Talk:Apportionment (politics)

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This article misdefines apportionment[edit]

The word "apportionment" has a clear definition and the application of that word to politics/government does not change it. While apportionment is in all probability the heart and soul of goverment, the meaning of the term should not altered to encompass more than is its intent. Apportionment is the dividing of a predefined or assumed quantity among a set of principles. The Constitution of the United States apportions power among the various principles within the federal government (legislative, judicial, and executive). The Constitution also apportions power among the federal government, the states, and the people. But these “apportionments” have nothing to do with population. The powers of the principles described heretofore vis a vis one another are not altered as population changes. Statements to the effect that there is a “malapportionment” in the Senate are simply bogus. The Constitution clearly apportions Senatorial power equally among the states; not among the people. This “apportionment” has nothing to do with population just as the apportionment of power among the 3 branches of the federal government has no repect for population. Disagreements and observations concerning the Senate expressed herein are not disagreements or arguments about "apportionment". At present each _STATE_ gets 2 Senators by Constitutional law. Whether a state is composed of people, alligators, square miles, or lollipops is irrelevant to the word "apportionment" as that term is employed in relation to the Senate and the structure of our government. The Constitution defines the principles of the United States of America to be the Federal government, the states, and the people (persons). A discussion about apportionment within the scope of the United States of America must respect these defined principles. There is no "malapportionment" in the Senate because Constitutionally each state gets two votes regardless of population, square miles, number of dingbats or whatever else. What is a "state"? The House of representatives is, however another matter entirely. But that is BECAUSE power in the House is "apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers" (Constitution Article I section 2). The Constitution specifically defines the allocation of power in the House to be based on relative population. And based on this Constitutional requirement the current number of representatives is insufficient to allow a proper apportionment. At present the small number of representatives (435) is unconstitutional because a reasonable apportionment of power cannot be attained with that total. The "representative" from the state of Montana encompasses the opinions of 905316 people while each representative from the state of Wyoming only needs to represent the desires of 495304. Voters in Wyoming have 30% more political power than the national average, and nearly twice the political power of the citizens of Montana. And THAT, boys and girls, is malapportionment BECAUSE the Constitution specifically declares that the power within the House will be apportioned based on relative population.

The overriding reason behind this verbose entry is to inform the creator of this entry that his insistence that “apportionment”, as it relates to government or politics, is anywhere and everywhere tied to population is erroneous. e.g. the Senate is not malapportioned. It may be maldefined but it is not malapportioned. --The Trucker 16:33, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

Highway spending[edit]

Senate malapportionment leads to great distortions in federal spending. As an example, in the 2005 federal highway bill, California and Texas, the two most populous states, only received $77 and $36 per person, respectively. Wyoming and Vermont, the two least populous states, received $269 and $544, respectively. Alaska, the state with the third lowest population, received $1,501 per person.

The assumption behind this statement is that federal highway spending ought to be proportional to the population of the state. Can this assumption be backed up by a citation? (I'm not saying that there wasn't some bad priorities involved, just that this may not be a good metric of it) Andjam 10:58, 23 January 2006 (UTC)

I had exactly the same mental reflex when reading this. Needs backing of some sort. Wouter Lievens 16:01, 20 February 2006 (UTC)
I think this subject could be really expanded. Historical facts and current debates could be useful. Also some of this stuff is POV.(Onefinalstep 16:55, 20 February 2006 (UTC))
I agree that it isn't a great example to use, I doubt that the difference in spending is based much on the actual voting, and more on the fact that highway spending is going to be more based on the size of the state than in it's population (so the likelihood is that you have a better fit of cost compared to population density). Using an example of senate spending per person that the costs are likely to be related to the number of people more directly would be better, and may give a more accurate picture of how much affect it has in practise. Sfnhltb 02:11, 31 March 2006 (UTC)

German example of malapportionment[edit]

I think that in pre-world-war-I Germany, votes were divided up into three social classes, where each class got an equal amount of voting power even though the upper classes were smaller in population than the lower classes. If this can be verified, it'd be a possible example of malapportionment. Andjam 10:58, 23 January 2006 (UTC)


Is this really still a stub? Wouter Lievens 13:02, 22 March 2006 (UTC)

Stubness refers to how much an article can be expanded more than its absolute size, it's debatable at this point, but there is certainly a heck of a lot that could be added to this article about the topic. (more examples, expand the normal Apportionment part of the article, as its closer to an article on Malapportionment current, etc.) Sfnhltb 02:16, 31 March 2006 (UTC)

