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Tweaking The Math Behind Political Representation 322

Posted by timothy
from the as-nature-intended dept.
mlimber writes "Nature magazine's news section has an interesting story about how the seats in the US House of Representatives should be divided up. The problem is that the population isn't evenly divided by the number of seats in the House (435). So how should one allocate the fractional parts? The current method tends to favor big states, while a recent proposal by a mathematician is for what he calls a 'minimally unfair' allotment. He is predicting 'one person, one vote' challenges on this topic in the near future."
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Tweaking The Math Behind Political Representation

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  • eh... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Richard.g.k (1215362) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:12PM (#21991438)
    Is there anything new in this article? people have been complaining about congress seat inequality forever...
    • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:29PM (#21991688) Homepage
      Of all the problems in the US electoral system, this is undoubtably the least important.

      A vastly more critical glitch is that it is possible to draw congressional boundaries in such a way as to increase the influence of demographics tending toward electing one party and decrease the influence of the demographics tending toward the other, and the people who have the power to redraw districts barely even bother to hide the fact that they're doing so anymore. Solving that glitch with a means to draw boundaries that is guaranteed to be impartial, so that the elected representatives actually did reflect the preferences of the people electing them-- now that would be a serious improvement to democracy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by thirty-seven (568076)
        To prevent gerrymandering, have independent boundary commissions to redistrict after every census. Make one of their priorities be to keep historic and geographic communities-of-interest together when drawing districts. As a part of this, allow for greater differences between districts' populations (say, up to 15%) in order to allow for nice, neat districts that follow county lines, city limits, or established neighbourhoods in big cities.

        Yes, gerrymandering would be just as technically possible under m

        • One potential drawback in your system is that substantial minority populations, which may be spread across multiple districts but not large enough to take a seat in any individual district, may fail to gain any seats in any district (i.e no representation whatsoever), even though there may be enough of them in the aggregate to warrant a minority number of seats. This would be particularly true in a "winner take all" system where all of the seats in a district or if the district only has one seat goes to the
          • One potential drawback in your system is that substantial minority populations, which may be spread across multiple districts but not large enough to take a seat in any individual district, may fail to gain any seats in any district (i.e no representation whatsoever), even though there may be enough of them in the aggregate to warrant a minority number of seats. This would be particularly true in a "winner take all" system where all of the seats in a district or if the district only has one seat goes to the winner with the runners up getting nothing.

            Yes, many people consider that a problem, but it is a general problem in systems with single-member districts and no proportional representation, like the current system in the U.S. (and in Canada and the UK, my other examples), whether or not they have non-partisan redistricting or politicized gerrymandering. This problem is a common argument in favour of proportional representation.

            I have also heard this problem used as an argument in favour of gerrymandering. The idea is that you could gerrymander s

        • by JaySSSS (859968)
          "To prevent gerrymandering, have independent boundary commissions to redistrict after every census."

          This won't solve anything, because census data is not very accurate. The Constitution only authorizes Congress to require that numbers of people be collected. Other information, such as race, income, or any other measurement are voluntary. Many people either do not provide additional information, or deliberately mis-represent the data. I for one only provide the data is required by the Constitution, becau
          • This won't solve anything, because census data is not very accurate. The Constitution only authorizes Congress to require that numbers of people be collected. Other information, such as race, income, or any other measurement are voluntary. Many people either do not provide additional information, or deliberately mis-represent the data.

            I agree that census data can be incorrect in terms of population and especially in terms of other measures like race and income. However:

            • My proposal is not any more reliant on census population data than the current systems used in the U.S. In fact, inaccurate population data seem like a good argument against the current obsession of U.S. redistricting with getting district populations as close as possible, above all other considerations.
            • Any inaccuracies with other census data, like race and income, d
        • by tsotha (720379)

          I see two problems with this scheme. The first is what mechanism ensures the boundary comission does its job impartially? My impression is "independent" or "nonpartisan" positions and groups are a figment of poly-sci theory. Never seen one in the real world. I don't see anything in your proposal that would eliminate gerrymandering.

