Redistricting the U. S. Senate

I read an interesting article in the 3/16/15 issue of the New Yorker today.   It said that of the eight democratic governments around the world that have both an upper and a lower legislative body, the United States has the most malapportioned and least representative upper house.

The U. S. Senate is a historical anachronism.  No sensible person, who was sitting down to devise a governmental structure in the modern world, would create one in which the population represented by each member varied from 600,000 to 37 million.  In fact, the way the Senate is apportioned would appear to grossly violate the Supreme Court’s “one-man; one-vote” decision from the early 1960’s.

One could talk a long time  about how we got this way, but , as someone with an engineering cast of mind, I started thinking about how to solve the problem.   Two questions arise:

  • What does it mean to say that Senate seats are fairly apportioned?
  • How would you go about such an apportionment?

The first question is fairly easily answered; the population represented by each of the 100 Senators should be equal to 1% of the total population of the country plus or minus a fudge factor to allow for accommodation of state boundaries.   If that fudge factor were 5%  ( at the outer limit of what various Supreme Court decisions have allowed), the population of each Senate District would range from roughly 2, 900,000 to 3,200,000  (using 2010 census figures).

The second question is also easy to address.   Modern software tools can create districts that fit populations of this size to existing state boundaries.  California would have 11+ Senators; small states like Wyoming would be thrown  into a sprawling district with contiguous states.

Is such a solution possible in the current political climate?  Of course not.   A Constitution Convention would be required to address this and many other issues.   Unfortunately, I am beginning to think that a Constitutional Convention is the only way out of our current disastrous governmental situation.


2 thoughts on “Redistricting the U. S. Senate

  1. The U.S. Senate unquestionably violates “one person, one vote,” but unfortunately, the Senate is exempted by the constitution from respecting that principle. As for correcting the problem, the obvious solution would be to abolish the Senate and fold its 100 members into a unicameral congress based solely on population. There is no logical or functional reason to have two separate legislative chambers. How we get to that is another question. The constitution hasn’t been amended since 1971 since 18-year-olds gained the right to vote. As the country is able to accomplish other incremental election reforms, the unicameral congress could eventually come into view.

    1. Of course I agree that the Senate is exempt from the one person one vote decision. But I think we all need to become much more aware of what a problem it is.

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