Malapportionment in the US section revised[edit]

I've made some significant edits; for one I threw out the POV on Highway Spending. (My state is a donor state as well but it's still very much POV and only marginally connected to the article.) I also added some more background in this section for increased clarity. (Malapportionment was widespread throughout the US not just in the South pre Baker vs Carr and was also politically motivated.) I also noted a couple of more recent incidents I'm aware of. Unforunately both Memphis' CA and Atlanta's AJC require online registration to see their articles at all. Jon 21:34, 30 May 2006 (UTC)

I've deleted "The United States Senate has become steadily more malapportioned since its creation" because it's simply not true. The worst case was in 1900, when New York had 179 times the population of Nevada. DanBishop 07:33, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

I have been looking at the section concerning the supposed malapportionment by the "southern Democrats". This claim does not coincide with known reality. The 1911 reapportionment act (Democratic Congress) like those before it, increased the membership of the House and insisted on compact and equally populous single member districts. In 1921 the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the Executive and they, for the first time in history, failed to reapportion (increase the size of) the House because they claimed the census was in error. Immigration, and migration from farm to city caused a lot more city districts and a lot less rural districts. The Solution for the Republicans was to not reapportion the House -- a move which many of us believe was unconstitutional. Then in 1929 (the Republicans still controlled the whole government) passed the Reapportionment Act of 1929 which removed all the controls over compact equally populated districts and capped the membership at 425 members elected in gerrymandered districts of whatever shape and population the Republicans might have wanted. This is the reality and the history. I will get NPOV and Original Research stickers all over me for putting these _FACTS_ in the article. I will probably get the stickers for putting them here.--The Trucker (talk) 23:04, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

I think the main point of the article dealing with the southern democrats was concerned with the malaportionment in state legislatures as opposed to Congress. Onefinalstep (talk) 06:37, 10 February 2008 (UTC)
That section still doesn't make sense, because for most of the 20th century, the South was a one-party system - white Democrats. They had disfranchised African Americans around the turn of the century, so there were few people in most states voting Republican, at least during the period that I think they are referring to. The shift of the white conservative South from Democrat to Republican in state and local elections happened later than their shift to Republican candidates at the national level - and all of that was after civil rights legislation and the restoration of voting ability to African Americans.--Parkwells (talk) 16:26, 19 March 2008 (UTC)
It's possibly referring to groups within the southern Democrats - maybe the wings of the party aligned on urban/rural representative lines and the malapportionment reinforced one side over the other. But this is just my best guess. Timrollpickering (talk) 16:01, 13 November 2008 (UTC)

Proportional representation[edit]

Some mention should be made to apportioning seats in legislative bodies, not simply apportioning seats between states. It involves the same problem, and the same formulas. - Matthew238 07:32, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

This article misdefines apportionment.[edit]

I believe that the Senate should be much smaller than the House and that the term of office should be longer than the House. But the tying of the Senate to the states in a way that escapes the allocation of power based on population was only done to appease the slave states and the legislatures of the several states who wished to retain their power in the new union. That compromise has outlived its usefulness and should be discarded. That does not, however, justify the destruction of the word "apportionment". --The Trucker 16:45, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

I thought the compromise was between big states arguing for voting power to be proportionate and small states arguing that each state should have equal power, as well as balancing the representation of the people with the representation of the state governments?
You are correct. The Connecticut Compromise was, if anything, the opposite of an appeasement of the larger slave states. Nice catch :) --The Trucker 23:04, 22 September 2007 (UTC)
In any case "malapportionment" is a very difficult term to apply to upper houses, which traditionally are not always based (solely) on population representation and often are representing other elements in the system. Different definitions of the term take a different stance on the word "population" and by several of them an "each state gets the same number of members" upper house is a very equally apportioned body. Timrollpickering 21:12, 22 September 2007 (UTC)
Decentennial is not a word. The proper word is decennial. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:09, 17 October 2007 (UTC)

Details needed by impartial sources[edit]

It is a tendency for the size of constituencies to vary according to some factor such as geographic location. Well-known examples include... the recently abolished smaller United Kingdom parliamentary constituencies in Scotland (with the notable exception of Orkney and Shetland. The UK retains a substantial malapportionment in favour of urban voters mainly because districting process has not caught up with the residential shift to suburb. [citation needed], which currently benefits the British Labour Party[citation needed].

