Today marks the 115th Congress’s third consecutive district work week during which 9th District House of Representatives member Morgan Griffith declined to hold in-person town halls. Conservative talk radio host John Fredericks recently criticized Republican members of Congress who refused to hold constituent town halls during the April recess. Fredericks said, “I think Republican congressmen that refuse to hold legitimate town hall meetings in legitimate areas and open it up in big venues are really missing the boat on this. I think they owe it to their constituents. They owe it to everybody.” Unfortunately, Morgan Griffith doesn’t agree. He explained to the Roanoke Times that in a large, 29 locality district such as the Ninth, town hall meetings are not the best way to hear constituents’ concerns. The last time Congressman Griffith held an in-district town hall was November 2011.
I think our founders would agree that effectively representing a large congressional district of 729,000 constituents is daunting. The real problem, they might argue, is not just that the Ninth is too big. It is that the House of Representatives is too small. Congressman Griffith, being a student of the Constitution, knows that our founding document does not limit the House’s size. Instead, it limits the ratio of representatives to constituents. The founders intended the House of Representatives to grow with the population. However, the last time House membership grew was in 1920 when it went from 391 members to 433 (it reached its current 435 members when Arizona and New Mexico became states). Each House member represented approximately 200,000 constituents. By that math, today’s Ninth District should be three separate districts, making it much more realistic for Congressman Griffith and two other representatives to meet constituents face-to-face. It may also solve another big problem.
By that math today’s Ninth District should be three separate districts, making it much more realistic for Congressman Griffith and two other representatives to meet constituents face-to-face.
In their January 23, 2011 New York Times Op-ed, Dalton Conley and Jacqueline Stevens argued that this persistent under representation amplifies the influence of special interests and lobbyists. In large districts such as Griffith’s, it is easy for money to drown out so many individual constituent voices. For a member of Congress such as Griffith, who received about two-thirds of his most recent campaign contributions from special interest groups like the Koch Industries, Inc. PAC and the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, campaign contribution influence is a real concern. It is hard to imagine that these special interest groups have as difficult of a time scheduling face time with Congressman Griffith. Something is amiss when groups located outside the district may get more face time and legislative consideration than the constituents Congressman Griffith represents.
Facing under representation and Congressman Griffith’s apparent timidness in the arena of public discourse, Pulaski’s 9th District Constituents have a few options:
- Call the Christiansburg district office at 381-5671. Add your name to his small group meeting wait list. During an upcoming recess you and 4-6 others will have a 30 minute opportunity to sit down with Mr. Griffith. There’s also a meeting request form available on Mr. Griffith’s website.
- Visit the district staff traveling office hours. They’re held monthly at the Dublin Town Office and Pulaski County Library.
- Sign up for the Congressman’s weekly e-newsletter. It is a good way to receive the traveling office hours and keep up with Mr. Griffith’s viewpoint on important legislative issues.
- Follow Congressman Griffith’s voting record using two free apps – Countable and VoteSpotter. Both allow you to approve or disapprove of his voting record, send written comments, and learn how your senators have voted. VoteSpotter has the added benefit of tracking state senators and delegates as well.
Constituents who are specifically concerned about Congressman Griffith’s ability to hear their voice and represent them fairly should contact the Washington, DC office. Urge Congressman Griffith to engage larger numbers of constituents in public discourse, sponsor legislation to expand the House of Representatives, and/or reform campaign finance law. Call the direct number at 202-225-3861 or email Legislative Director Robert Hamill at email@example.com.