          In fact, it would be much worse. By allowing differences in district populations, you've created another degree of freedom for people who want to game the system. Off the t

          • I see two problems with this scheme. The first is what mechanism ensures the boundary comission does its job impartially? My impression is "independent" or "nonpartisan" positions and groups are a figment of poly-sci theory. Never seen one in the real world.

            I agree that there is nothing in my proposal that will technically prevent gerrymandering, as I acknowledged in my original post, but I strongly disagree with your assertion that independent or non-partisan groups are "never seen in the real world". My own experience is that they are commonplace. I reason I included links to maps of current districts in parts of Canada was to provide some evidence of this.

            I expected this particular criticism. In my experience, people often get the government they

      • I think we should goto a group representative democracy. Many other countries have this, essentially if your political party has 10% support they get 10% of the representation.
        Geographic representation is pretty pointless in this interconnected world, though with our representative system we should probably do it per state, which would put the small states at a disadvantage as only a few of its political parties could be represented in congress (with only 3 representatives) versus larger states which could
    • by Lane.exe (672783)
      Not to mention that it was sort of the point that more populous states would enjoy greater representation in the House. The Senate is the balance to that.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      I just want to know who the one person is who gets the one vote. They're the person I want to find.
    • The idea that this can be appealed because of "one man one vote" is goofy - it's in the Constitution itself, not a separate statute. Otherwise the entire Electoral College system would be gone in a puff of logic. But that system was designed into the Constitution by the Framers themselves. They had a political reality in which they lived. It CAN be changed but you'll need an amendment to do that or a new Constitutional Convention, a scary thought in these times. I doubt we could find enough people who even
  • by wpegden (931091) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:13PM (#21991446)
    Once they get this little pesky problem fixed, our government will be awesome!
  • How many delegates went to Vermin Supreme?
  • by Naughty Bob (1004174) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:22PM (#21991588)
    From TFA-

    The method ... doesn't necessarily come up with unique solutions -- there could be many ways to achieve equal 'unfairness'.
    So basically, any re-jigging using this method will arbitrarily (or otherwise) favor one state over another, with no rationale. Additionally, it would likely mire the US electoral process in endless legal challenges. And we can't have that! (waka waka waka)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192)
      As I understand it, it's essentially a rounding problem. So why don't we just give states fractional seats and let their fractional representatives cast fractional votes?
  • Correction (Score:5, Informative)

    by sharp-bang (311928) <sharp.bang.slash ... m ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:23PM (#21991610) Homepage
    The current method doesn't favor big states. FTA, "the current method has an inherent bias towards giving small states a boost up".
    • Re:Correction (Score:4, Informative)

      by taniwha (70410) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:46PM (#21991940) Homepage Journal
      yup - somewhere like Wyoming with a population of 1/453 already gets more representation per person than someone in California (it has about 2/3 or 1/453 of the US population)
      • eu parliament (Score:3, Interesting)

        by erlehmann (1045500)
        this problem is even more evident in the european union, look at the "relative influence" table on the right.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apportionment_in_the_European_Parliament [wikipedia.org]
        • by wish bot (265150)
          This table borders on 'silly' for what it is trying to suggest - despite that Luxembourg has a greater number MP's per population, the fact that they only have 6 MP's compared to Germany's 99 does not mean that a person in Luxembourg has 12x the influence in the Union than a person in Germany (like the table suggests). There has probably been a minimum number of MP's determined that allows them some effective influence in the Union (or that a coalition of smaller states could influence important votes), and
      • by sumdumass (711423)
        I'm not sure what your getting at here. The constitution says with the exception of the original 13 colonies, that there will be one representative for thirty thousand people and that each state will have at least one representative.

        what am I missing here? 1/453 and 2/3? I'm not sure what that is supposed to mean?
        • Re:Correction (Score:4, Insightful)

          by DragonWriter (970822) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @07:39PM (#21992678)

          The constitution says with the exception of the original 13 colonies, that there will be one representative for thirty thousand people and that each state will have at least one representative.


