A Florida congressman has brought back a proposal that could lead to major reforms in the U.S. House, including cracking down on gerrymandering and expanding the number of members.
Back in October, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., introduced the “Congress Commission Act” which would create the Congressional Commission to Strengthen Representative Democracy.
“The commission would be mandated to analyze the current size of the House of Representatives, examine alternatives to the current method by which members are elected, and study the impacts of gerrymandering on representation in the people’s House,” the congressman’s office noted.
Under the bill, the commission “will analyze the current size of the membership of the House of Representatives, considering the requirements for the institution to carry out its responsibilities in an effective manner as our republic faces growing domestic and international challenges” and “examine the methods of voting for House members and the use of gerrymandering in the creation of single-member districts and their impacts on congressional representation.” The bill would have the commission report to Congress and the president on its findings.
While Hastings did not get his bill through last year, he brought it back this week. On Monday, Hastings took to the House floor to weigh in on his proposal.
“I rise to reintroduce the Congress Commission Act of 2021. This bill establishes the bipartisan Congressional Commission to Strengthen Representative Democracy to study and make recommendations on membership of the House of Representatives, the methods by which representatives are elected, and how to ensure opportunities for greater constituent and representative engagement,” he said. “The United States is the least representative democracy out of all of our international peers. It has been over one hundred years since the representative chamber has increased in size. During those intervening years the United States has added four additional states, the population has expanded exponentially, and the extension of voting suffrage means our national electorate looks vastly different than it did in the early twentieth century. And yet, over the course of more than a century, there has been insufficient effort to consider or enact changes to House membership that could improve how such population growth in number and diversity are reflected by federal representatives. Too many years have passed us by without any serious consideration of how our nation’s growth and progress is reflected in the People’s House,” Hastings said.
“We have in front of us an overwhelming amount of evidence illustrating the need for reform of the House of Representatives. Just last year, our fellow Americans took to the streets and ballot boxes demanding change and we came close to admitting a new state to our union. The completion of the 2020 Census provides us essential data on the population of the nation and the growing, disparate ratio of almost 750,000 Americans to each member of the House. This is just the average. One member may represent anywhere from almost 530,000 constituents, up to over 1,050,000 constituents. This commission will determine if such a disparity in districts’ populations ensures the just and equitable representation our chamber is intended to provide
each citizen and district,” Hastings added.
“While I speak to the challenges of our current membership structure, ultimately the Commission to Strengthen Representative Democracy is not required to change the size of the House, voting methods for representatives, or any other House process or assembly. I expect my colleagues that will participate on the commission will execute their duties justly, judiciously, and with the intent of what is best for our constituents and our nation,” he said in conclusion. “Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.”
U.S. Reps. André Carson, D-Ind., Barbara Lee, D-Calif., and Seth Moulton, D-Mass., are co sponsoring the bill which is headed to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.
FairVote; RepresentWomen; Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy; Election Reformers Network (ERN); and Ranked Choice Voting Research Center are all backing the proposal.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.