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How Many Seats In The House? Top Full Guide 2022

How many seats in the House?

The House of Representatives is the lower house in the United States Congress. The House comprises 435 seats, as apportioned among the 50 states by population as determined by the United States Census Bureau. In this post, Focal Upright will look at how many seats are there and why that matters to you.

The House of Representatives

The House of Representatives

The House of Representatives is one of two houses of the United States Congress. It was established by the Constitution of 1789.

Constitutional Framework

The House of Representatives has equal lawmaking responsibility as the U.S. Senate. The Framers of the Constitution intended that the House would represent the popular will and be elected directly by the people. The states appointed the Senate up to the ratification in 1913 of the Seventeenth Amendment (1913) when it mandated direct election.

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Each state is guaranteed at most one representative in the House of Representatives. The state population determines the allocation of seats. Membership is then re-allocated every ten years following the decennial census. House members are elected from single-member districts with approximately equal populations for two-year terms. Five delegates and one resident commissioner serve as non-voting members of the House, although they can vote in committee. For eligibility to the House of Representatives, a member must be at least twenty-five years old, have U.S. citizenship for seven years, and reside in the state from where he is elected. However, he does not need to live in the constituency he represents.

In its inception, the House of Representatives had 59 members. After North Carolina and Rhode Island ratified the Constitution in 1790, the number of members rose to 59. The first Congress (1789-91) had 65 representatives. By 1912 membership had reached 435. Two additional representatives were temporarily added after the 1959 admission of Alaska, Hawaii, and other states. However, membership was restored to 435 as authorized by a 1941 law at the next legislative allocation.


The Constitution confers certain exclusive powers on the House of Representatives. These include the power to initiate impeachment proceedings as well as the ability to generate revenue bills. Political parties have influenced the structure and character of Congress. They provide the means to control proceedings and mobilize the required majorities.

The institution’s operation is controlled mainly by party leaders such as the Speaker and majority and minority leaders. Party discipline, which is the tendency of members of a party to vote in the same way, has not always been strong because members who are subject to reelection every other year tend to vote for the interests of their district rather than the political party they belong to.

The party with the most members elects the majority leader and the other party elects a minority leader. The majority leader customarily schedules legislative business on the House floor, while the minority leader serves as a spokesperson for the minority party.

Another essential element in the U.S. House organization is its committee system. This allows members to be divided into specialized groups that can hold hearings, prepare bills for consideration by the whole U.S. House, or regulate House procedure. Each committee is presided over by a member from the majority party. A committee first refers nearly all bills.

The full U.S. House can’t act on a bill unless the committee has “reported it” for action. There are about 20 permanent (standing) committees. They are organized around significant policy areas, and each has staff, budgets, or subcommittees. They can hold hearings on issues of public interest, present legislation that has not yet been introduced as a bill/resolution or conduct investigations.

The important standing committees include appropriations, ways, means (which deals with finance), and rules. You can also have select or special committees appointed for a particular project and only for a short period.

These committees play an essential part in Congress’ control over government agencies. To explain policy, cabinet officers and other officials are often summoned to the committees. Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution prohibits members of Congress from holding office in the executive branch. This is a key distinction between congressional and parliamentary forms of government.

Following the 1920 census, the Northeastern and Midwestern States held 270 House seats while the South and West had 169. The balance between these two regions slowly changed: the Northeast and Midwest held only 172 seats in the 2010 census, while the South and West had 263. Remarkably, New York’s number of representatives declined from 45 to 27 in the 1930s to just 27 in 2012. California, on the other hand, saw an increase from 11 to 53.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives

Speaker of the U.S. House is the most crucial role in the House of Representatives. The majority party chooses the Speaker to preside over the House’s debate and appoints conference and select committee members. Speakers are second in line for the presidential succession (following vice president).

Plan for House Seating

Each party is allocated a block of seats in the Chamber of the House of Representatives. The block allocation can be affected by a change in the number or percentage of seats each party in the House.

The Government Parties occupy the Speaker’s right.

Opposition parties occupy the Speaker’s left.

The block is assigned to the political party that the members of Parliament are from. Their respective parties assign each member of Parliament a block. Senior members are usually seated at the front of the block, on the front benches. Junior members are seated towards the back (on the backbenches).

