The United States Must Make Congress More Representative of Demographics: An Op-Ed

Patrick Kissel, Reporter

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America’s democracy is not representative. First and foremost, the United States uses first past the post voting over single transferable vote, perpetuating the two party system that exists in American government. Another significant reason for America’s democracy not being fully representative is the large congressional districts that mean that the United States’ demographics are not as representative as they could possibly be.

Senators can represent between one and 37 million constituents, according to govtrack.org. This is because every state has two senators, instead of senate seats being proportioned based on how many people actually reside in the state. Further, because both senators are elected by the entire populace, it means that even if only a small majority of the population supports a single party, they can carry 100 percent of the state’s senate seats. This does not create a democratic system. If 51 percent of a group can lead to 100 percent of the representation in congress be leaning towards that one group, then it does not accurately represent the needs of the people as a whole. In order to fix this, senators should be elected using single transferable vote, or the senate’s seats should be apportioned based on a state’s population like the house of representatives, instead of every state getting equal power even if they are a tiny section of the nation’s total population. This would allow for more equal representation in each individual state, and help the demographics of government be closer to a mirror image of the demographics of the country.

As for the house of representatives, the amount of seats is far too small. According to govtrack.org, the average population of a district is 710,000. This number is far too large, as too many people are clumped under a single representatives, making it harder for the extremely diverse views held by different populations in the United States to be properly represented. In other countries like the United Kingdom, the average amount of people in a constituency, which is the equivalent of an American congressional district, is 72,400 in England, 69,000 in Scotland, 66,800 in Northern Ireland and 56,800 in Wales. These numbers are far more reasonable and would ensure that the demographics of the country is better represented, instead of having almost three quarter of a million people contained in one district.

It can be argued that increasing the number of representatives would make debate harder in the house of representatives, but as is debate is very hard to come by. While in the United States the house of representatives has 435 members, in the United Kingdom, the house of commons has 650, and yet more members participate in debates on average, which means that even with a larger amount of people the debates can be lively. Even still, the only part of the procedure that truly matters in representing the people is how votes go, and by having smaller districts the views of people will be echoed better when the votes on specific legislation occur, which would be far better for American democracy.

American democracy is not as representative of the will of the people as it could be. By implementing single transferable voting, larger districts and a senate that is proportional to the population of individual states instead of every state receiving two seats, this can be better remedied. America should be a city on a hill, a beacon to the rest of the world of how democracy should function and in order for it to provide that beacon and truly make a difference, America must first be a truly representative democracy and this is how that can be done.