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I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Book of Ecclesiastes 9:11, Old Testament
Apportioning Representatives in the United States Congress
In 2010 the United States Census Bureau will once again conduct the decennial census. But apart from the interesting bits of information we will discover, such as the average number of bathrooms in an American home, why does the Bureau undertake this daunting task every ten years?
It’s because the United States Constitution requires it. In Article One, Section Two, the original text reads as follows:
How we count the persons has thankfully changed since 1787. But the mandate of an “actual enumeration” remains. In fact, in the 1990s, the Census Bureau announced a plan to use statistical sampling to help achieve the required enumeration, rather than an actual headcount. After making its way through the courts, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that sampling may not be used (see http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/98-404.ZO.html). But that is a topic for another day.
The Constitution requires an enumeration every ten years, as we read above, for the purpose of apportioning Representatives in the House of Representatives “according to their respective numbers.” Other than the specifications that each state must have a Representative, and that the number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, the Constitution provides no guidelines as to how the Representatives shall be apportioned. This is where the fun begins.
Table Of Contents
Caulfield, Michael J., "Apportioning Representatives in the United States Congress," Loci (November 2008), DOI: 10.4169/loci003163