The Prime Minister and Leader in the Opposition are traditionally seated opposite one another across the table.

How Many Seats in the House?

How Many Seats in the House?

The United States Congress consists of two houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Each state elects two senators. The House of Representatives seats is allocated by state based on population. Each state receives at least one representative. The House of Representatives used to grow in size with each decennial census.

However, in the 1910s, total membership was 435. It temporarily increased to 437 when Alaska and Hawaii were added as states in 1959. After each census, the legislative seats are re-allocated. Some states have more representatives, while others may lose them.

The process of allocating seats to each state in the U.S. House of Representatives is done like clockwork. The Census Bureau calculates how many people each state has every 10 years and then uses that information to determine how many representatives each state will get out of the 435 seats. In April, we discovered that California would lose one seat while Texas would win two.

The reapportionment process is now quite simple, despite certain states losing seats and others picking them up. This wasn’t always true.

435 are voting members from each of the 50 states, and six are nonvoting members. The District of Columbia, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa each have a delegate, while Puerto Rico has a resident commissioner. X This number increased to 437 in 1959 to accommodate the statehood of Alaska and Hawaii but returned to 435 in 1963, after the reapportionment process in 1960.

It’s probably a good thing, on the one hand. Congress doesn’t have to debate the House’s size every ten years. We have the 1929 Permanent Apportionment Act because Congress couldn’t reach an agreement about how to reapportion for almost a decade.

The current members of the house are 435 members. United States Congress (2021-2022) Special elections will be held during the 117th Congress to replace members of Congress who leave the office for any reason.

Why 435?

For so many years, 435 seats have been in the U.S. House. It might seem that the Founding Fathers planned it to be a natural ceiling to increase the chamber’s size. However, 435 seats are arbitrary and not what the Founding Fathers intended. Political expediency was why the House reached this number, and it has remained there ever since.

The U.S. House’s size grew steadily up to 1910 when it rose from 391 seats to 435. The number of U.S. House seats did not change after the 1840 census. 1910 was the last time the House grew even though the U.S. population has tripled in size since 1910 (from over 90 million in 1910 and more than 330 million today).

It was during the 1920 census that things began to fall apart. The 1920 census saw the first majority of the population living in urban areas. The Census Bureau’s definition of “urban” was very broad. It included any area with at least 2,500 inhabitants. This finding showed that America’s power center was shifting away from rural areas to urban ones due to high levels of industrialization and immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe.

The apportionment process was particularly difficult because Congress had to deal with two competing concerns. First, there was the concern that more urban power could lead to the loss of rural House seats if the House didn’t expand. Second, many members were becoming increasingly concerned that the House was already overcrowded and that an increase would make it unwieldy.

However, the Republican Party chair of the House Census Committee proposed legislation in 1921 to increase House size by 48 seats — totaling 483. This would have prevented any state from losing a seat.5 However, both parties were deeply divided by the issue of expanding the House. Arguments were made that adding seats would either be too costly or hamper legislative functions.

Congress considered a variety of options. The House first passed an amended bill that would keep the House at 435 Members. As a result, eleven states were set to lose seats. Unsurprisingly, many senators from these states worked behind the behind-the-scenes to prevent the bill from reaching the Senate. The House then tried to increase House seats to 460 instead of 483, but the House floor rejected this by just four votes. The impasse left Congress in a bind, and reapportionment was stalled over the next few decades.

Rural legislators argued that the 1920 census’s timing presented an inaccurate picture of the country’s population. They claimed that many people who had moved to cities during World War I would soon return to rural areas. Some others argued that noncitizens should be excluded from the counts.

This would have mainly affected Northern states with a significant immigrant population. Some Northern Republicans were upset at the Democrats’ exclusion of Black Americans from the South and argued that representation should be decreased in Southern states with suppressed voting rights. There was also disagreement over the best method for allocating seats. One method put slightly more seats into less populated states, while the other placed more in states with higher populations.

Because there was no consensus on redistributing the House, reapportionment took place in the 1920s and became a constitutional crisis. Anderson, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said that the issue came to a head when the 1928 election was upon us. “Because we realized that we had the Electoral College apportioned based on the 1910 census. If the popular vote or the electoral vote differ, it’s because the reapportionment wasn’t done.”

