A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky retains its six members of the U.S. House of Representatives; seven states lose a seat

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

While the 2020 Census results mean Kentucky will remain with six members in its U.S. House delegation, that number has varied widely in the past.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the Senate has two members from each state, so with 50 states that means there are 100 Senators. But the formula for determining how many members each state has in the House of Representatives has changed several times over the years.

The Constitution says each state must have at least one member, but a state’s population determines how many more they are entitled to send to Washington.

U.S. House of Representatives

When provisions of the Constitution were adopted in 1789, the formula on House members was one representative for every 30,000 people. As the U.S. population grew, that formula quickly became unwieldy. For example, if the formula was still used today, membership of the House would be over 11,000.

Eventually, the number was set at 435, which is where it still is today.

There have been exceptions, most recently in 1959, when Alaska and Hawaii attained statehood. House membership was increased to 437 until reapportionment following the 1960 census, when it returned to 435.

As states have been added and the U.S. population shifted, states have seen their number go up and down. Kentucky is no exception. From statehood in 1792 until 1803, there were two House members from Kentucky, after which the number grew to six, the same as today.

After that, the Congressional delegation size from Kentucky changed after nearly every census for a number of decades.

In 1813 it reached 10. In 1823 there were 12 seats. 1833 gave Kentucky 13 House seats, which was the largest in state history. In 1843 it dropped to 10, and in 1863 there were nine. 1873 saw the number rise to 10, and to 11 in 1883, where it remained until 1933, when it fell back to nine.

In 1953 Kentucky had eight members in the House, which dropped to seven in 1963. That’s where it remained until 1993, when it fell to the current six.

For 2023, seven states are losing one seat each: California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Those gaining seats are Texas with two, and one each in Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon.

As has been the case the past few decades, the U.S. population is shifting out of the Northeast and Midwest and heading to the South and West. 

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