          No, it doesn't. It says that (except for the period prior to the first Census, for which it spells out exact by-state representation) each state will have a number of representatives assigned in proportion to population based on a census count, except that each state will have at least one representative. It further states that the total number of representatives shall not be greater than 1 for every 30,000 people (that's not that the number will be 1/30,000: if that was the rule, the House would have, based on the 2000 census, 9,381 members — which would certainly reduce the voting-power impact of rounding problems from fractional seats.)

      • somewhere like Wyoming with a population of 1/453 already gets more representation per person than someone in California


        Wyoming has (per the 2000 Census apportionment count), ~1/568 (~0.176%) of the US population. It has 1/435 (~0.230%) of the seats in the House of Representatives.

        California has ~12.06% of the population, ~12.18% of the seats in the House.

        I'm not seeing a lot of favoritism toward big states here.
        • by tsotha (720379)
          I agreee. Besides any minisule difference in the House is completely swamped by the difference in the Senate, where Wyoming's .088% has the same power as California's 6.03%.
      • by ari_j (90255)
        Yes, Wyoming's solitary Representative is really keeping California's contingent of 53 from getting any work done.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by CodeBuster (516420)
          That single representative could be quite influential, especially if he was very senior in years of service and was on the important committees compared to 53 more junior members from a larger state. This is why smaller states tend to elect the same guy over and over again because it increases their chances of getting more and better goodies in disproportionate amounts to their actual population or influence. Seniority matters in Congress.
  • by jfengel (409917) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:23PM (#21991612) Homepage Journal
    The article starts by noting that California dominates the House of Representatives, but this doesn't really change that fact. Tweaking a seat up or down does change things a bit, especially where the electoral college is concerned, but the real problem is gerrymandering. Seats end up being permanently allocated to one party or another, with the incumbent enjoying an immense advantage.

    If you want to fix a problem, come up with a better algorithm for drawing district boundaries. Right now the party in charge DOES use an algorithm, one designed to create the pessimal boundaries that ensure its maximum advantage.

    Of course, there are many such algorithms, and no matter how fair they are the legislature would vote to choose whichever one favors them best.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DragonWriter (970822)

      If you want to fix a problem, come up with a better algorithm for drawing district boundaries.

      If you want to fix a problem, design a system where the drawing of district boundaries doesn't matter much instead of one where it does. Its easier to do, for one thing: simply increase the number of seats per district, and adopt a preference voting system that generates proportional results, like STV. This makes it difficult to do much to ensure "safe" seats or enhance partisan advantage by messing with district

      • If you want to fix a problem, design a system where the drawing of district boundaries doesn't matter much instead of one where it does


        There is one, and some states used it until (I think) the Supremes ruled it out: members are elected "at large," instead of representing specific districts and share the responsibility for representing the entire population of the state among them.

    • by jpfed (1095443)
      I wonder whether gerrymandering could be hindered by specifying that each district must have at most a particular perimeter/area ratio in miles^-1. This could force districts into rounder/ more convex shapes.
    • by xzvf (924443)
      You are correct about gerrymandering. But in addition, congressional districts are getting too large. Since they were capped at 435 districts have grown to nearly 700000 people each. Making money for TV adds the primary way to reach constituants. Its already too large for a Congressman to really know his/her distric and will only get worse. In addition population density is also an issue. In Wyoming running for congress is the same as running for govenor. While in NYC, its like running for city counc
  • by nebaz (453974) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:29PM (#21991702)
    From article I
    The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand

    A house of representatives with 10,000 people might actually be unwieldy enough to actually have to do business, rather than listen to speeches all the time.

    • "Shall not exceed" is not the same thing as "shall be"; X <=Y is very different than X = Y.
    • The house of representatives with 10,000 people might actually be unwieldy enough to actually have to do business, rather than listen to speeches all the time.

      The New Hampshire House has 375 to 400 members. NH House of Representatives [state.nh.us] They are each paid $200 a year.