For electoral legitimacy, Republican Herbert Hoover won the popular and the electoral votes in 1928’s presidential election. He was particularly aware of Congress’s failure to apportionment after serving as secretary of commerce from 1921-1928. Hoover called a special session in Congress in April 1929. The main focus was on apportionment.

By June, both the House of Representatives and the Senate had passed legislation, and Hoover signed it. The Apportionment Act 1929 created the basis for the “automatic” reapportionment system we know today. It set a limit on the number of House seats at 435. It transferred the responsibility for determining the seat count to the president — a prime example of Congress giving up power to the executive.6

The law was not without consequences, however, due to the fractious nature of reapportionment. It removed the requirement that members must be elected in single districts and compact and contiguous, with relatively equal-sized populations. A state without seats could now draw large, disproportional districts to maintain power in rural areas.

Anderson stated that the law “essentially created massive malapportionment over the next 40 years.” Anderson stressed that this was because the law was “politically acceptable.”

The law doesn’t have a population requirement, which is why more than half the House members from rural areas backed it. This was even though most states that lost seats were located in the rural South or Midwest.7 However, these representatives were aware that their districts could lose seats. Still, they hoped that their smaller, slower-growing districts wouldn’t be cut because the apportionment process didn’t require them to have equal populations.

The Supreme Court would later rule that congressional districts should be roughly equal in population to maintain the principle of “one person, one vote.” But that didn’t happen until 1964. Even then, the House still has an unequal representation due to the fact that the House’s size has not changed despite the massive increase in U.S. populations.

Under the rules and customs of the House, a quorum is always assumed present unless a quorum call explicitly demonstrates otherwise. House rules prevent a member from making a point of order that a quorum is not present unless a question is being voted on.

Problem With Staying Stuck At 435

The size of the United States House of Representatives has been a battleground for political power over the past decades.

This is because the majority of the House’s 435 seats are the same as they were 100 years ago — these seats serve to elect the House’s voting members.

In 1910, New York was the most significant state. It had 9 million more residents than Nevada, which was the smallest state. Today, California is home to nearly 39 million people, more than Wyoming.

Due to the Constitution’s requirement for every state to have at least one congressional district, this gap makes it more likely that states will end up with drastically unequal districts populations. Although the Supreme Court has required that communities have equal populations, this only applies to districts within a state and not between states. Even though the average House district will contain just over 760,000 residents after this round, each state’s average districts will differ significantly, especially as smaller states become more populous.

Consider the states that have only one representative, Wyoming, and Delaware. Wyoming, which has just over 578,000 residents, is guaranteed a seat, despite being well below the 760,000 national average. Delaware, however, has almost 991,000 people. This makes it less represented as it isn’t large enough to be eligible for a second seat. Montana, however, has 95,000 more residents than Delaware.

However, that is enough to allow the apportionment formula for a second seat. Montana will be able to have two districts instead of Delaware’s one. It also has an average district size of just over 542,000 making it the most representative state in the country.

It is impossible to have perfectly equal districts across the country due to state lines. However, increasing the House’s size would help decrease the disparity in the sizes of districts within states. The House’s expansion could make the districts smaller, which could aid in representation. Since 1920, the average population in a congressional district has increased by approximately 520,000 people — three times the shift between 1790 and 1910.

The problem of representation in the U.S. is so severe that each member of Congress represents more people than legislators from any other large, developed, or developing democracies. This is understandable, as the U.S. has the 3rd largest population after China and India. The latter happens to be the only democracy that has more people per representative than America. Other large democracies, such as Brazil and Japan, with over 100 million inhabitants, offer far greater representation than the U.S. Their lower legislative chambers are smaller than the United States House.

How To Expand Your House

There are many ideas on how to expand the House best. Some reformers suggested adding 50 seats to the House as a temporary, arbitrary solution. Some others advocate for a more fundamental overhaul. For example, they are resizing House based on the population of the smallest country — commonly known as the Wyoming rule since Wyoming has held this position since 1990.

There is a simple solution, though it may not be the same as what America did before. This is known as the cube roots law in political science. It refers to the fact that the size and population of a country’s Parliament are often proportional to its size.

