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The Peoples' House: One Representative for Every 30,000 Citizens.

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paineinthearse Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 10:48 AM
Original message
The Peoples' House: One Representative for Every 30,000 Citizens.
Edited on Mon Feb-14-05 10:56 AM by paineinthearse
The framers of the Consitution called for the each member of the House of Representatives to serve 30,000 persons:

Article I, Section 2
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.


That provision was modified by

Amendment XIV, Section 2.
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.


Discussion of this amendment on Thomas (Library of Congress) states

Membership in the House is apportioned according to the population of the states. Every state must have at least one House seat. Larger states will have many more representatives. Every ten years, after the census has been taken, House districts are reapportioned to reflect their changing population. For many years the House increased its size as the nations population grew, but in 1911 the number of representatives was fixed at 435 (together with non-voting delegates representing several territories and the District of Columbia).


1. Can anyone provide a link to the 1911 law that fixed the number of representatives at 435?

2. Notwithstanding Amendment XIV, Section 2 and the 1911 law, it seems to me that any law that fixes the constituent:representative ratio is unconstitutional on the grounds that the ratio is specified in Article I, Section 2; a CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT is required to change the ratio or to set a hard number.

Am I wrong, or are we not entitled to a "peoples' house" as provided in Article 1, section 2? Imagine the implication!

Source: http://www.senate.gov/civics/constitution_item/constitu...
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gratuitous Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 11:02 AM
Response to Original message
1. I don't think there's any constitutional requirement
I don't think there's any constitutional requirement for just 435 members of the House of Representatives. It's an interesting idea: Why not expand the number of representatives? Ideally, it would be a much more flexible body, theoretically more in tune with the wishes of the constituents.

At this time in our history, buying 51 Senators is not all that expensive a proposition for corporations and their lobbyists. Buying 218 Representatives isn't beyond the means of many corporations, and even more industries. Consequently, for an expenditure that looks large to us mortals (say $200 million), corporations can buy favorable legislation that will make them billions of dollars.

Now, what if those corporations had to buy a couple of thousand Representatives? And what if some of those Representatives were a little keener on the implications of what the corporations were buying? A lot of bad legislation might be averted.

On the other hand, I've used words such as "ideally" and "theoretically" in this post. What would happen to the Senate? The 100 members of that body already think pretty highly of themselves. Would this elevate them to a legislative status even more exalted and arrogant? And would progressive legislation originating in the House face sure defeat by an ever-changing coalition of 51 "bought" Senators?

It's an interesting idea.
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chicagiana Donating Member (993 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 11:10 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. More reps == better ...

More reps decreases the number of constituents. That tips the balance AGAINST big money because:

a) Candidates can rely more on one-on-one, live communication to push their message. This is VERY ineffective now because of the MILLIONS that can be in a single reps district.

b) It fragments the media market to the point where multiple candidates will overlap. MASS communication is LESS effective because the ads will reach PRIMARILY people who will not be voting for the candidates in question.

c) There are just plain MORE PEOPLE to buy off.


I would personally like to see the House of Reps expanded to the 1200 range. I would also like to see the Senate expanded to 3 reps per state so that each state has their say EVERY election year.


In such an environment, I would also expect to see a LOT more third party candidates succeed. House races are REGIONAL ... not local. It requires the assistance of REGIONAL organization to win.

The result would be less compromise on the candidates. I would expect to see a LOT more variety in the individuals serving. I would also expect to see some real serious freaks occupying the halls of Congress. But that's little different from now since the closet freaks already CONTROL Congress. Honest freaks are good.

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Coastie for Truth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 11:38 AM
Response to Reply #2
8. Lived in states w/ 50,000 per Assembly member and 380,000 per member
and I agree with you and would give the nod to lots of small Districts.

Some years ago I had this discussion with a member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly -- and he felt that "lots of small districts" was much better then "a few big districts."

Just compare California's perpetual grid lock and government by initiative/referendum with Vermont. Enough said.
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BeFree Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 11:17 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. Yes, it is
...an interesting idea.

"The cure for an ill democracy is more democracy". Ed Abbey

More representatives means more democracy, which leads to a cure for our ill democracy.

I would like to see at least 1,000 members of the House. It would, as you say, become almost impossible for a majority to be purchased.
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Solon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 11:35 AM
Response to Reply #1
6. Not only that...
There is no Constitutional requirement for the District "Winner Take All" system we have today. So not only should we eliminate the artificially low and arbitrary number of 435 members, but also eliminate the districting system, which leads to gerrymandering and pork barrel spending. Also as an aside, we probably need to reasses the 1/30,000 ratio of the original constitution, probably up it to 1/50,000 or 1/100,000 to be a little more practical, but also to keep whatever ratio is decided fixed, so the people, nationwide, are represented.
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chicagiana Donating Member (993 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 11:53 AM
Response to Reply #6
11. Smaller districting increases gerrymandering ...
... but at the same times it makes gerrymandering out a minority impossible.