      New Hampshire has a population of 1,315,000. New Hampshire Quick Facts [census.gov]

      In such a system, where do you think the real power lies?

      a) with the executive and the 24 member New Hampshire Senate
      b) with the House committees
      c) the party leadership

  • by micahfk (913465) <whiteaznguy@noSPAm.micahfk.com> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:30PM (#21991710) Homepage
    Of course, what the article fails to mention is that your vote is only worth so much depending on what state you live in. Remember, in the US, we elect through the electoral college which generally means (technically, the electors do not have to vote by what the people vote with an exception of a few states) your vote is counted within the state and not within the nation. So, how much is your vote worth? At the extreme ends, Wyoming, which has the least number of people for a state gets 3 electoral votes for about 500,000 people (0.0006%), whereas California has 55 for 38 million people (0.00001%).

    Therefore, for every 1 vote for a Republican in Wyoming, 60 votes for a Democrat in California are needed to cancel each other out. And this mathematician wants to make it more "fair" by giving more votes to smaller states?
    • by joggle (594025) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @07:07PM (#21992238) Homepage Journal

      Ummm, I only see one representative listed for Wyoming on the official US House of Representatives [house.gov] website. The guy wasn't suggesting adding representatives to Wyoming, but to Montana and some other states. Montana had a population of 902,195 in the 2000 census and 1 representative. That works out to a voting power of 0.00011% per person in Montana. California had a population of 33,871,648 and has 53 representatives (0.000156% per person).

      His model wasn't trying to be fair, just less unfair. To be fair Wyoming would either need a fractional vote or the size of the House would have to be increased until each person in the house represented about 500,000 people. Since this isn't possible from his model's point of view he does the next best thing (removing votes from large states that have fewer people per representative to smaller states that currently have more people per representative).

      With that said, I agree that small states don't need more representation in the House. They are more than adequately compensated by having 2 votes in the Senate. To put in perspective how powerful that is, imagine that even if San Francisco had 2 senators the Wyoming senators would still be representing fewer people. San Francisco has a population of about 750,000 (4th largest in California) vs. the population of 500,000 for the entire state of Wyoming.

    • by evanbd (210358)

      No, he wants to make the House of Representatives more fair. The House is supposed to be apportioned according to population, with each state receiving at least one representative. The Senate, on the other hand, has two representatives per state, regardless of population. Each state gets electoral votes equal to its representatives plus senators -- and that's where the small-state bias in the Presidential election comes from.

      If you want to remove that bias, change the number of electoral votes to be eq

    • by alan_dershowitz (586542) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @07:11PM (#21992298)
      Everything you say is true, but is not relevant to his definition of fairness. The Electoral College is not meant to be proportional to the population while the House of Representatives is. He's trying to make a system that was MEANT to be proportional more accurate, while you are arguing for a conceptual change to the system. His definition of "fair" is more procedural ("if it's supposed to be proportional, is it?") than yours, which is essentially political ("One Person One Vote is a better system than the Electoral College.") Not to say you aren't right, but he's a mathematician and not a politician so he's studying the former and not the latter.
    • by tsotha (720379)
      You're addressing a totally different point than the article. Of course representation in the Senate is unfair - it was designed to be unfair. The article is addressing representation in the House. The constitution invests congress with the vast bulk of government power - it doesn't make sense to ignore everything but the election of president.
  • by Presto Vivace (882157) <marshall@prestovivace.biz> on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:38PM (#21991814) Homepage Journal
    Did he mention Washington, DC [dcvote.org] in his mathematical formula?
  • Add more seats (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kcurtis (311610) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:38PM (#21991826)
    I have long thought the House should be larger. It is meant to be representative, but the sheer size of each district now means that entire populations go ignored. Think of a conservative enclave in a Democratic district, or vice versa. For example, the wealthy town of Grosse Point Shores is in a very liberal Detroit district. Do you think their views are taken seriously?