I'd have a go at this but a) this is a hard area to write about objectively and b) there's a lot of confusion in current debate on this, stemming from ill informed talk. The basic complaint in some quarters is the idea that it "takes more votes" to elect a Conservative MP than a Labour MP. In part this is because boundary reviews have not caught up with population movements - in the 2005 general election all constituencies, bar those in Scotland, were still on boundaries introduced at the 1997 election and drawn up on the basis on the electoral register in 1991 - but also because of differential turnout between Labour and Conservative seats (too much talk confuses those voting and those entitled to vote), because signficant political and demographic changes have altered the distribution of voters (always a problem in any constituency based system, no matter how perfectly apportioned and non-gerrymandered they are), problems in the review process that produce a lot of scope for rounding up or down in individual areas but also local voters in boundary reviews very often declare they'd rather be in an "oversized" constituency than in an "unnatural" one - a common dispute point is when the initial plans propose to remove a village from the same constituency as its main town. Timrollpickering (talk) 18:13, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

Article strays off-topic[edit]

It doesn't seem to make sense for half of an article on the general subject of apportionment to be devoted to a detailed discussion, with several charts, of the composition of the Phillippine House of Representatives. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:35, 15 January 2008 (UTC)

I agree - this much detail should be in a separate article about the Philippine government and its issues.--Parkwells (talk) 16:29, 19 March 2008 (UTC)

Malapportionment is an academic term[edit]

From what I've seen of the political science literature, it seems pretty clear that malapportionment is a defined academic term meaning "unequal representation per person." The article should make this more clear, since it seems that there are already disputes about whether calling something malapportionment is "POV" - it's not supposed to be a loaded word, and isn't used that way. Scott Ritchie (talk) 22:24, 30 January 2008 (UTC) : "characterized by an inequitable or unsuitable apportioning of representatives to a legislative body " : "Characterized by an inappropriate or unfair proportional distribution of representatives to a legislative body."
Where's the bit about population in that? The principle of apportioning by some other unit than head counting is not necessarily inequitable or unsuitable - it's a reflection of whether the political system chooses to acknowledge other units (e.g. upper houses representing states). "Each state gets the same number of votes" as in Australia or the US is clearly equitable and suitablity is a POV judgement.
And it may differ in different countries but here in the UK whilst the word itself is often not used (for that matter "apportionment" isn't a term used much either; one talks of "allocating" a number of seats and "boundary reviews") the basic concept is very often used as a loaded charge (often misusing the term "gerrymandering"). Timrollpickering (talk) 23:06, 30 January 2008 (UTC)
The word isn't often used at all (unlike gerrymandering), and so the academic definition may be more appropriate to base an article on. To get what academics mean, you'll need to look up actual political science articles, as the dictionary generally isn't very good for jargon. Scott Ritchie (talk) 01:02, 31 January 2008 (UTC)


I'll go farther than that: "Malapportionment" is inherently POV, as "mal" means bad: Malapportionment means bad apportionment. My rewrite of the U.S. section (with an assist from "HangingCurve"), gives some historical and technical reasons for the disparities from equal representation of population in the U.S. Foreigners might not think a political compromise reached in 1787 is relevant now, but it remains the rule and our Constitution is deliberately difficult to change. And one may not understand the reason for the importance of the states in a country named the United States, but they are important. A state with 750,000 residents might get 1 House member while a state with 800,000 gets 2. This is not "malapportionment" but a collective decision not to get fancy to smooth over this disparity. This has never been controversial, though the Electoral College is perennially controversial--but there are reasons for using that as well. None of the above is either "bad" nor mysterious. Essentially, there is no reason why exact correspondence between population and representation should be the only, or the most important, criterion in apportionment. Spike-from-NH (talk) 23:24, 23 January 2012 (UTC)

PS--I changed this to "misapportionment" and Scott has reverted me, as Google returns many more results for "malapportionment." But I disagree with the other point in the Edit Summary that it is a "made-up word," disproven by another Google search. Neither of these words appears in my dictionary; mis- and mal- can both be applied liberally to other words, mis- meaning that an action was done mistakenly, mal- meaning it was done malevolently. Google finds authors who say that adversaries have "misapportioned blame" precisely not to accuse them of deliberateness. Without doubt, malapportionment is a widely-used term, as it is an additional rhetorical weapon to accuse one's adversaries in an apportionment controversy of malice. But our article describes several causes of misapportionment, some of which are not malapportionment. Spike-from-NH (talk) 12:09, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

