Believe it or not– two South Florida Democrats have proposed a U.S. Constitutional amendment to give states with populations over 6 million a third U.S. Senator.
It is unlikely to gain a hearing or be adopted by the Republican-controlled Legislature, but Sen. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, filed Senate Memorial 1652, petitioning Congress to address an “unprecedented disparity.”
They U.S. Senate “has become extremely mal-apportioned to the degree that soon, 30 percent of the country’s population will elect 70 percent of (its) members,” SM 1652 states. “Conversely 70 percent of the country’s population will elect only 30 percent of the members of the U.S. Senate, a disparity fraught with unhappy consequences for the vast majority of the country’s population.”
Their proposal has not been assigned to a committee.
Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura, is expected to file a House companion bill either before or shortly after the Legislature’s 60-day session begins.
SM 1652, 19 states that after the 2020 Census roughly 20 states would qualify for a third U.S. Senate seat. The combined population of the 19 states is “approximately 10 times the population” of the rest of the states combined, the proposal states.
Adding a third U.S. Senator for the most populated states would be “a modest increase, but still be a workable number of senators, and would still provide ample protection for smaller states from being dominated by larger states,” they argue.
The population disparities could never have been anticipated by the founding fathers, the proposal argues.
“The ratio between some states is closer to 100 to 1, something undreamed of by the founding fathers,” the measure notes pointing to California’s population of 39 million, Texas’ 28 million and Florida’s 21 million.
This idea is not new to Florida.
In 1995, U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-Mass., suggested, “Sometime in the next century the United States is going to have to address the question of apportionment in the Senate.”
A University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business Professor Eric W. Orts wrote about it in a January 2019 article in The Atlantic. He argued, “Today the voting power of a citizen in Wyoming, the smallest state in terms of population, is about 67 times that of a citizen in the largest state of California, and the disparities among the states are only increasing. The situation is untenable.”
He and others cite the “equal suffrage” clause in the U.S. Constitution as becoming increasingly “untenable” because population disparities give voters disproportionate representation.
Using 2017 census estimates and “the Rule of 100,” a guide financial professionals use to simplify asset allocation, Orts suggests a more proportionately constructed Senate would allocate only one U.S. Senator to 26 states, two U.S. Senators to 12 states, between three and five to eight states, six each to Florida and New York, nine to Texas and 12 to California.
“This apportionment shows how out of whack the current Senate has become,” he argues.
Retired Rep. John Dingell, Jr., D-Mich., also suggested the best way to address the population representation disparity is to abolish the U.S. Senate altogether.