Jeff Jacoby

Larger families need larger houses. A larger nation does, too.

With the release of the 2010 Census data, the decennial rejiggering of the nation's political map has begun. Eight states will be gaining seats in the US House of Representatives, while 10 states' House delegations will shrink. (Those states will also gain or lose an equal number of votes in the Electoral College.) Among the winners are Texas, where the number of residents has soared by 4.3 million since the 2000 Census; Utah, whose population is up by more than 530,000; and Washington, which has grown 14 percent, to 6.7 million.

It stands to reason that states with more people are allotted more House seats. That is exactly what the Framers intended, as James Madison made clear in Federalist No. 55. "I take for granted," he wrote, "that the number of representatives will be augmented from time to time in the manner provided by the Constitution."

It would likewise stand to reason if the states losing House seats -- New York, Ohio, Massachusetts, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania -- had all lost residents since 2000. But except for Michigan, all of the reapportionment losers gained population over the past decade. Massachusetts grew by nearly 200,000, yet it is losing a seat in Congress. There are more than 400,000 additional New Yorkers, but the number of House members representing them will drop by two.

For most of American history, the size of the House was adjusted upward every 10 years. The initial 65-member House prescribed in the Constitution was expanded to 105 members after the 1790 Census, to 142 members after the 1800 Census, and so on right through the 19th century. Following the 13th census, in 1910, Congress enlarged the House to 435 members -- and there it has remained, even as the American nation has more than tripled, from 92 million to 308 million. Ever since, the apportionment process has been able to allot new House seats to the fastest-growing states only by subtracting seats from states growing more slowly. One result is that many states have more voters, but fewer US representatives.

Another result, equally troubling, is that voters in some states have considerably more electoral clout than voters in others.


Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for Townhall.com.