The Latin roots of the word aren't relevant: malapportionment is the established term for this, and misapportionment is a word I have yet to see applied to this concept outside of your authorship in this wikipedia article. There are plenty of wikipedia articles about words with negative connotations (gerrymandering is a good example); it is not POV to use those words to describe the concept in the article when those are the same words used by real world sources. Indeed, it would border on original research to try and push a new term as "what people really mean". Scott Ritchie (talk) 19:15, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

I do not claim misapportionment is "what people really mean." Surely most do mean to imply the unequal districts are a result of malicious intent, so as to give weight to their campaign to equalize the districts. Misapportionment, which does not imply malicious intent, is a more encompassing term. "Gerrymander" implies disapproval of the result (as does "misapportionment") but doesn't necessarily imply anything about the intent. Nevertheless, failing a groundswell from other editors, I don't insist on my point. Spike-from-NH (talk) 22:59, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

PS--The "misapportionment" alternative does deserve a footnote, though, which is now added. Spike-from-NH (talk) 14:15, 11 February 2012 (UTC)

Needs substantial rewrite[edit]

Most of this article is nearly incomprehensible. 121a0012 (talk) 02:24, 22 November 2011 (UTC)

See WP:SOFIXIT and WP:BOLD. Complaining that an article is crap without mentioning specifics achieves nothing. Valenciano (talk) 14:16, 22 November 2011 (UTC)
I claim the incomprehensibility is now fixed, and also that the page does not need to be visited by an "expert," although it could still use more citations (and templates to that effect remain in the article). Spike-from-NH (talk) 23:01, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

Urban and rural language[edit]

From the source: "A separate analysis, by David Samuels and Richard Snyder, similarly found that geographically large countries with federal systems tend to overrepresent sparsely populated areas. (The journal article, on JSTOR "The Value of a Vote: Malapportionment in Comparative Perspective")

This pattern has policy consequences, notably ones concerning the environment. “Nations with malapportioned political systems have lower gasoline taxes (and lower pump prices) than nations with more equitable representation of urban constituencies,” two political scientists, J. Lawrence Broz and Daniel Maliniak, wrote in a recent study. Such countries also took longer to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, if they ratified it at all. These differences were, they wrote, a consequence of the fact that “rural voters in industrialized countries rely more heavily on fossil fuels than urban voters.” (The journal article, which can be downloaded for free is "Malapportionment, Gasoline Taxes, and Climate Change" contains language such as "Malapportionment results in a “rural bias” such that the political system disproportionately represents rural voters." and "In countries such as the United States, malapportionment has resulted in the systematic overrepresentation of rural interests.") User:Fred Bauder Talk 22:33, 12 March 2013 (UTC)

"Furthermore, a substantial literature identifies malapportionment as a source of a rural bias in public policies. For example, Thies (1998) shows that malapportionment in Japan and the United States perpetuates agricultural subsidy programs that transfer income from urban consumers to rural producers, even in the face of massive shifts of populations toward the cities. Snyder and Samuels (2001) examine malapportionment in 19 Latin American countries and find that malapportionment produces a systematic overrepresentation of rural interests in both lower and upper chambers. This is consistent with Lijphart (1994), who notes that “Malapportionment often takes the form of rural or regional overrepresentation.” User:Fred Bauder Talk 22:39, 12 March 2013 (UTC)

The motivation for this comment is that I partly reverted you when you added text based on this source to the article. You undid my revert with a Change Summary that mine was a "Good argument as the world might be seen from NH." In fact, arithmetic here is the same as anywhere else. It is unsurprising that the New York Times carries an article that apportionment goes against urban interests in favor of rural interests. (Including the vast rural parts of California? No.) For his part, Rush Limbaugh has taken to ridiculing the "low-information voter." It seems we all have a right to an electorate and a system that delivers us favorable results! But none of this concerns apportionment, and malapportionment works through differences in numbers per voting district, not in preferring one bloc over the other, though the various blocs may find one system advantageous.
I would prefer that we went with my most recent version, undoing your citation of the specific US effects in Section 2, and going with my pithier summary of your NYT source (omitting "urban" and "rural") in Section 3.2.1. Spike-from-NH (talk)
Even collaborative original research is not permitted. The information in the NYT's article and the journal articles is notable information from reliable sources, 3 or 4 sources; although it is summarized and paraphrased. For example, it compares representation of the city of Fresno which has the same population as Wyoming. User:Fred Bauder Talk 02:47, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

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