Monday, December 25, 2006

Uncounted Overseas Missionaries Could Lead To Larger U.S. Congress

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported on a fascinating proposal that Congress will face when it reconvenes. The proposal was triggered by the decision of the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000 not to count civilian U.S. nationals living overseas in the census. This meant that, among others, 11,000 Mormon missionaries stationed around the world-- most from Utah-- were not included. So North Carolina ended up with 856 more people than Utah and got an extra representative in the House of Representatives that Utah thought it deserved. In Utah v. Evans, 143 F. Supp.2d 1290 (D. Utah, Apr. 17, 2001) [LEXIS link], a 3-judge federal district court rejected Utah's challenge to the refusal to count the overseas missionaries, and the Supreme Court summarily affirmed the decision.

Now Utah leaders have endorsed a proposal that would permanently increase the number of members in the House of Representatives from 435 to 437. Then Utah would get its fourth seat-- presumably a Republican-- and the District of Columbia would get its first voting member-- presumably a Democrat. Since the total number of representatives is controlled by statute, and not specified in the Constitution, the added member for Utah would presumably be permissible. However, there is doubt whether D.C. can be given a voting representative without a Constitutional amendment.