we, the people, still have only 435 Representatives to our government.
(It’s Time to Increase the Size of the House – Sean Trende)
The result has been to reduce the participation of voters in governing and limited the people who run for office to those who have the considerable resources needed for large campaigns. In 1910 the average ratio of Representatives to constituents was approximately 1 to 250,000. Today the average is 1 to 700,000. By 2030 it will be close to 1 to 1 million. By contrast, the ratio in the United Kingdom is 1 to 90,000. By any standard, America is simply losing its representative and participatory democracy.
How this has happened and how this could be corrected is addressed by various authors in the Library section. We, the voters, have the responsibility to make our democracy work again.
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