Wyoming Rule

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The Wyoming Rule is a proposal to increase the size of the United States House of Representatives so that the standard representative-to-population ratio would be that of the smallest entitled unit, which is currently Wyoming.[1] Under Article I of the U.S. Constitution, each U.S. state is guaranteed at least one representative. If the disparity between the population of the most and least populous states continues to grow, the disproportionality of the House will continue to increase unless the House (whose size has been fixed at 435 since 1913) is expanded.

There are two ways of determining the Wyoming Rule size of the House. One is by dividing the total population of the United States by the population of the smallest unit, which is then rounded to the nearest whole number, and this number of seats will be divided proportionally between states. The other method is dividing the populations of individual states by the population of the smallest one and then rounding those numbers to the nearest whole number. In this article, the latter method will be used unless otherwise specified.

A total of 568 House seats would have been required to implement the Wyoming Rule based on the 2000 Census results.[2] However, the decade leading up to the 2010 United States Census saw Wyoming's population increase at a greater rate than that of the U.S. as a whole; as a result, the required House size to implement the Wyoming Rule was reduced to 545.

The wide disparity in population among the states combines with the cap on House membership to lessen the effective representation for people who live in more populated states. The most glaring example is Montana, which, according to the 2010 Census, had a population of 989,417 with one representative, compared to Rhode Island's 1,052,931 residents with two. This makes a Rhode Islander's vote worth 88% more than a vote from a Montanan. Under the Wyoming Rule California would gain the most seats with 13 more House members than it has currently.

While a larger House size will generally result in the smallest and largest districts being proportionally closer in size, this is not always the case. Therefore, in some cases, the Wyoming Rule may actually result in an increase in the ratio of the sizes of the largest and smallest districts. For instance, after the 1990 Census and with a House size of 435, the largest district (Montana's at-large district) had 799,065 residents, 76% larger than the smallest district (Wyoming's at-large district with 453,588 residents). The Wyoming Rule would have given a House size of 547 in 1990 if the former method of seat apportionment been used. With that size, the largest district (North Dakota's at-large district) would have had 638,800 residents, 92% larger than the smallest districts (Delaware's two districts, at approximately 333,084 residents each).

Legal basis for Current House Size[edit]

The current size of the house was set by The Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929. This law would need to be repealed and replaced in order to change the number of Congressional members, which would require a majority of both houses of Congress to approve it.

In the current House (2010 Census)[edit]

The chart set out below identifies the number of House members that would be given to the respective states if the Wyoming Rule were to be implemented using the population numbers from the 2010 Census.

Delaware, with two (and an average of 448,967 people per seat) would have the most seats per capita. South Dakota's lone seat (814,180 people per seat) have cost the most people. This gives a ratio of 1 to 1.81345 between greatest and smallest cost per seat. By comparison, it would be 1 to 1.88000 for the current 1 seat of Montana (989,415 per seat), and Rhode Islands 2 seats (526,284 per seat).

Note that North Dakota and South Dakota would have one representative each, but would have three if merged into one state. This is due to both states having more residents per representative than the national average. South Dakota falls just a few thousand people short of a second representative, having roughly 1.44 times the population of Wyoming.

Other states just short of getting an extra vote in the House include Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, and New Hampshire, who all have more than 650,000 people per representative. At the other end of the scale, states like Delaware, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico just manage to secure an extra seat in Congress, having below 525,000 people per representative each.

State Seats Pop. per seat Seat change Notes
Alabama 8 597,467 +1
Alaska 1 710,231 0
Arizona 11 581,092 +2
Arkansas 5 583,184 +1
California 66 564,454 +13 Largest # gain in seats
Colorado 9 558,800 +2
Connecticut 6 595,683 +1
Delaware 2 448,967 +1 Lowest pop. per seat. Smallest state to gain seats
Florida 33 569,737 +6
Georgia 17 569,862 +3
Hawaii 2 680,151 0
Idaho 3 522,527 +1
Illinois 23 557,854 +5
Indiana 12 540,317 +3
Iowa 5 609,271 +1
Kansas 5 570,624 +1
Kentucky 8 542,421 +2
Louisiana 8 566,672 +2
Maine 2 664,181 0
Maryland 10 577,355 +2
Massachusetts 12 545,636 +3
Michigan 18 549,091 +4
Minnesota 9 589,325 +1
Mississippi 5 593,459 +1
Missouri 11 544,448 +3
Montana 2 494,708 +1
Nebraska 3 608,780 0
Nevada 5 540,110 +1
New Hampshire 2 658,235 0
New Jersey 16 549,493 +4
New Mexico 4 514,795 +1
New York 34 569,944 +7
North Carolina 17 560,911 +4
North Dakota 1 672,591 0
Ohio 20 576,825 +4
Oklahoma 7 535,907 +2
Oregon 7 547,296 +2
Pennsylvania 23 552,277 +5
Rhode Island 2 526,284 0
South Carolina 8 578,171 +1
South Dakota 1 814,180 0 Highest pop. per seat
Tennessee 11 576,919 +2
Texas 45 558,790 +9
Utah 5 552,777 +1
Vermont 1 608,827 0
Virginia 14 571,501 +3
Washington 12 560,378 +2
West Virginia 3 602,781 0
Wisconsin 10 568,699 +2 Closest to average pop.-to-representative-ratio
Wyoming 1 563,626 0

This would result in a total of 545 representatives.

Historical House sizes[edit]

The following table describes how the House of Representatives would have looked like historically, had the Wyoming Rule been adopted when the Constitution was ratified. Note that for the 1787 estimate and censuses 1800 through 1860, all slaves (and not three-fifths) are included in populations, giving representatives to slave states in too large numbers.

The smallest state in each census were:

  • Delaware (1787 estimate, censuses 1790–1810, 1830–1840)
  • Illinois (census 1820)
  • Florida (census 1850)
  • Oregon (census 1860)
  • Nevada (censuses 1870–1950)
  • Alaska (censuses 1960–1980)
  • Wyoming (censuses 1990–2010)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1], Outside the Beltway, Dec. 14, 2010.
  2. ^ [2], Matthew Søberg Shugart, [Fruits and Votes], July 1, 2014.