    I understand the cost involved - just the buildings alone will be a fortune. But consider how hard it is now for your representative to stay in touch with his or her constituency. The average size of a Congressional district is just below 650,000! That is three times what it was at the turn of the last century. Considering the minimum was set at 30,000, the current sizes are way out of whack compared to the probable intent.

    With 650,000 constituents,it really is no surprise how important campaign donations have become. Worried about lobbiests and PAC's? Well, here is the root of the problem. Yours is a voice in the crowd.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thrillseeker (518224)
      the wealthy town of Grosse Point Shores is in a very liberal Detroit district. Do you think their views are taken seriously?

      Yes, money always gets taken seriously by elected officials.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by exi1ed0ne (647852)

      I have long thought the House should be larger. It is meant to be representative, but the sheer size of each district now means that entire populations go ignored.

      That's why to a large extent the States (and even larger extent The People) were originally suppose to be the major government entity, with the Congress tasked with only 18 authorized jobs to do. One of those is to show up one day a year, since the framers thought that there wouldn't be enough work.

    • by merreborn (853723)

      I have long thought the House should be larger. I understand the cost involved - just the buildings alone will be a fortune. But consider how hard it is now for your representative to stay in touch with his or her constituency.

      As others have mentioned, at the original proportions used when the legislative branch was created, we'd need 10,000 representatives.

      Having all 10,000 attempt to meet in a single location is obviously absurd -- in a 12 hour meeting, each rep would have just 4.3 seconds to speak; the b

      • by pjt48108 (321212)
        You assume that, in this day and age, the Congress has to convene physically at all.

        With more seats, districts will be smaller.

        In smaller districts, less money is needed for campaigns.

        Stop sending representatives to DC, and have them serve from home, out of the clutches of PACs and special interests.

        Cut the pay to something rational. ...

        PROFIT! (sorry, had to throw that in).

        Seriously, there is a lot on this at www.thirty-thousand.org. Check it out and see how we've been shafted since 1910, when Congress sto
    • by tfoss (203340)
      While I don't necessarily disagree with you, do you think having a House of Representatives with 10,000 members would work? While there is a lot to be said for having smaller districts, and having a conservative government (in the sense of making changes difficult, not in the sense of right-leaning) is probably a good thing, I can't see how a legislative body an order of magnitude larger would really work.

      -Ted
  • The REAL problem (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jameskojiro (705701) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:39PM (#21991846) Journal
    Is gerry Mandering, we need a good mathematical formula for detirmining the SHAPE of the districts not who gets what.

    1. Divide each state into a grid of 1 mile by 1 mile "chunks"

    2. Find the population of each "chunk" using census data.

    3. Start in the Northern-West corner and start adding blocks to the district moving west to east and dropping down one row and changing direction each time you drop down.

    "Drop down, change direction and increase speed" Lurr from Anthology on Interest 2: Futurama

    4. When your population count hits what 1 representative can represent, start a new district.

    5. Repeat

    6. ????

    7. Profit from special interest kickbacks and pork barrel spending.
    • while your proposed system is unfeasible due to geography (square mile units? maybe that will work in Kansas, but not states with variations in geography-a major determiner of population distrobution), the main point of your post is well made...

      I agree completely, we need to draw congressional districts objectively. gerrymandering completely subverts the original (and very progressive) ideas about how the House should function. It's the most directly democratic part of the Federal Gov't.

      regarding TFA's pr
  • Third House (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 10, 2008 @06:47PM (#21991944)
    I think we should add a third house, composed of a random sample of people across the entire country. The term is three months, and the only way to come back to the seat is to be (miraculously) drawn again. The job would be to listen to time-limited debates (without involving themselves in the debate), and brainstorming a set of questions they would like answered for the second round of the debate.

    At the end, every law needs a majority vote in this new house in order to pass. Constitutional amendments require a 2/3rds or 3/4ths vote in order to pass.

    If you can't convince a random sample (including people of all national origins, races, religions, sexual orientations, etc.) that a law is a good idea, it simply doesn't pass. The limited term and not being directly involved in the debate (only listening and then X rounds of questions) means that politics and political shenanigans are reduced to a minimum.

