Counting the 118th House of Representatives

Counting the 118th House of Representatives

Of 435 seats, the top three states populate over a quarter of the House.

Do we really know what’s in 118th House of Representatives? A panel of untrained scientists (i.e., me) have attempted to extract some key ingredients for analysis.

There are 222 members expected for Republicans, which you may think is mostly a southern party. In the 118th, it is exactly half-southern (using the Census regions). It is half-southern, a tenth north-eastern, a quarter mid-western, and about 16% western.

But even within the south, a plurality of it is concentrated in two states. Texas and Florida make up 40% of the southern conference. California accounts for 34% of the western bloc, while New York is half of the northeastern strain of the conference. The midwest stands out, in that no state really dominates. Ohio is closest, but it provides only 19% of that region’s Republican members.

Total members sent by region, for comparison:

  • Northeast sends 76 members (17%)
  • Midwest sends 91 members (21%)
  • South sends 164 members (38%)
  • West sends 104 members (24%)

But given the southern region includes more states, the per-state membership means are:

  • Northeast averages 8.4
  • Midwest averages 7.6
  • South averages 10.3 (not including the District of Columbia, which is allowed merely a delegate)
  • West averages 8.7

It’s interesting to realize that California Republicans are twice as many as Alabama Republicans in the House. Going the other way, in the 118th Texas (13) will send only one fewer Democrat than Illinois (14) (and New York will send 15).

California is the powerhouse for Democrats, sending 40 members, an almost four-to-one partisan ratio. Its the largest state, and its 52 members are almost 12% of the House.

On the other end, single-member states, the two parties split the six of them. Alaska, Delaware, and Vermont for Democrats; North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming for Republicans. The two-member states are also single-party in membership. There are seven of them, and they favor the Democrats by one state. Idaho, Montana, and West Virginia are for Republicans; Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island will seat Democrats. And the pair of three-member states are the same story again: Nebraska for Republicans, New Mexico for Democrats.

That’s already 15 states (30%) and 26 members (6%). That’s 14 seats for Democrats and 12 seats for Republicans.

It’s only when we get to four-member states that we see the first mixture in membership. While Arkansas, Iowa, and Utah all give their four seats to Republicans, Kansas and Mississippi each give one of them to Democrats, and Nevada gives one to Republicans. These 24 members and six states nearly match the previous batch in percent of members, though heavily tilted toward Republicans: 19 seats to five.

There are two five-member states, Connecticut and Oklahoma, and both are exclusive to one party (Democrats and Republicans, respectively) in the 118th. Kentucky and Louisiana both give five of their six to Republicans, while Oregon gives four of its six to Democrats.

Alabama and South Carolina both give six of their seven seats to Republicans. With 42 members, the five-member, six-member, and seven-member states, seven in all, are nearly 10% of the House, and they give Republicans 27 members but only 15 to the Democrats.

Colorado gives five of their eight seats to Democrats, while Maryland gives seven of theirs to the Democrats. Minnesota is the rare split state, giving four to each party. Missouri and Wisconsin each give six of their eight seats to Republicans. With 40 members, these five eight-member states again make a little under 10% of the House, but 24 of them are Republican seats.

Massachusetts has the distinction of being the largest single-party state, with all nine seats being Democratic. The other three nine-seaters are also imbalanced. Arizona gives six to Republicans, while Indiana and Tennessee give seven and eight, respectively. These four states with 36 seats account for 8% of the House and give 21 seats to Republicans.

After that come some larger states which lean toward Democrats. Washington gives eight of its ten to Democrats, and nine of New Jersey’s 12 seats are for Democrats. But Virginia and Michigan are both near-splits. Democrats get six of Virginia’s 11, and they get seven of Michigan’s 13 seats.

After you get past nine members, the next seat commonality is 14 for North Carolina and Georgia. Georgia leans more Republican, with nine of its seats for that conference, while North Carolina is the second and last split-state at seven apiece.

Together these six larger-but-not-huge states send 74 members, or 17% of the House, 42 of which are for Democrats.

Ohio yields two Republican seats for every Democratic one, with ten Republicans out of its 15 members. And the final commonality is at 17 seats for both Illinois and Pennsylvania. Illinois favors Democrats at 14 seats, while Pennsylvania is nearly split, with nine seats for Democrats.

Those three states provide 49 members to the House, about 11% of its capacity.

Finally, the other big three that aren’t California. New York is more purple than you might remember, giving only 15 of its 26 seats to Democrats. About 6% of the House hails from New York in the 118th.

But Florida is less purple than memory would have it. A full score of its 28 members are Republicans. Like New York, it fills about 6% of the House seats.

And Texas. The lone-star state, inexplicably, has the second most seats after California. Not so lone, there are 38 of them (close to 9% of the House), of which 25 are Republicans, practically two-to-one.

All told, there are only six mostly-balanced states (partisan percents in the 40s or 50s) out of 44 that could be balanced (i.e., six only have one seat in the House). They are Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Notably, they all have at least eight members (Minnesota being that one). Together they send 89 members, or 20% of the House, and they break slightly in favor of Democrats with 48 members (54% of their members).

Is that a coincidence? Are these all states of transition, on their way to more partisan slates? In some ways they are all in geographically transitional parts of the country, between the south and northeast, or the northeast and midwest.

On the other hand, the odds of smaller states to get in balance is lower, given fewer combinations making it within one or two seats of balance. Only 50% of configurations of a two-seater is balanced, and a three-seat state split 2-1 would still be rather unbalanced.

If the House were expanded significantly, we would likely see more states approach something closer to balance, and that would make the House healthier for all of us. But it would also require changes to rules and norms, and there’s been little sign of any real effort to increase the seat count.

As for partisan states, which I’ll define as having at least four seats and where two-thirds or more are for one party, there are 27 of them, out of 35 that have at least four members. (Colorado and Georgia are both partisan, but neither is quite two-thirds partisan in the 118th.) The partisan states send 293 members (67% of the House) and fill 157 Republican seats. Thus, about 54% of the partisan-state seats are Republican.


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