Restoring our failing democracy

Each state could be accurately represented with the repeal of a flawed 1929 law

The author, a Chico resident, describes himself as “a well-read activist and a proponent of California autonomy.”

A few weeks ago, as our nation celebrated its birth, did you wonder why it is that the equality promised us by the Founding Fathers has been such a fleeting thing?

Democracy was largely destroyed by the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929, passed by what then appeared to be the last Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The 1920 census had shown a trend of increased immigration and a rural-to-urban shift in population that heavily favored Democrats after the next census. The Republicans realized it could be the last time they controlled the House for the foreseeable future.

Using this act, they warped the rules in their favor.

During the four previous decades, rules dictating districting mandated voting districts to be “equally populated contiguous and compact single member districts”—simple and fair. Nothing like the complicated puzzle-piece districts we suffer from today.

The Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929 froze the House of Representatives at 435 members and eliminated the rules for districting. If each member of the House represented the approximately 220,000 people it did in the 1920s, and you take gerrymandering out of the equation, today there would be 1,410 representatives, with Democrats being closer to 60 percent of the House. Since the number of representatives and senators dictate the size of the Electoral College, today there would be 975 more electors, mostly Democrats.

Each state’s population would be more accurately represented in both the House and in the presidential elections, favoring Democrats overall. Were that the case, what a different country this would be now—one that actually represented the average person, not the wealthy.

If we were represented the way the Founders had envisioned, progressive legislation that so often died in the House over the last 88 years would have passed. What a chance we would now have at that promised equality—a country with universal health care, universal basic income and an end to our never-ending wars.

Repealing the Permanent Apportionment Act is necessary to restore our failing democracy.