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United States Politics

The US Redrawn As 50 Equally Populated States 642

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-things-being-equal dept.
First time accepted submitter Daniel_Stuckey writes "Bam! For anyone that's paid a speck of attention to the tedium of political redistricting, which happens while a state grows unevenly, (and must dynamically respond to density, electorate disparity, natural resources and ridgelines, etc.), this is straight out of some psychedelic dream. For Democrats, it could be straight out of a nightmare. That's because Freeman's map necessitates 50 equally populous United States. His methods for creating the map are explained thusly: 'The algorithm was seeded with the fifty largest cities. After that, manual changes took into account compact shapes, equal populations, metro areas divided by state lines, and drainage basins. In certain areas, divisions are based on census tract lines... The suggested names of the new states are taken mainly from geographical features.'"
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The US Redrawn As 50 Equally Populated States

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  • Fresh Starts (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @11:22AM (#42928337)

    I've always loved these thought experiments, carving up the world into new and improved political alignments. This stemmed from encountering C. Etzel Pearcy's proposed 38 State map [tjc.com] published in the 1975 People's Almanac; his notions of a better functioning nation arising from a more equitable distribution of state alignments really had an impact on me, growing up as I did on the mostly barren east side of Oregon, and listening to my elders constantly complaining about getting shafted via taxes by the moneygrubbers in Portland/Salem/Eugene. The Almanac also featured another new map of the US, with 22 states I think; can't find any info about it at the moment though.

    Also an interesting read was Joel Garreau's book The Nine Nations of North America, [wikipedia.org] which was more about the cultural mass regions that make up the continent.

  • Re:What?! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AuMatar (183847) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @11:37AM (#42928455)

    Of course they do. See Wyoming- a single person's vote in Wyoming is worth 3/563000 =5.32e-6 of an electoral vote (based on 2012 census data). A vote in California is worth 55/37200000= 1.47e-6 votes. A person in Wyoming is worth 4 times as much. That's completely unfair.

    Now historically it makes sense- it dates back to right post revolution where we were really 13 nations who decided to band together into 1, and it was a compromise to get the small states to go along with it. It stopped making sense when we became a real nation beyond point of breakup- basically after the civil war it was outdated. Now, due to geography its a system that's totally unfair.

  • Re:Place names (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Sunday February 17, 2013 @11:54AM (#42928581)

    Geography is beautiful. I made this my wallpaper yesterday.

    It is pretty neat, but it still reflects 18th century thinking. If I look at my interests, beliefs, and the political issues that are important to me, my geographical location has little to do with it. Congresspeople shouldn't represent geographical regions, but specific groups of people, where ever they are. So every two years we hold an election, the top 435 get elected, and their constituents are the specific people that voted for them. Their vote in congress should be proportional to their number of constituents. What would be even better, is if an elected representative isn't keep promises, a voter should be able to go to a website, and switch to another.

  • Re:The Problem... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DerekLyons (302214) <(fairwater) (at) (gmail.com)> on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:11PM (#42928729) Homepage

    Oh, indeed. Ogalla isn't much better off than Salt Lake. Northern Canaveral is going to be equally unhappy being dominated by the southern portion. Shasta on the other hand will be dominated by *it's* northern half. Half or more of the map seems to be deliberately created to encourage regional political warfare.

    And I wish you could zoom in further... So Cal looks to be pretty hinky, and New England is unreadable at this scale.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:14PM (#42928749)

    Yes, tyranny by a well-educated, moral, personally invested minority is better ('republic').
    There is no way in hell that you would get anything close to those characteristics with a tyranny by majority ('mob rule', aka 'pure democracy').
    With a minority, there is at least a chance at a decent governing body.
    To put it bluntly, people are stupid, paranoid, busy with their own small problems. They don't have the time or the skill to deal with law, economics, or even credit card debt.

    First few decrees passed by pure-democracy government:
    1. print off all national debt.
    2. no alcohol tax
    3. legalize all drugs
    4. simplify the legal codex to a third-grade reading level, cut it down to pamphlet size, and get rid of anything a third grader wouldn't understand.
    5. [minority repression and international screw-ups go here]

    It looks like what you're suggesting is a 'tyranny by the half-decently educated majority', which cares about a voice in government, can organize itself into parties, and might be able to make an agenda.
    The next time you want to suggest 'rule by majority', look up mental health statistics. Start with schizophrenia.

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:16PM (#42928781)

    It's true that the Electoral College somewhat overrepresents small rural states. This is because each state's electoral votes is equal to the size of its Congressional delegation, and all states have 2 Senators regardless of size. (Also, the smallest states still have 1 Representative, no matter how minuscule their population.)

    But that problem really doesn't come up too often. It did in 2000, to be sure, but in every other instance in the past century, the Electoral College results had the same winner as the popular vote results. A much more serious issue is that the Electoral College gives rise to the phenomenon of "swing states."

