by Tim Storey
I would hazard a guess that only a very small number of The Thicket's most loyal readers could tell you, off the top of their heads, how many legislators serve in the 50 state legislatures. And most of those folks are sitting in offices here at NCSL. As of today, there are 7,382 state legislative seats plus another 195 in the District of Columbia and the territories and commonwealths. But that's about to change.
Every ten years following the redistricting cycle, a handful of states have changed the size of the legislature. In 1964 before the "reapportionment revolution" in legislatures, there were 7,838 legislative seats. In 1974, following the 1970's redistricting, there were 7,563 state legislators. In 1984, there were 7,438, and it dropped to 7,424 after the 90's redistricting.
It wasn't just redistricting that drove these numbers. In the 1960s and 70s legislative reformers argued that reducing the size of the legislature would make them more efficient and effective, and a number of states followed this advice.
7,382 has been the number of seats in legislatures for the past decade. But now, for the first time in almost 50 years, the number of legislators is about to increase...by one senator. As part of the new redistricting maps adopted by New York, the Empire State Senate will go from 62 to 63 seats. Some states have considered reducing the size of the legislature, but now, with the 2010 redistricting cycle mostly complete, New York appears to be the only state to alter the size of either chamber.
So, with the addition of one new desk on the floor of the New York Senate following this fall's election, there will be 7,383 total legislative seats in the United States for the next ten years.
Those 7,383 legislators will represent nearly 314 million Americans. That's an average of roughly 42,500 constituents per state legislator in 2013. Compare that to 100 years ago when the population was less than one-third what it is today and there were about the same number of legislators (in only 48 states). In 1912, there were 7,257 legislators representing an average of 12,700 constituents.
The table below shows changes in size of the total of all legislative seats from decade to decade back to the 1940s.