Q. 21: The House of Representatives Has How Many Voting Members?

Congress
The House of Representatives has 435 voting members.

To pass the US citizenship test, you will have to answer 10 of a possible 100 questions. The following question is from the USCIS test.

The House of Representatives has how many voting members?

Answer:

435.

The following is a full explanation of the USCIS question:

This answer may surprise many who haven’t considered just how many people are needed to represent everyone in the country within the House of Representatives. On the surface, it sounds like a lot. The idea of 435 voters in one federal government building sounds chaotic. On the other hand, just 435 voting representatives speak up for over 300 million people. 

The concept of proportional representation in the United States House of Representatives is nothing new. But, it has evolved. So, how did we get to the grand total of 435 house seats, how is this total split between the states, and could that total ever increase?

A Census Every 10 Years Allows Us To See How Many Representatives Are Needed

The numbers of representatives by state vary greatly depending on differences in populations. So, those with large areas and big cities will earn the right to have more. The following figures relate to how the numbers will look from 2023 following the readjustments from the 2020 census.

There are four states with significantly more representatives than the rest. California will have 52, Texas 38, Florida 28, and New York 26. Then there is a group of smaller but fairly densely populated states with numbers in the teens. These include Michigan with 13, New Jersey with 12, and Pennsylvania and Illinois both with 17. On the other end, there are states with small populations, few major cities, and wide-open landscapes. Alaska, Wyoming, and both Dakotas are among those only getting one representative in the general assembly.

Which States Will Gain Representatives in 2023?

Starting with those gains in the House of Representatives, there were shifts for six states in the south and the west where populations have boomed recently. Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Oregon, and Montana all saw their numbers of representatives rise by one. While this is a small number, it can make a big difference when it comes to voting intentions and giving those states a slightly bigger voice. Texas was the only state to see an increase by 2.

Which States Will Lose Representatives in 2023?

Then there were the losses. As the states mentioned above saw their populations rise since 2010, others fell around the Midwest and Northeast regions. This led to the loss of one representative for the following states: California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and West Virginia. California is the most shocking one here as this is the first time that they lost a voter. Yet, the size of the state does mean that there are still plenty of representatives for all those across the diverse population.

The Concept of Proportional Representation in the Constitution

The idea of proportional representation in the House of Representatives has been an important concept since the time of the Constitution, when it was decided that the new House would have the appropriate number of members to represent the needs of those within the state during the legislative process.

At the time, this was at least one per state so that no one could feel left out, and then no more than one representative per 30,000 people. This meant that smaller states, such as Rhode Island, still had representation – despite all it did to block the United States Constitution. At the same time, larger states like New York, with their growing population, couldn’t feel underrepresented.

The Number of Representatives Increased From 1787 to 1929

Over time, the number assigned to the states grew, and so did the total number of representatives in the House. This wasn’t such a bad thing at first, as there were more representatives to support the developing states. However, it was decided in the 20th century that this number couldn’t get out of hand.

The Permanent Appointment Act of 1929 fixed it so that there would be no more than 435 representatives and that the balance would shift up and down based on those census records every 10 years. This approach makes a lot of sense and ensures that totals don’t get out of hand. However, there is the risk that as the population continues to soar, the representation will diminish.

This cap has remained in place almost untouched since this act, fixing the number at 435 for nearly 100 years. However, there was a short time when there was a deviation from this rule. In 1959, Alaska and Hawaii were admitted to the Union and needed representatives. They got one each, temporarily raising the total to 437. The following year provided the 1960 census, and this became the basis for the new allocations from 1963. Here, the balance shifted back to 435, with states with declining populations giving up representatives.

Some Feel That It Is Time for Numbers To Rise Again

The cap of 435 made sense for a long time as it allowed for that upper limit on voters and proportional representation in the legislative branch. However, the population increases now mean that the original ratio of one per 30,000 residents don’t apply anymore. Instead, we have one representative for closer to 700,000 voters. So, there are calls to add some more in to compensate.

Those that favor the current system say that there has to be a strong upper limit so that the House of Representatives doesn’t become overcrowded and impossible to manage. It would seem the most likely situation that the 435-member cap will stay, even if Puerto Rico was to be admitted into the Union in the next eight years and need a representative of its own. Some other states would simply lose a voting member to balance things out.

The Number of Voting Members in the House of Representatives by State Is Fixed at 435 for Now

There are currently 435 voting members representing constituents across the 50 states. For now, this is deemed an appropriate number, and the system with the census data works pretty well. In another decade or so, perhaps it will change again if it would better represent the nation. 

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