In a Washington Post op/ed, Annie Lowrey muses about how the U.S. Senate might be reconfigured to represent voters according to interests other than which state they live in. After all, we're already geographically represented in Washington by Congressional District.
What if senators were elected on a different basis? The possibilities beg for a graphical rendering.
Imagine a chamber in which senators were elected by different income brackets -- with two senators representing the poorest 2 percent of the electorate, two senators representing the richest 2 percent and so on.
Based on Census Bureau data, five senators would represent Americans earning between $100,000 and $1 million individually per year, with a single senator working on behalf of the millionaires (technically, it would be two-tenths of a senator). Eight senators would represent Americans with no income. Sixteen would represent Americans who make less than $10,000 a year, an amount well below the federal poverty line for families. The bulk of the senators would work on behalf of the middle class, with 34 representing Americans making $30,000 to $80,000 per year.
Lowery never goes so far as to propose a change. But think about it. Beyond the current imbalance of Wyoming and New York having equal clout in the senate, there are plenty of people living in places where they might feel they aren't represented by their elected officials.
I live in the 5th Congressional District of Minnesota, so I'm reasonably well-represented by Keith Ellison, Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar. But conservative blogger Mitch Berg on the other side of the metro could reasonably argue he has no representation in Washington.
He could move north or south and find Michele Bachmann or John Kline, but why should he have to? Who, besides our Founders, say our interests today are so bound up in our state of residence?
Would we be any better off under an electoral system that apportioned representation according to age, income, race or employment status?
The questions are provocative, but other than posing how the balance might shift under other schemes, Lowery doesn't dig into what the differences might make in real elections or the functionality of the Hill.