    We also give this house the ability to override Presidental veto and Presdiential pardon/commutation. If 2/3rds of this house (alone) agrees that the President should not have vetoed a law or pardoned someone, then the President's action is null and void (i.e.: law passes, or person still goes to jail for obstruction of justice)

    What do you think?
    • by Al Dimond (792444)
      I think it's a great idea in principle. I think that lots of people would hate (like jury duty). I think that makes me like it even more.

      Having such a large and diverse group of people could lead to really unpredictable group dynamics, so there'd need to more formal processes than just brainstorming to generate questions. At the same time any professional moderators would have to be sure not to color the proceedings with their opinions. It would be hard.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by hawk (1151)
        It would actually give you the British House of Lords.

        After centuries of titles entitled to a seat there falling through various hands, it is probably the most diverse legislative body in the world. There are plenty of Lords with no property or income other than their stipend for attending Parliament.

        hawk
    • by ultracool (883965)
      That sounds like a good idea to me. I've been thinking for a while about a workable parliament composed of randomly selected people. I really despise the concept of career politicians and I would love to see their power diminished. What I really want is a system that eliminates them entirely, but I haven't thought of a practical way to do it yet.
    • That might work for approving laws/overriding vetos; however, pardons/commutations fall under the executive branch and giving Congress jurisdiction would violate the separation of powers, etc.
  • I noticed this article seemed to work under the constraint that there are exactly 435 members of the House. Why stick to this number? Larry J. Sabato deals with this and many other basic assumptions in the Constitution in his book A More Perfect Constitution [amoreperfe...tution.com]. (See bullet 5 for members of HOR.) He suggests that we conduct a new Constitutional Convention to revamp things. And he's not arguing that his 23 points are the absolute best choices, but rather a starting point in the discussion. I would love to
    • Some of his ideas are just bad.

      His desire to make the Senate more representative is just stupid. If the Senate is seen as a representative body then why have it? That's what the House is for. What we need to do with the Senate is go back to the original constitutional understanding that Senators represent the state legislatures, not the people of the state directly. We need to repeal the 17th amendment, it undermines the idea of our federal government as a blending of democratic and republican ideals.

      His id
      • Some of his ideas are just bad.

        Its been a month or so since I finished the book, but I don't remember any that were actually good. Still, he's right that the broad issues are ones that need to be discussed, and the Constitution shouldn't be viewed as some kind of unchangeable divine ordinance.

        His desire to make the Senate more representative is just stupid.

        Its also is the only thing that is still expressly prohibited to be done by amendment in the Constitution, so you can't actually do it.

        It would be better

    • He suggests that we conduct a new Constitutional Convention to revamp things.

      No way!

      There's no way another constitutional convention could ever happen these days and we would even get half as good a deal as the one we have now. We'd probably have all our same rights, there would just be plenty of wording in there that would let the government and corporate entities ignore them when they felt like it.

  • Dr Larry Sabato [virginia.edu] at the University of Virginia wrote a really interesting book that devotes some time to this subject, called A More Perfect Constitution [amazon.com]. He talks about the gerrymandering (fixing districts so the incumbent, or at least the same party, always wins) that goes on, and proposes some interesting solutions, including making the House 1000 members to be more representative of the actual population. This, he says, would have the effect of producing smaller constituencies, require less money for s
  • When districts are redrawn after the next census, if your state has a population calling for 4 and 9/13th seats in House of Reps...

    [scene: 5 representatives from state X being sworn in.]
    Congratulations! Now Mr. Representative #5, your honor, if you would just step this way...

    [off stage: chain saw noises]
  • After all, when do politicians not listen to reasoned scientific argument? Oh, shit, wait...
  • Typical typical typical.

    "Waaaah. The number of Representatives isn't MATHEMATICALLY PRECISE!!!!" Waaaaaah!"

    Compared to WHAT??? The SENATE??? Where Alaska gets as much representation as New York or Texas? Good Move. Oh, and then he says it favours big states...

