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Opinion

June 25, 2013

Senate balance unfair to larger states

Edward Dowling wrote: “The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have democracy, second the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.”

Our Senate has become one of the least democratic legislatures in the entire world. Among the political compromises that created the Constitution of the United States was to require: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State.” Consequently, each state, no matter how many people live there, gets only two senators. It’s not one person, one vote in the Senate. It is one state, two votes.

In the early years of our republic, the difference in population ratio between the largest state, Virginia, and the smallest state, Delaware, was only 11-1. Today, the difference between the largest state, California, and the smallest state, Wyoming, is 66-1. Wyoming has a population of 576,412. However, the 632,323 citizens that live in Washington, D.C. don’t have a senator.

The populations of Connecticut, Iowa, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kansas, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Nebraska, West Virginia, Idaho, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming combined is 38 million people. They have 42 senators. The population of California is 38 million people, but only two senators. In theory, if the 26 smallest states held together on all votes, they would control the Senate, with a total of less than 17 percent of our population.

By using the filibuster, 21 of the 50 states representing a mere 11 percent of the population can muster the 41 votes necessary to deadlock a majority in the Senate. Republicans resorted to filibustering more than 400 Democratic bills in the past six years. We’ve gone too far toward disadvantaging our larger states.

Jim O’Leary

Delhi

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