Let Vermont Show Wyoming the Way

The coming midterms have brought renewed attention from Democrats to one of their perennial complaints: the malapportionment of the United States Senate, where each state gets two senators regardless of population.  This is usually framed by pointing out that residents of our least populous state, Republican Wyoming, have 66 times the proportionate representation in the Senate as residents of our most populous state, largely Democratic California.  One Democratic strategist has even proposed dividing California into seven or eight states just to bring more Democrats to the Senate in order to rectify this perceived injustice.

A less drastic remedy may be available.  Looking beyond the California vs. Wyoming comparison, one sees a wealth of Democratic Senate seats in meagerly populated states.  Indeed, our 11 least populous states currently are represented by 13 Democratic senators compared to only nine Republicans (counting the three independents with the party with which they caucus).  Why not ask these low-population Democrat states to share one or both of their Senate seats with their high-population Democrat sister states?

An immediate example of how this could help can be seen in senatorially deficient California.  There, the state's new jungle primary system has pitted Democrats against each other: incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein and Kevin de León.  The same happened in the state's 2016 Senate election.  People as nice as Democrats shouldn't have to run against each other.  And the solution lies just across the ocean.  There lies our 40th state in population: lightly inhabited Democratic Hawaii.  What a great blow for justice it would be if Senator Mazie Hirono would step aside and urge her fellow inhabitants of the Aloha State, already known for their generosity, to elect Kevin de León to her Senate seat!

Another source of senators for California could be Oregon (27th in population).  Surely it can spare one of its Democratic Senate seats for its enormously deserving southern neighbor.  All it would take is for Ron Wyden or Jeff Merkley to resign in favor of a deserving California Democrat.  Knowing how selfless both senators are, they would probably have to decide by coin toss who would undertake the noble deed.

An even richer supply of small-state Democratic Senate seats can be found in the East.  While Wyoming is 50th in population, the next least populated state is 49th ranked Vermont.  This progressive bastion lies right next to New York, whose 19 million residents suffer from an egregious paucity of senators.  Vermont senator Bernie Sanders urges us to share society's wealth.  What a fine example of sharing he would demonstrate if he were to urge the voters of the senator-engorged Green Mountain State to elect instead a third senator for their senatorially deprived New York neighbors!  Further, the 76-year-old Bernie could advance the socialist cause by proposing his 28-year-old acolyte, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as his successor.  Ocasio-Cortez is obviously a superstar, so why should she have to start with a measly seat in the House of Representatives?  (Recognizing that the minimum age for senators is 30, she would have to wait until Bernie is elected president in 2020 to take over his Senate seat on behalf of New York.)

Note that these proposed transfers of Senate seats are from one predominantly Democratic state to another.  This is not a nefarious scheme to get more GOP senators. 

States sharing seats in this way need not be contiguous, especially since so many of the possible donor states are concentrated in the Northeast.  Delaware (45th) and Rhode Island (43rd) are two more predominantly Democratic states whose voters must recognize the deep injustice of their having two senators each.  While the need to keep the seats Democrat rules out sharing with purply Pennsylvania (6th) or Ohio (7th), true-blue Illinois (5th) certainly deserves some more Senate seats.  Indeed, electing senators from the Prairie State would still benefit Delawareans and Rhode Islanders.  The entire thrust of the Democratic Party for a century has been to deal with all issues at the national rather than state level.  Programs enacted by three or four senators from Chicago would certainly also help Wilmington and Providence.  Both the Delaware and Rhode Island primaries are still to come in early September, so there is still plenty of time for senators Tom Carper and Sheldon Whitehouse to step aside and generously propose successors from unfairly and unequally underrepresented more populous Democratic states.

There should be no legal impediments to such actions.  Both state laws and the Constitution require that senators be inhabitants of the states they represent, but Republicans have established that a rented room meets that qualification.  Surely a couple of time shares would be worth it to California Democrats to get Hawaii's Senate seats.  Article Five of the Constitution prohibits depriving a state of its Senate seats without its consent.  This proposal does not contravene this provision, since it is an entirely voluntary action by Democratic states to correct a gross historic constitutional injustice.

Conservatives, with their adherence to hoary concepts like constitutional originalism, federalism, and the need for strong states to disperse and defuse government power, are not likely to appreciate the need for this proposal right away.  However, imagine the impact of Democratic states like Vermont and Delaware magnanimously transferring their misallocated Senate seats to the more populous states which need them.  Eventually, sparsely populated Republican-leaning states like Wyoming and Alaska might also be brought around to sharing their undeserved Senate seats with those who live in the senatorially underserved populous states.  Then we could all move ever closer to the Democratic ideal of being one, single unified nation under Washington, D.C., undivided by archaic state lines.

James W. Lucas is an attorney in New York City.  He is author of Are We the People? How We the People Can Take Charge of Our Constitution and other writings on constitutional issues.