I also think that Pork barrell would become MORE difficult under large systems because the business interests would be spread across MANY, MANY districts instead of just one. It would require the efforts of SEVERAL congressman to protect pork. And ultimately, it probably wouldn't be worth it in many cases.


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Solon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 12:00 PM
Response to Reply #11
14. That's a problem...
I would think that an "At large" election block based on each state, with a slate of candidates from each party, and they pick up seats from that state as the voters vote percentage wise. Basically PR representation, similar to some Parlimentary styles of government, but only applying to the House.
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Coastie for Truth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 03:24 PM
Response to Reply #11
31. Interesting Question - Gerrymandering and also School Integration
Years and years ago (early 1970's) I attended some kind of academic seminar on math models for such socio-geo-political "things" as electoral reapportionment and school assignment.

The math was not that "heavy" (straight forward FORTRAN with a 3000 line "Package" called "General System Simulator" - Kiviat, Belkin, and Rao - basic network models and linear programming models).

Bottom Line - Take Home at the End of the Day: The smaller the size of the (election or school attendance) district -- the more "honest" the physical constraints force you to be.

The prof who gave the seminar was an activist engineering professor (oxymoron, "activist" and "engineering professor")
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chicagiana Donating Member (993 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 05:03 PM
Response to Reply #31
33. I agree ...

Gerrymandering to very small granulation turns transforms it into a completely seperate beast. It makes it impossible to screw people out of representation by cutting up a minority into pieces that are stuffed into other districts where they'll be out-voted.

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serryjw Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 01:04 PM
Response to Reply #1
29. I love the way you think
I posted a similar thread http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.ph...
A few days ago. I must admit the one advantage to increasing the number of Reps would make it more difficult for the Corporate thugs to bribe them DID NOT occur to me...Thanks for input!
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CBGLuthier Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 11:26 AM
Response to Original message
4. good article on the history of this issue
http://www.fairvote.org/reports/monopoly/mast.html

Refers to the Permanent Apportionment Act passed in 1929 which seems to be the culprit that nailed it into place.
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paineinthearse Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 11:34 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. Is the Permanent Apportionment Act of1929 Unconstitutional?
I've read the article and still hold that the Constitution has precidence over any public law. To change the constituent:member ration from 30000:1 would require an amendment.
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Solon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 11:36 AM
Response to Reply #5
7. True, however...
The Supreme Court has been reluctant, historically, to address this issue, they do not want to mess with separation of powers in this case.
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paineinthearse Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 11:45 AM
Response to Reply #7
9. Has there ever been a challenge in federal court? nt
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Solon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 12:12 PM
Response to Reply #9
21. Yes and no...
In 1932, the court addressed the issue, sort of, in the case Wood v. Broom but all it covered was when acts like these take precedence over the ones of the past. The 1929 one caused the 1911 one to expire immediately, but no other actions have taken place at this time. Even more curiously, is this lit snippet:

1967 Law Requires Single-Member Districts

In 1967 Congress passed a law (PL 90-196) which prohibited at-large and other multi-member elections by states with more than one House seat. Only two states, Hawaii and New Mexico, were affected by this legislation: all other states by this time were using elections by districts.

This law was passed largely because of two factors. The first concern was that, in the wake of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, southern states might resort to winner-take-all at-large elections to dilute the voting strength of newly-enfranchised blacks in the South. The second concern was that the courts might order at-large elections in states which were having difficulties with redistricting. Such elections could have threatened the position of incumbents whose district seats were considered safe for re-election.

http://www.fairvote.org/reports/monopoly/mast.html

I don't see how this is constitutional, but I haven't heard of it being challenged yet, the 10th amendment I would think applies as well as the 13th and the article mentioned in the original post, this is the Federal Government overstepping its powers, how reps are apportioned was explicitly left up to the states.
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Sir Jeffrey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 11:52 AM
Response to Original message
10. In theory a wonderful idea, but in practice...
I don't see how it would work. There is already a massive amount of staff and increased complexity of legislation that would render the house unmanageable. This was part of the problem with the PATRIOT Act ie no time to read it.

