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After Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker made the most confusing attempt to explain proportional representation that I've ever heard, I'm going to attempt to explain the principle of proportional representation. You can watch Walker's explanation of proportional representation below, and I've watched the video a few times, and I still don't get Walker's explanation:

Special thanks to Rebecca Kemble of The Progressive for filming the video

The principle behind proportional representation, in regards to how it is applied to determine the makeup of the United States House of Representatives, is that each state is apportioned a certain number of votes reflecting how many people lived there at the time the last Census was taken.

Every ten years, the U.S. Constitution requires the Federal Government to take a census, or count how many people live in the United States. This is done by legally requiring people to fill out census forms that are either mailed to them or sending a census taker to a person's home to gather information. That population count is used by Congress to apportion a subset of the 435 seats of the United States House of Representatives to each U.S. state based on that's state's population. The objective of proportional representation, in the case of apportionment of U.S. House seats among the states, is to apportion the seats to the states so that the number of seats that each state has reflects how many people lived in that state at the time the last Census was taken.

After the 435 U.S. House seats are apportioned to the states, those states which have been apportioned 2 or more seats are required to draw up congressional districts. This process is known as redistricting, and, except for states that have been apportioned a single seat, the states have to draw up one congressional district for each seat that they have been apportioned. Wisconsin has been apportioned 8 seats as a result of the most recent Census, so, since the Wisconsin State Legislature has the authority to draw up Wisconsin's congressional districts, the Legislature drew 8 congressional districts. My home state of Illinois has been apportioned 18 seats as a result of the most recent Census, so, since the Illinois General Assembly has the authority to draw up Illinois's congressional districts, the General Assembly drew 18 congressional districts. Each of Wisconsin's congressional districts contains one-eighth of Wisconsin's population, and each of Illinois's congressional districts contains one-eighteenth of Illinois's population.

What Scott Walker was probably trying to explain was the Connecticut Compromise, and I'll explain that. During the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, the delegations of the states that had higher populations and the delegations of the states that had lower populations deadlocked on whether to apportion congressional seats based on the population of each state, which was favored by the delegations of the larger states, or apportion the same number of congressional seats to each state irregardless of each state's population, which was favored by the delegations of the smaller states. Two members of the Connecticut delegation, Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth, broke the deadlock by proposing that one house of Congress shall have it seats apportioned to the states based on the populations of each state, which became the United States House of Representatives, and the other house of Congress shall have two of its seats apportioned to each state irregardless of the populations of each state, which became the United States Senate.

What do you think of my attempt to explain proportional representation?

Originally posted to Aaron Camp on DailyKos on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 07:36 PM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and Progressive Hippie.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    antirove, JeffW, Railfan, ruleoflaw, HoundDog

    Joe Lieberman, Mike Madigan, Andrew Cuomo, and Tim Cullen...why are they Democrats?

    by DownstateDemocrat on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 07:36:04 PM PDT

  •  S`ok, but fix your title. n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Railfan, DownstateDemocrat

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 07:41:04 PM PDT

  •  I think that Walker's explanation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Was probably more suited to his audience than yours.  You did notice the kids, right?

    Walker's explanation wasn't great, but the idea of trying to come up with an analogy that young kids can relate to is probably the best way to try and explain it within that setting.

    •  He still fluffed it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      His analogy should have been that big families want one vote per kid, and small families want one vote per family.

      Fake candidates nominated by the GOP for the recalls: 6 out of 7. Fake signatures on the recall petitions: 4 out of 1,860,283.

      by GeoffT on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 08:58:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tipped, recced and republished to (0+ / 0-)

    I started with nothing and still have most of it left. - Seasick Steve

    by ruleoflaw on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 08:27:52 PM PDT

  •  Why leave the House at only 435 seats? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Article 1, Section 2, has the only Constitutional rule pertaining to the number of reps we should have in the House, and all it says is, "The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand."  Instead of futzing around with an arbitrary cap set during the Taft Administration, why not apportion one rep to, say, every 100,000 people?  House sessions would include thousands of Reps, meaning that the power of the present oligarchs would be massively diluted.  They would fill basketball arenas, and would allow us to finally break the stranglehold of the two-party system.  The cure for democracy is more democracy!

    •  The Constitution does not fix the House size (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Unitary Moonbat

      A federal statute that was passed by Congress and signed into law by then-President William Howard Taft fixed the House size at 435 members.

      My proposal for increasing the size of the U.S. House of Representatives, which, in my opinion, is badly needed, as Montana has only one representative for nearly one million people and the average Congressional district population is over 700,000 people, if I'm not mistaken, involves this formula

      H=(pT/pS)*3, rounded up, in which H is the size of the House, pT is the total population of all 50 states, and pS is the population of the least populous state, which, based on the 2010 Census, is Wyoming.

      I'll input 2010 census data into the formula:


      Rounding 1640.15 up would give a house size of 1,641 members.

      Joe Lieberman, Mike Madigan, Andrew Cuomo, and Tim Cullen...why are they Democrats?

      by DownstateDemocrat on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 09:32:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sure would be nice to think of my rep (0+ / 0-)

        as looking out for me and few tens of thousands of others, as opposed to thousands of others.  Y'know, the more I think about this, the fewer downsides I see - gonna have to do a little research...

        Thanks for the math!

      •  Just Use Least Populous State (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Why not just use the least populous state to establish what the criterion is for one representative?.  On that basis, the House should have 547 seats, with Wyoming holding the single seat.  That would represent an increase of 112 from the current House size and is likely the largest which could be justified to the electorate.  Further, it is also the largest the House should be according to organizational theories.  As the House size increases, it becomes less manageable.  House structures in place could likely accommodate a 25% increase, but a 275% increase would likely strain the management skills of any politician.  If we were to immediately jump to a House with over 1500 seats, it would start to look like some of the governmental bodies of governments which just recently expired in our lifetimes.

        We could also likely look at shifting to 3 Senators per state from the current 2.  Since the populations of all of the states have increased considerably from the establishment of the Union, it has become more difficult for the average citizen to meet with Senators simply because of time constraints imposed by sheer volume.  Of course, changing this will require a Constitutional amendment, but a solid case could be built for making the change.  It might even help with promoting electorate participation since a Senator would be standing state-wide in every state during every Congressional election, even off-year elections.  Of course, one Party might look at that factor as a negative feature rather than a good-citizen advantage.

        "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

        by PrahaPartizan on Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 10:23:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Apportionment vs. Representation (0+ / 0-)

    Both the poster and Governor Walker are talking about proportional apportionment, not proportional representation.

    Proportional apportionment is about assigning one or more seats to geographical areas in proportion to the population in each area.  In the U.S., except for the U.S. Senate, we usually have that.

    Proportional representation is about filling those seats using elections and voters being represented by someone of their choice, in proportion to their numbers.  In the U.S. We almost never have that.

    With single-winner districts, typically about half the voters in the district get representation, the other half don't.  That's assuming there is a competitive choice.  We don't even get to the point of asking whether the representation is proportional when half don't get representation.  Proportional representation requires multi-winner election contests.

    In the U.S., democracy apologists like to confuse the two terms to hide the systemic failures to provide proportional representation, and lots of people get fooled.

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