The coming midterms have brought renewed attention from Democrats to one of their perennial complaints: the malapportionment of the United States Senate, where each state gets two senators regardless of population.  This is usually framed by pointing out that residents of our least populous state, Republican Wyoming, have 66 times the proportionate representation in the Senate as residents of our most populous state, largely Democratic California.  One Democratic strategist has even proposed dividing California into seven or eight states just to bring more Democrats to the Senate in order to rectify this perceived injustice.

A less drastic remedy may be available.  Looking beyond the California vs. Wyoming comparison, one sees a wealth of Democratic Senate seats in meagerly populated states.  Indeed, our 11 least populous states currently are represented by 13 Democratic senators compared to only nine Republicans (counting the three independents with the party with which they caucus).  Why not ask these low-population Democrat states to share one or both of their Senate seats with their high-population Democrat sister states?

An immediate example of how this could help can be seen in senatorially deficient California.  There, the state's new jungle primary system has pitted Democrats against each other: incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein and Kevin de León.  The same happened in the state's 2016 Senate election.  People as nice as Democrats shouldn't have to run against each other.  And the solution lies just across the ocean.  There lies our 40th state in population: lightly inhabited Democratic Hawaii.  What a great blow for justice it would be if Senator Mazie Hirono would step aside and urge her fellow inhabitants of the Aloha State, already known for their generosity, to elect Kevin de León to her Senate seat!

Another source of senators for California could be Oregon (27th in population).  Surely it can spare one of its Democratic Senate seats for its enormously deserving southern neighbor.  All it would take is for Ron Wyden or Jeff Merkley to resign in favor of a deserving California Democrat.  Knowing how selfless both senators are, they would probably have to decide by coin toss who would undertake the noble deed.

An even richer supply of small-state Democratic Senate seats can be found in the East.  While Wyoming is 50th in population, the next least populated state is 49th ranked Vermont.  This progressive bastion lies right next to New York, whose 19 million residents suffer from an egregious paucity of senators.  Vermont senator Bernie Sanders urges us to share society's wealth.  What a fine example of sharing he would demonstrate if he were to urge the voters of the senator-engorged Green Mountain State to elect instead a third senator for their senatorially deprived New York neighbors!  Further, the 76-year-old Bernie could advance the socialist cause by proposing his 28-year-old acolyte, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as his successor.  Ocasio-Cortez is obviously a superstar, so why should she have to start with a measly seat in the House of Representatives?  (Recognizing that the minimum age for senators is 30, she would have to wait until Bernie is elected president in 2020 to take over his Senate seat on behalf of New York.)

Note that these proposed transfers of Senate seats are from one predominantly Democratic state to another.  This is not a nefarious scheme to get more GOP senators. 

States sharing seats in this way need not be contiguous, especially since so many of the possible donor states are concentrated in the Northeast.  Delaware (45th) and Rhode Island (43rd) are two more predominantly Democratic states whose voters must recognize the deep injustice of their having two senators each.  While the need to keep the seats Democrat rules out sharing with purply Pennsylvania (6th) or Ohio (7th), true-blue Illinois (5th) certainly deserves some more Senate seats.  Indeed, electing senators from the Prairie State would still benefit Delawareans and Rhode Islanders.  The entire thrust of the Democratic Party for a century has been to deal with all issues at the national rather than state level.  Programs enacted by three or four senators from Chicago would certainly also help Wilmington and Providence.  Both the Delaware and Rhode Island primaries are still to come in early September, so there is still plenty of time for senators Tom Carper and Sheldon Whitehouse to step aside and generously propose successors from unfairly and unequally underrepresented more populous Democratic states.

There should be no legal impediments to such actions.  Both state laws and the Constitution require that senators be inhabitants of the states they represent, but Republicans have established that a rented room meets that qualification.  Surely a couple of time shares would be worth it to California Democrats to get Hawaii's Senate seats.  Article Five of the Constitution prohibits depriving a state of its Senate seats without its consent.  This proposal does not contravene this provision, since it is an entirely voluntary action by Democratic states to correct a gross historic constitutional injustice.

Conservatives, with their adherence to hoary concepts like constitutional originalism, federalism, and the need for strong states to disperse and defuse government power, are not likely to appreciate the need for this proposal right away.  However, imagine the impact of Democratic states like Vermont and Delaware magnanimously transferring their misallocated Senate seats to the more populous states which need them.  Eventually, sparsely populated Republican-leaning states like Wyoming and Alaska might also be brought around to sharing their undeserved Senate seats with those who live in the senatorially underserved populous states.  Then we could all move ever closer to the Democratic ideal of being one, single unified nation under Washington, D.C., undivided by archaic state lines.

James W. Lucas is an attorney in New York City.  He is author of Are We the People? How We the People Can Take Charge of Our Constitution and other writings on constitutional issues.