    Hello! Reality calling! The SENATE is the OTHER HALF of the legislative branch - and it favours small states - by A LOT. So, frankly, I think the TINY big state bias in the house is VERY small potatoes compared to the obscenity of the Senate.

    se

  • "Using his method for populations in 2000, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Utah and Mississippi would each gain one seat; Texas, New York, Florida, Ohio and North Carolina would lose one; and California would lose three. "That could very well freak people out," says Edelman."

    So, basically "red" states would gain seats and "blue" states would lose them?

    At a quick glance, though, it does seem he has a point: Montanta has almost a million citizens per seat, while most states are around 700k.
    http://en.wikipedi [wikipedia.org]
    • I never realized that electoral votes are different than the number of representatives. With a minimum of 3 per state, some states have 1 vote per 200k +/- while populous states have 1 vote per 600k+/-. THAT is a system I'd like to see overhauled. Give each state one electoral vote per seat, or abolish it all together.


      Each state has one electoral vote per seat it has in the Congress.

      The Congress is not just the House of Representatives.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ChristTrekker (91442)

      Instant runoff is a bad system. Throwing away part of someone's preference is a sure way to record an inaccurate preference. You need to evaluate them all simultaneously not sequentially - a Condorcet method. A preference for 4th place over 5th is just as important as a preference for 1st place over 2nd. You can't throw away the former just because they were "low" numbers! You may think Al Gore and Ralph Nader both stink, but if you think Ralph stinks less, that should still count for something!

  • The Alabama Paradox (Score:3, Informative)

    by mblase (200735) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @07:24PM (#21992482)
    I'm surprised the article could discuss the mathematics of this without bringing up the Alabama paradox [wikipedia.org] of 1880. It's an interesting example of how, using otherwise correct and normal mathematical distribution, increasing the number of seats in the House can actually decrease the representatives for a specific state.
  • by nguy (1207026) on Thursday January 10, 2008 @07:58PM (#21992926)
    The current method tends to favor big states

    Yeah, and the current method of allocating senate seats is favoring little states big time. That's one of the reasons our agricultural policies are so messed up and why the little states are getting money from the big states.

    There's nothing to be "corrected" here, at least not until the allocation of senate seats is changed substantially.
  • The "one person, one vote" debate at the national level is misguided. Rather than adding more members to argue over things that the federal government shouldn't be involved in anyway, I'd prefer to see a higher percentage of our tax dollars collected and spent by the states. Then the issue of unfair representation at the federal level becomes less of a concern, and more attention can be focussed on local representatives solving local problems. Let the feds concentrate on foreign policy and national defense,
  • Legitimacy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Friday January 11, 2008 @01:00AM (#21995406)
    Any poly-sci major will tell you that the main purpose of elections is to grant the governing body "legitimacy". The idea is that if you say people voted for the government, people are more willing to accept governmental authority (if people didn't accept governmental authority, the government would not have any power). Since most people do not have a complete enough understanding of discrete mathematics to understand this problem, it will not grant the government any additional legitimacy and is therefore completely useless.

    As a side note, I would like to take this opportunity to complain that people too frequently equate democracy with freedom. There is nothing about a democracy that means that it increases your level of freedom. People in this country could vote to take away all my money and forcibly sterilize me, and it would be no less of an infringement on my basic freedoms than if some psychopath broke into my house, stole everything I had and cut my balls off.
  • This is not new (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slashname3 (739398) on Friday January 11, 2008 @10:09AM (#21998298)
    The founding fathers knew this. When they setup congress the House and Senate were created to make sure the smaller states did not get short shrift. All states get equal representation in the Senate. The House provided a way to give the states a measure of representation based on population.

    The posts complaining about gerrymandering have more of a point that trying to reallocate how the House is allocated. And if you want a really big problem that needs to be addressed then look no further than the electoral college. Of course that one depends on which side you fell on in the last couple of elections.

"Indecision is the basis of flexibility" -- button at a Science Fiction convention.

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