Although I understand your concern with the influence of big money, I don't think increasing the numbers of representatives would work. Maybe devolution like they did in Britain would grant regional governments the oversight you are advocating.
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chicagiana Donating Member (993 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 11:56 AM
Response to Reply #10
12. Combine staffs ...

... congressman would have less staff. But they would have to form coalitions to deal with common issues.

Congressman didn't read the patriot act because they didn't have the resources. They didn't read the PATRIOT act because it was voted on the same night it was introduced.

Increasing the size of the leadership clique would force these things out in the open and make the ramrod Republican style of governance HARDER to repeat.

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Sir Jeffrey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 12:12 PM
Response to Reply #12
22. Less staff would slow things down IMO...
They form coalitions to deal with issues now, but they get in trouble if they vote with their group (Blue Dog Dems for example) but is still unpopular with the constituents. Relying more on somebody else's staff or a group's staff would get the minority in trouble when they fail to catch a bad provision in a good bill. It opens us up to a vulnerability come election time.

The PATRIOT Act is just one well-known example of an unread bill. Omnibus bills can be thousands of pages long and full of pork. Combining staff would slow things down even further by having more reps relying on the advice of other people's staffers.

Yes, at times slower government is needed, but that is why the Senate is there... to be the more deliberative body. If our minority Senators are not doing their job in, for example, filibustering the nomination of a war criminal to the Atty General's office, then our problem is within our party IMO.

I am afraid I cannot fault the Repubs for their "ramrod" style of government. We should have been doing that for the forty years we were in control. But we didn't. We kowtowed to special interests and moderation. Now that we are in the minority we are getting our asses kicked in ways that we didn't kick the Reps. I think that shows us what we need to do when we take back the house in 2006.


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K-W Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 12:02 PM
Response to Reply #10
15. Tyranny sure is efficient.
If our government isnt representational, it isnt democratic. This is not something to compromise on.
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Sir Jeffrey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 12:21 PM
Response to Reply #15
25. Our government isn't representational for a number of reasons...
The number of reps is not a major factor. The majority of people do not actively participate in the elections for a number of reasons (voter apathy, voter fatigue, gerryamndering, Single member districts, no proportional representation, big money, madison avenue candidates, I could go on).

I fail to see how increasing the number of bought and paid for candidates elected by the same group of unintelligent voters would be better. Add to that the increased insignificance of the individual reps power and, by extension, the weakening of the minority will continue.

I hate to sya this, but the reason we have tyranny right now is because the vast majority of Americans are uneducated or ill-informed. It has little to do with the process of election. It has everything to do with the mass of people actively participating wiothout truly knowing what ios going on. I hope we copuld agree on that.
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paineinthearse Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 12:08 PM
Response to Reply #10
20. I just want an answer to know one simple question.....
Is the 1929 public law unconstitutional?

If "yes", your argument is moot. Staffing is something that would need to be dealt with.
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Sir Jeffrey Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 01:32 PM
Response to Reply #20
30. Read this...
http://www.c-span.org/questions/weekly52.htm

<snip>
"The number of Senators is set by the Constitution and cannot be changed without amending that document. The number of Representatives is set by statute and could be changed with the passage of a new public law. The House has had 435 Members since 1911, and the Senate has had 100 Members since the admission of Hawaii into the Union in 1959. When Congress began in 1789, there were only 65 Members in the House, and 26 in the Senate. In 1790, the membership of the House had grown to 106, or one Member for every 33,000 persons. "

more
"As for the House, section 2 of Amendment XIV to the Constitution states that "Representatives shall be apportioned among the states according to their numbers. . . " Various rulings of the Supreme Court over the years have interpreted this to mean Congressional districts should have as equal a population as possible. The Constitution also states that each state shall have at least one Representative, no matter how small its population.

Because of the Constitutional requirement that equity be maintained in the population size of each district, state legislatures must reapportion their state's population by redrawing congressional district lines every 10 years, after the results of the national Census are known. Based on the 1990 Census, the 435 statutory cap on membership in the House means each Representative has, on average, about 620,000 constituents. The next reapportionment is scheduled for 2001, after completion of the Census in 2000."


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Coastie for Truth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 03:30 PM
Response to Reply #10
32. If you assume
1. Frequent virtual meetings (from the district offices)
2. A few plenary sessions.
3. Most work is actually done in small sub-committees- so that Representatives have two tasks - become "subject matter specialists" and "constituent services."

I have been intrigued by a Virtual Congress of 4000-5000 members where each Congress person actually knows her constituents as real, individual people, ever since my Pennsylvania Assemblyman started talking about it.
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bryant69 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 11:59 AM
Response to Original message
13. A rought estimate
Taken by dividing the population of the United states by 30,000 gives a body number 9,768. Of course that doesn't account for the vagracies of states, which would increase that number (if a state has an additional, say 10,000 citizens would it get an additional representative? Or in other words would you round up or round down).

