Nov. 5, 2003
Most Americans assume that the election of the House of
Representatives is fairly based on the geographic distribution of our
population. Then how come the constitutionally mandated
reapportionment of 2000 resulted in the fact that it takes only 35,000
votes in a California district to win a House seat, while it takes
100,000 votes to win a House seat in Indiana, Michigan or Mississippi?
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Reynolds v. Sims (the 1964
landmark case that dictated one person one vote for state legislatures)
that "the Equal Protection Clause guarantees the opportunity for equal
participation by all voters." The Court forbade "diluting the weight
of votes because of place of residence."
As a result of the 2000 reapportionment, eight states gained at
least one more House seat: California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado,
Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. Ten other states lost at
least one seat: Oklahoma, Mississippi, Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee,
Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut.
None of these states lost a seat because of a declining
population. In fact, they all increased their populations.
This redistribution of seats in the House of Representatives also
shifted the balance of power for the 2004 presidential election. The
number of votes each state has in the Electoral College exactly mirrors
the size of its congressional delegation, so California and Florida
will be even more important in 2004 than in 2000.
The reapportionment of the House of Representatives every ten
years is required by the U.S. Constitution. Since the total number of
seats is fixed at 435, it's a zero-sum process: one-state's gain must
be another state's loss.
A new study just released by the Center for Immigration Studies
explains what caused twelve congressional seats to be transferred from
some states to other states. This shift in House seats was based on
the 2000 census which counted the residence of persons -- not of
The persons who were counted in the 2000 census included seven
million illegal aliens and twelve million other non-citizens (legal
non-citizens and temporary visitors who are mainly foreign students or
guest workers). This count created new congressional districts with
large non-voter populations.
When the Clinton Administration failed to enforce our federal
immigration laws, and when Gray Davis's administration encouraged
illegals to come to California in large numbers by nullifying the
initiative that would have cut off state-financed social services
(Proposition 187), the Democrats accomplished a change in the political
landscape to benefit their candidates.
In California's 31st district, 43 percent of the residents are
non-citizens, and in the 34th district, 38 percent are non-citizens.
In Florida's 21st district, 28 percent of residents are non-citizens.
The non-citizens (hopefully) are non-voters. But their very
presence gives enormous weight to the legitimate voters in those
The Constitution does not require including non-citizens in the
reapportionment count. In 1979 and 1988, the courts refused to hear a
challenge to the practice of including illegal aliens in the census
count for purposes of reapportionment.
Congress can define who meets the test of residency for the census
count, and what procedures are used to do the counting. The only
question is whether Congress has the will to make the needed changes.
The winners in this distortion are not the illegals or the non-
citizens, but the citizen voters in the districts that have large
populations of illegals and non-citizens. The current process makes
the votes of some American citizens count for much more than citizens
in districts where almost everyone is a U.S. citizen.
Reynolds v. Sims warned that "any alleged infringement of the
right of citizens to vote must be carefully and meticulously
scrutinized" even though this means "entering into political thickets
and mathematical quagmires." Congress ought to address this issue long
before the 2004 elections.
The recent California recall election didn't inflict us with the
predicted post-election court challenges because, fortunately, the poll
results were decisive. However, when we look at the famous red and
blue map of the 2000 presidential election, we must assume that the
2004 election will be close, with the potential of producing legal
In addition to dealing with the equal protection problems of
reapportionment, Congress should make other changes to improve the
integrity of the election process. Among these changes should be
requiring proof of citizenship to vote, and banning foreign language
ballots (since the law requires that immigrants be able to speak
English in order to become a naturalized citizen).