A lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi alleging that instead of following the U.S. Constitution, Congress has allowed a system of representation where a vote in Mississippi is worth only about half of a vote in Rhode Island or Iowa.
The action filed by an organization called Apportionment.US explains that because of the growth of the population in the U.S. to more than 300 million now, combined with a turn-of-the-last-century decision setting the number of U.S. representatives at 435, voters across the U.S. are treated far differently.
“The inequality today is severe and unjust,” the organization states on its website. “The primary measure that the Supreme Court has used to determine voter equality is to compare the largest and the smallest districts. According to the 2000 census, Montana was the most under-represented and Wyoming was the most over-represented. In simple terms, it took 1.83 Montana voters to equal just 1 Wyoming voter, which is grossly unfair.”
The U.S. Supreme Court, in the “Karcher” case, already has ruled that a deviation of 0.6984 percent, which is “over 90 times smaller” is unconstitutional, the organization said.
The case was filed on behalf of voters in the most under-represented states, including John Tyler Clemons of Oxford, Miss.; Jessica Wagner of Kalispell, Mont.; Krystal Brunner of Nisland, S.D.; Lisa Schea of Newark, Del.; and Frank Mylar of Sandy, Utah.
Named as defendants are U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Census Director Robert Groves, President Barack Obama and U.S. House Clerk Lorraine C. Miller, who has provided the paperwork giving Mississippi four U.S. House seats, one to Montana, three to Utah and one to South Dakota.
“The lawsuit argues that the provision in the United States Code (2 USC §2a) that freezes the size of the House at 435 members is unconstitutional, egregiously violating the well-established principle of ‘one person, one vote’ affirmed in multiple Supreme Court decisions,” the organization’s announcement said.
“At the state level, the implication of ‘one person, one vote’ means that each state must ensure a population variance of less than 1 percent across all its federal congressional districts so that voter equality is strictly maintained. At the national level, however, this principle has not been applied, and the population variance between the most under-represented congressional district and most over-represented district exceeds 80 percent.”
The group said the fix is simple: add more members to the U.S. House.
“Our Constitution was crafted around the idea that all citizens deserve an equal voice in the decisions of their government,” Clemons said in a prepared statement. “If someone’s vote in Iowa or Wyoming counts for more than mine, how is that equality?”
Scott Scharpen is founder and president of Apportionment.us, and says the foundation of the United States is at stake.
“The foundation of our constitutional form of government in America is defined by ‘We the People,’ which demands equal representation across our entire Republic,” he said. “Whether you are a Democrat, Republican or Independent, working to achieve equal representation is the ultimate non-partisan, grass-roots effort that is worthy of support from all Americans.”
If the action is successful, there would be required a significant increase in the membership of the U.S. House to meet the requirements of the Constitution’s “one person one vote” concept, and “bring about perhaps the most significant change in the federal government structure in nearly a century,” the group said.
Counsel for the plaintiffs include Michael Farris, who teaches constitutional law and is chancellor of Patrick Henry College in Virginia.
He told WND the lawsuit seeks to shift power away “from moneyed interests” and towards “the grass roots.”
At this point most of the money for U.S. House campaigns, which cost millions and occur every election cycle, comes from wealthy interests in power centers like Los Angeles and New York – outside of the individual districts.
“By reducing the district size, we will get people with more focus on their jobs, loyalty to their own districts,” Farris said.
He said there would not be expected significant changes in the political breakdown in the House.
“In any event, we’ve got to obey the Constitution,” he said, “which was carefully crafted under the principle that we were going to have equality in the House.”
He said there have been numerous discussions about fixing the problem, but the case is the first of its kind “seeking to correct the inequity, which clearly violates the Framers’ intent.”
Statistics compiled by the foundation show that with a plan including 1,761 members in the House, the variation among representation in the body would range from 1.11 to 1, down from 1.83 to 1 that now exists.
The costs could be contained, in that each representative now has 22 staff positions allocated. “It’s very possible that the number of federal employees … can remain nearly the same, but instead redistribute the employees to include more elected (and accountable) officials,” the organization said.
“No, we don’t really need more politicians, but the size of our nation does demand more representatives working on behalf of the people,” the organization’s website explained. “Part of the problem today is that we have too much power concentrated in the hands of too few people. By increasing the House, it spreads the power into more people’s hands, which is good for freedom, liberty and self-government.”
The problem cannot be minimized: “Equal representation for all Americans does not currently exist in the House of Representatives. When comparing the least-represented and most-represented congressional districts, the disparity exceeds 80 percent,” the organization said.
Also, where in 1790 each House member represented about 33,000 people, that total is about 700,000 these days – and growing.
The 2000 apportionment population of the U.S. was 281,424,177, making the district size with 435 representatives 646,952 people. But in Wyoming, the district includes only 495,304 people and in Rhode Island each district had only 524,831.
But in Montana, its district had 905,316 and in Delaware it was 785,068.
“Plaintiffs are entitled to a declaratory judgment that the limitation of the size of Congress to 435 seats as required by 2 U.S.C. § 2a is unconstitutional in that it results in a material under-representation of plaintiffs’ votes compared to voters in other states,” the lawsuit states.
Change is not unprecedented: the original House had just 65 representatives and it was modified as the population grew until 1911. Neither are large parliaments impossible. The House of Commons in Britain and the Bundestag in Germany each have more than 600 seats.
“The proportional size of our government is not consistent with other western democracies,” Farris said.