The urban/rural divide is strong in America. As the urban areas continue to grow and centralize power, it leaves the rural regions of states feeling abandoned and powerless.
The state senates used to serve as an equalizing factor in state government, representing geographic and economic regions rather than proportional populations, closely resembling the U.S. Senate.
This changed with the 1964 Supreme Court case, Reynolds v. Sims, which ruled that the electoral districts of state legislative chambers must be roughly equal in population.
Due to this ruling, there is practically no difference in purpose between the upper and lower chambers of congress because they both represent equal populations.
Since both chambers are population-based, every single bicameral legislature state except Minnesota has either complete Republican or Democrat legislative control, meaning both the house and senate are controlled by the same party.
Having two chambers of congress has become redundant because the initial purpose of the upper house has been made impossible by the federal government.
Due to the redundancy, states are better off moving to a unicameral legislature resembling Nebraska’s.
Nebraska is the only state that has transitioned from a bicameral to unicameral legislature, which has allowed the state to save money and streamline processes.
While the unicameral system is better when complying with the federal mandate, I believe the better alternative is to once again let state senators represent areas rather than populations.
The best way to illustrate my argument is with a state with diverse regions and a single massive population center, so I will be using New York.
New York has regions dominated by farming, mining, manufacturing and other rural occupations and lifestyles. These regions are completely overshadowed by the massive metropolis of NYC.
Only around 30% of New York citizens live outside of the NYC metropolitan area and are subject to the demands of people who are completely apathetic to upstate concerns.
Why should rural families be subject to the irrelevant and uneducated whims of a bunch of people crammed into a city?
The New York state government used to actually care about the issue of urban tyranny and had delegated state senators by area rather than by population, but that was eliminated with Reynolds v. Sims. As a result, NYC politics dominates upstate New York.
The purpose of the state senate should be to protect the rights of the rural minority and grant them representation.
The Navajo reservation in Arizona deserves its own representation in the Arizona Senate instead of being lumped together with cities with different cultures just to meet population requirements.
Mining regions in Nevada should have greater representation in the Nevada Senate.
Farming regions in Illinois should not be dominated by the urban juggernaut of Chicago.
The abolishment of area-based representation is reaching a boiling point and has led to the rise of numerous state partition movements across the country.
Upstate New York wishes to split from NYC. Eastern Washington wants to be separate from the Seattle-centric West. Eastern Oregon and Northern California wish to join Idaho in the Greater Idaho movement.
These partitions cannot even occur unless they get approval from the respective state legislatures, which as has just been covered, are unlikely to consider their requests.
So, the rural regions will continue to be held captive and subject to unappreciated legislation.
This frustration can be mostly remedied by simply balancing the urban and rural powers by once again letting the states use area-based delegation.
Allowing the rural minority to have a voice that matters will help heal the divide within states.
The current lack of rural protection strains urban/rural relations and increases the political division within America.
While I advocate for this change, it is important to not let the disproportionality get out of hand.
During the worst of the pre-Reynolds v. Sims era, one Nevada senator represented 127,000 people while another represented just 568 people.
Rural tyranny can be just as damaging as urban tyranny. The goal must be to balance the demands of both sides, rather than allow one to completely dominate the other with the systemic oppression that exists within the current system.
The Reynolds v. Sims case was decided long ago and much more urbanization has occurred that was not considered at the time of the ruling. I think it is time that this topic be revisited.
An area and population-based bicameral state legislature system would allow for the balance of urban and rural powers and would provide more groups with the representation they deserve.