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A congressional district averages 710,000 people. Moreover, 435 representatives is too few to be allocated fairly among the states. A district in Rhode Island has 528,000 people while the one in Montana has 994,000.

Large congressional districts are costly—more ways than one

Because the average congressional district contains about 275,000 households, it’s physically impossible for a House candidate to campaign door-to-door to let voters know who he is and what he stands for. He has no choice but to use to mass media campaigns. Expensive campaigns. Campaigns carefully crafted by consultants to make a candidate look great. Campaigns carefully crafted to smear an opponent.

In 2010 running for the U.S. House of Representatives cost over $1 million. To fund a campaign every 2 years, a congress person needs to raise $10,000 per week. The only way that’s possible is to find those willing to contribute large sums. And who might they be? Well-off businesses, organizations and people who will want the congressman’s attention in the future and are willing to pay for the privilege.

The filter: Only the ethically-challenged need apply

So here’s the deal. Through the election process we hire a person to speak for us and to look out for our interests within our national government. That’s how representative democracy is supposed to work. We—that is you and I, the taxpayers—pay them a $174,000 salary to work for us. We supply them with offices, staff and a generous expense allowance. Total cost per representative (and I use that term loosely) runs well north of $ 1 million a year.

Our elected representative then spends roughly half his time raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from wealthy people and organizations. He has no choice. If he doesn’t raise the money, he loses his job in the next election. And it’s a great job. No regular hours. Short work week. No deliverables.

There is a serious, built-in ethical problem. Some of the time the interests of the big money contributors and interests of the constituents are the same. More often, they are not. This is an obvious conflict of interest. What this means is that only someone without a strong moral compass can succeed as a representative.

80 to 90 percent usually reelected...400 safe seats

If we hire our own representatives, why don’t we just fire them when they sell out?

First, incumbents enjoy a huge funding advantage. Once big money is satisfied that a congressman understands the rules, they see no point in taking a risk on a new player so money flows to incumbents. Powerful committee members do even better than others. Republican or Democrat matters not. The hot issue is whether a candidate will be sympathetic to the pressing needs of wealthy businesses, organizations and people.

Second, it is estimated that almost 400 of the 435 congressional districts have been drawn so that they are either safe Republican or safe Democratic seats. Both parties share the blame. Elections have become less about liberal or conservative government philosophy and more about efficiently dividing the plunder within the political class.

Thus, a challenger not only has to overcome a money disadvantage, he has to win over an electorate which has been carefully selected to favor the other political party.

Voters in the dark

Most voters must rely on name recognition and political party affiliation when they choose a candidate. There is little other meaningful information or commentary available to them.

The candidate’s highly intrusive mass media marketing campaign is not particularly useful for making a reasoned decision. Quite the contrary. Also, because a representative is not a big enough fish for in-depth coverage, news media isn't very helpful either. Frequently news reports originate with a congressman's own press releases—photos of a ribbon cutting or ground breaking ceremony. Sometimes they send reports to constituents about major votes and what they have done for the district and its people.

As the parties have grown more extreme, moderate Americans often find neither major candidate is particularly appealing. A desire to express disapproval by voting against an incumbent is forestalled because the candidate of the other party is too far outside of the voter’s political comfort zone.

It’s not so surprising that 60 percent of eligible voters stayed away from the polls in the 2010 midterm election. Large districts make it impossible for voters to make an informed decision. A seriously bad sign for our democracy.