Matthew Shugart is a professor emeritus from the University of California, Davis. He has attempted to explain why this is so often. Even though there is no law requiring countries’ parliaments to be equal to their populations, they are often close, as shown in the chart below. Shugart and co-authors found that most of the 30 significant democracies Shugart examined were very close to or reasonably near the cube roots of their populations.

Let’s take Canada. The House of Commons, its lower legislative chamber, has 338 seats. This is almost identical to the 335 expected by the cube root law. This is mainly due to the fact that Canada has adjusted the chamber’s seats count many times to accommodate population growth. Other more prominent democracies, such as Brazil and Japan, have seat counts close to the cube root for their respective populations. This is not true for every democracy Shugart, his co-authors studied.

Some countries, such as the U.S., fall below the cube root proportion of their population. Australia, India, and Israel are all much less represented than the U.S. in their legislatures.11 Some countries, such as the U.K., maybe even overrepresented in their lower chambers. For example, the House of Commons in the U.K. has 650 seats — well above the expected 404.

Shugart says that representation in lower chambers of countries’ parliaments is often close to the cube root of their populations. This is because legislators must find a balance between communicating and listening to their constituents. He said, “It’s about finding the optimal size.” In many countries, this seems to be the cube root for a country’s total population.

It’s a pattern that the U.S. followed until 1929 when the House was limited to 435 seats. The chart below illustrates that the House would need to increase to 692 seats in order to reflect the representation the cube root law envisions for the U.S.

This would increase the House’s size by almost 60%. It isn’t easy to envision a single expansion of this scope. Shugart suggested that the House expand gradually over the next few decades. However, he didn’t believe that the House had to reach 692 seats. He just said that the cube root law indicated that the U.S. is currently severely underrepresented.

A giant House would have many potential benefits, but there would be strong opposition to its expansion due to the tradeoffs and potential downsides. A larger House would inevitably mean more government spending and a bigger House. The average House member earns $174,000 annually and is eligible for a pension after five years of service. Add to that new staff, office space, and possibly even a larger House chamber, and you can easily see how millions, if not billions, of dollars.

It could have negative consequences for the Federal government, including more gridlock or partisanship. “By increasing the number of players who have to be satisfied in the legislative game, you make arriving at the kind of majorities — or, in most cases, supermajorities — that you need to pass Congress more difficult,” said L. Marvin Overby, a political scientist at Pennsylvania State University-Harrisburg who studies Congress and has expressed skepticism toward the promised benefits of House expansion.

A larger House could result in fewer competitive seats due to partisan sorting and fewer representatives open to compromise. Overby stated that a smaller House would give members of Congress less incentive to work on bipartisan issues. “Your district would become more homogeneous, whether it is Republican or Democratic Party.

This means that primaries could decide more elections than general elections, as is the case in most House districts. With more secure seats, incumbents will likely have a greater chance of being reelected.

There is simply no public support at the moment for expanding. According to the Pew Research Centre, 51 percent of Americans said that the House size should remain the same in 2018, while only 28 percent said they wanted to increase it. The remaining 18 percent wanted it to shrink. Members of Congress do not support the idea. In February, Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida introduced legislation to create a bipartisan commission that will examine, among other things, the House’s size. The bill is unlikely to be passed because it has only four cosponsors.

There are many pros and cons to expanding the House’s size, but it is worth discussing. In terms of possible changes to our institutions, developing this House is feasible. The Senate’s bias towards small states often receives a lot of attention. However, any changes to the Senate would require a constitutional amend, while a bill could alter the size of the House.

Frederick of Bridgewater State University stated, “It’s going be difficult to increase that size of the House of Representatives. I’m not under any illusions.” It may be time to make a change, given the inequalities between states and how Americans have been underrepresented after more than 100 years. Frederick stated, “There is no doubt that a larger House with fewer constituency populations per district would increase the representational quality citizens receive from Congressmen.”


We hope you find this article is helpful. It provides the information for calculating how many seats in the House of Representatives are required to be present for a quorum, as well as other useful facts about the number and composition of Congress. If you have any questions or comments about our content please feel free to reach out anytime!

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