That seems unwieldly.

Bryant
Check it out --> http://politicalcomment.blogspot.com
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Solon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 12:03 PM
Response to Reply #13
16. I think we can all agree that the ratio is too close...
However, having a ratio of 1/100,000 people would make the House approxamatly 3 times smaller than your amount, about 1200 people, that is certainly managable.
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K-W Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 12:04 PM
Response to Reply #13
17. It would be better than what we have now.
Edited on Mon Feb-14-05 12:04 PM by K-W
Id rather have unweildy representation than efficient oligarchy.
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bryant69 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 12:08 PM
Response to Reply #17
19. We're talking about making massive changes to the system
Why not shoot for a system that works?

The 1,200 number quoted above might be much more managable.

Bryant
Check it out --> http://politicalcomment.blogspot.com
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Solon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 12:14 PM
Response to Reply #19
23. True, think about this....
Right now, we have ratios up to 1/600,000 people because of the artificially low number of representatives, its like the House is turning into another Senate, just with more members, is that really what we want?
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Renew Deal Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 12:06 PM
Response to Original message
18. Here's a recent thread on the issue.
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paineinthearse Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-15-05 09:44 AM
Response to Reply #18
35. Thanks, I'll ask a mod to combine. nt
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Perky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 12:21 PM
Response to Original message
24. Size is an issue.
From what I have understood bout the issue, it has never been challenged.

1 per 30,000 seems excessive in the days of the internet. The larger, and I think better argument is equality of representation. If Wyoming is the smallest state population-wise, with 500,000 people and gets a single rep for that base. No other consituency should be greater than say....520,000. But some states have one for every 700K, seriously diminishing their legislative power when compared to Wyoming.

the artifical 435 could certainly be ruleed unconstitutional on that grounds. It gives addition legislative strength to small states when the great compromise conceived that the Senate gave equal representation to each state.

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Solon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 12:43 PM
Response to Reply #24
26. That is one way to look at it...
One that has definate possibilities, if we can find a way to say that equal representation is also equal rights and argue that some citizens should not get more of a vote because of location, then we could argue a case for that, maybe. It wholly depends on whether the Supreme court would be willing to actually take it on at all. They may not because of the separation of powers issue.
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paineinthearse Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 12:47 PM
Response to Reply #24
27. Good point, let me summarize
We need a constitutional amendment that sets the number of representatives in the house by.

1. Take the state with the least population. That state gets one representative.

2. All other states get one representative for their total population divided by the number set in #1, rounded down to a whole number.

I like that.
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Solon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 12:55 PM
Response to Reply #27
28. I don't think that goes far enough....
For one thing, having more senators out of a state than representatives makes no logical sense, and seems to stand on the head of what the House is about. Who represents the state in that situation and who represents the people? No, I would say reduce the ratio so there are no states with less than at least 2 representatives at that fixed ratio and to keep that ratio nationwide.
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paineinthearse Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-14-05 10:08 PM
Response to Reply #28
34. Sounds fine to me, but throw in one voting rep for DC. nt
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Solon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-15-05 10:00 AM
Response to Reply #34
36. I agree to a certain extent...
Edited on Tue Feb-15-05 10:00 AM by Solon
Washington D.C. is a special case, and as such should be treated differently than states, but not atrociously so. Instead of state-hood, they should get voting representatives in the House, but no Senators. Ideally I would eliminate the Senate entirely, but that is too radical for many, so just make sure it represents the states. The representation will still be based on population, and as such, under my idea of 1/100,000 people plan, they would have 5 reps, not bad for the Capital City of the United States. Actually, a case could be made where the same thing could be done for all unincorporated territories of the United States, where they all have House Representatives, but no Senators unless they vote to become a state. This would apply to PR, USVI, and the Islands in the Pacific. Just some ideas to throw around.
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paineinthearse Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-15-05 11:45 AM
Response to Reply #36
37. Unincorporated terretories/commonwealths
Exactly. Why they have not sued in federal court under "no taxation without representation" is beyond me.
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Solon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-15-05 11:51 AM
Response to Reply #37
38. They are exempt from federal taxes...
At least I believe so, Washington D.C. isn't though, so they have a case, I just think that all U.S. Citizens and Residents should have representation in their government. This includes all people who use US passports, basically. I don't really care where they live, though for the Commonwealths and territories, they may have to give up tax exemption for representation.
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