    Defenders of the Electoral College often claim that if it was abolished, then Presidential candidates would only bother campaigning in the big states and ignore everyone else. But under the current situation, we have an even worse situation: the campaigns are largely restricted to a handful of states that happen to be almost evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. That means that if you live in New York or California or Texas, you'll be essentially ignored through the whole Presidential campaign. On the other hand, if you live in Ohio, there is no end to the amount of pandering the parties will do to get your vote. The current situation results in a vast majority of the American people being written off as irrelevant to a Presidential campaign! This is one way we wind up with crappy policy like ethanol subsidies: they play really well in Midwestern swing states, so no one with Presidential aspirations will dare to challenge them.

  • Re:What?! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by afgam28 (48611) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:27PM (#42928889)

    I think it's possible to accept that 1) there are damned good historical reasons and 2) that those historical reasons no longer apply and the system should change. Your post has brings some interesting historical facts, but history only explain problems; it doesn't justify them.

  • Re:Place names (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Third Position (1725934) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:45PM (#42929037)

    Actually, a similar system seems to work ok for the Catholic Church, which could be considered as a non-geographically oriented political entity, complete with it's own laws, court system, a voluntary constituency which also funds it's operations voluntarily through their own contributions. Not shabby, especially when you consider it's lasted for 2000 years, which is longer than any government has.

  • by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:54PM (#42929109)

    Many countries, not just the U.S.A., have provisions that legislation must be passed by both a majority of population and a majority of geography. Hence congress allocated by population, but each state has two senators, whether it's Wyoming or California.

    Canada doesn't. Our Senate [wikipedia.org] is appointed by population (by regions on paper, but by population in practice), so Ontario has the most MPs and the most senators. Here in B.C. we have similar issues: the vast majority of the population live in the southwestern corner of the province, but the happening industry is in the northeast, which feels more kinship with neighbouring Alberta. Including using the same time zone.

    We've also looked at proportional representation [wikipedia.org] in B.C., but that didn't get off the ground. I would have welcomed it.

    ...laura

  • by LihTox (754597) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:02PM (#42929175)

    I haven't run the numbers, but the electoral college favors less populous states by guaranteeing a minimum of 3 electoral votes. California has 66 times the population of Wyoming but only 18 times the number of electoral votes. My initial guess would be that the voters in rural Western states (Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas, Idaho, etc) would lose clout in this scheme, and those are all Republican strongholds.

    However, the 10 least populous states (+DC) are Wyoming (R), Vermont (D), DC (D), North Dakota (R), Alaska (R),
    South Dakota (R), Delaware (D), Montana (R), Rhode Island (D), and New Hampshire (swing)
    So that's a 50-50 split pretty much: both parties benefit from the electoral college.

    The top 10 states are California (D), Texas (R), New York (D), Florida (swing), Illinois (D), Pennsylvania (swing), Ohio (swing), Georgia (R), Michigan (D?), and North Carolina (swing?). So 4 D, 2 R, and 4 swing states (depending on how you define them): so maybe the Dems suffer a bit from the electoral college at this end of the spectrum.

    The hard question is what happens when you split these states up: Atlanta freed from the rest of Georgia goes blue, but the middle of Pennsylvania goes red without Philly and Pittsburgh, etc. So maybe the article is right that when you run the numbers it disadvantages Democrats, but I'd be interested to see the analysis because I don't understand how you come to the conclusion that this favors Republicans without it.

    (I know this isn't a serious proposal so apologies for geeking out over it. :)

  • Re:Place names (Score:4, Interesting)

    by godrik (1287354) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:07PM (#42929221)

    "Congresspeople shouldn't represent geographical regions, but specific groups of people, where ever they are. So every two years we hold an election, the top 435 get elected, and their constituents are the specific people that voted for them."

    That's an interesting idea. But the problem is that you need to rewrite the constitution to a fundamental level to achieve that. You are pretty much talking about abolishing the notion of "state" and the "federal" governement does everything. Good luck convincing people to make a new constitution.

    Disclaimer: I live in the USA but I am a foreigner. So my understanding of the organization of the state and federal government is limited.

  • Re:What?! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @02:11PM (#42929763) Journal

    Even in the mid 19th century Walter Bagehot in his great defence of the Westminster system; The English Constitution, saw the US electoral college as a failed institution that had never really fulfilled its intended function.

  • Re:Place names (Score:5, Interesting)

    by demonlapin (527802) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @02:25PM (#42929849) Homepage Journal
    Incidentally,

    welfare states where they're contributing far less to the federal tax receipts than they're receiving in tax dollars

    is a very tired meme. The federal government spends most of its money on defense, interest, and income transfers, of which Social Security and Medicare are by far the largest. The red states get the defense dollars because the South has warm weather year-round and the West has cheap land for bombing ranges and secrecy. The red states get income transfers because, well, they're full of retirees (and, to a lesser extent, poor people).

    If you want a properly indexed graph, check out this [economist.com], which is the net flow of federal dollars as a percentage of each state's GDP over the past 20 years. Notice that the three mega-reds are West Virginia (poor whites), Mississippi (poor blacks), and New Mexico (poor Indians), and that there's a lot of red down the Eastern Seaboard, where the Northeast retirees go, and in the Mountain West, where the California retirees go.

    Are you suggesting that means-testing Social Security and Medicare is on the table for the Democratic Party? Because I'd totally be on board with that. Hell, if the Democrats are going to become fiscally responsible, I'll become one. I'm tired of the Jesus freaks in the R column anyway.

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