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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. 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 (which size has been fixed at 435 since 1913, except for a brief period from 1959 to 1963) is expanded.
A total of 569 House seats would have been required to implement the Wyoming Rule based on the 2000 Census results. However, the decade leading up to the 2010 United States Census saw Wyoming's population increase at a greater rate than that of the rest of the United States; as a result, the required House size to implement the Wyoming Rule was reduced to 547. Under the Wyoming Rule, California would gain the most seats with thirteen more House members than it currently has.
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 989,415 with one representative, compared to Rhode Island's 1,052,567 residents with two. This makes a Rhode Islander's vote worth 88% more than a vote from a Montanan.
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, 76.1654% larger than the smallest district (Wyoming's at-large district with 453,588 residents). The Wyoming Rule would have given a House size of 545 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, 91.7835% larger than the smallest districts (Delaware's two districts, at approximately 333,084 residents each).
Legal basis for Current House Size
The current size of the house was set by Reapportionment 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)
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.
South Carolina with its two seats (and an average of 407,090 people per seat) would have the most seats per capita. Alaska's lone seat (710,231 people per seat) would have the fewest seats per capita. This gives a ratio of 1 to 1.74465 between greatest and smallest number of persons per seat. By comparison, it would be 1 to 1.88000 for the current lone seat of Montana (989,415 per seat), and Rhode Island's two seats (526,284 per seat).
Other states just short of getting an extra vote in the House include Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota, and Maine, which all have more than 650,000 people per representative. At the other end of the scale, states like South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, and New Mexico just manage to secure an extra seat in Congress, each having below 515,000 people per representative.
|Pop. per seat||Seat change||Notes|
|Alaska||1||1||710,231||0||Highest population per seat|
|California||53||66||564,454||+13||Largest gain in seats|
|Delaware||1||2||448,967||+1||Smallest state to gain seats|
|South Dakota||1||2||407,090||+1||Lowest population per seat|
|Wisconsin||8||10||568,699||+2||Closest to average population-to-representative ratio|
Historical House sizes
The following table describes how the House of Representatives would have looked like historically, had the Wyoming Rule been adopted as part of the Reapportionment Act of 1929, instead of fixing the size at 435 representatives.
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)
- United States Constitution
- Article One of the United States Constitution
- United States congressional apportionment
- United States House of Representatives
- List of proposed amendments to the United States Constitution
- List of U.S. states and territories by population