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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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  • by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @11:55AM (#42928137)

    Popular vote is the only method to accurately capture the desire of the entire population. It does NOT mean only the coasts will be visited since every vote counts those 10 democrats in Nebraska and the 5 republicans in Vermont now count for a national win.

  • Re:What?! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Abreu (173023) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:00PM (#42928177)

    Of course this is a much easier solution then just switching to popular vote...

    This is correct. The whole indirect voting systems like the US Electoral College were created to deal with the logistical problems of giving every citizen the vote.

    In this day and age, the only purpose of indirect elections is to give undue weight to rural areas.

  • by jfengel (409917) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:01PM (#42928183) Homepage Journal

    They're not states. One of his key design constraints was the Electoral College, and only states get to vote in the Electoral College.

    Washington, DC gets included since it does have EC votes. That messes with the Congressional representation, but he didn't make than explicit design constraint.

  • Re:What?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dasuraga (1147871) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:04PM (#42928203)
    The purpose of the electoral college was to avoid having the most important office in the federal gov't be victim to popular fervor. In a direct election, radicals can be too easily elected (see tea party). This system prevents that in theory (along with the voting system of the electors: in seperate areas. This prevented one guy from giving a moving speech and changing the minds of everyone.)
  • Re:What?! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kenh (9056) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:11PM (#42928261) Homepage Journal

    Rural areas don't have undue weight - how many rural states does it take to equal one OH, NY, FL, TX or CA? Electorally those states are monsters that decide who will be President - the rural areas do not have undue weight.

  • by Abreu (173023) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:12PM (#42928267)

    Right, because the US government has *always* being in hands of responsible adults...

  • by brianerst (549609) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:13PM (#42928275) Homepage

    Except we have exactly one national election - the Presidency - while we have hundreds of state-centered ones (Senators, Representatives, Governors and other state offices, State Representatives, etc.).

    While we certainly could create a parallel election system just for the Presidency, there are a number of reasons not to do it. The more important ones are federalism and triage - Slashdotters in general are unconvinced by the desirability or purpose of federal government (a unitary central state is so much more efficient - it's so clean from an engineering perspective!) and underestimate the worth of triage (we have had elections requiring recounts - a national recount would be a nightmare). The less important ones are cost and complexity - ever since the 2000 election we've been pouring money into electronic voting, better voter access, computerized counting systems, etc., etc. and the national voting system still sucks. Why does anyone think this would ever be done correctly?

  • The Problem... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:33PM (#42928413) Homepage

    This assumes people from different parts of the country are interchangable and are going to be happy no matter how you group them. The problem is that isn't the case; you think things are politically polarized now, a plan like this would be even worse.

    You think the people in Highway are going to be happy being governed by politicians in Oregon that doesn't really care what's going on in a set of islands hundreds of miles away because they massively outnumber them don't need their votes anyways? You think the people in Montana and Idaho are gonna be happy being controlled by the busybody Mormons in Utah? And Shiprock is probably going to have an actual shooting war when Lubbock and Abilene figure out that Austin is going to dominate them electorally.

  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:34PM (#42928427)

    This speaks to doing away with winner-take-all rules that many states have. I can pretty much guarantee that people living in central California have little in common with people living in downtown San Francisco, ideologically speaking. So why should the latter get to speak for the former? Yet in California, all electoral votes have been magically switched leading people to think the whole of California is liberal. I've been saying this for the past 20 years that the political divide in this country is not about Republican vs. Democrat. It's much more about ruralite vs. urbanite. When you look at election results broken down by county instead of by state, you see a much different picture. Urban districts generally vote liberal Democrat while rural districts vote conservative Republican. Party ideology aside, people in rural areas have vastly different priorities than those who live in cities. People who live in cities often are so full of themselves that they think only they know what's good for city dwellers as well as those who live in the country and they tend to impose legislation without having the slightest bit of experience living in the country.

  • Re:What?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pla (258480) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:41PM (#42928485) Journal
    The whole indirect voting systems like the US Electoral College were created to deal with the logistical problems of giving every citizen the vote.

    Uh, no.

    We have the electoral college because we live in a federated representational republic, not a democracy. The individual citizens of the United States don't get a vote for president. Our states do. We only get a vote to tell our state government who we would prefer they vote for. And, they don't even need to listen to us (and have in the past chosen to vote against the will of the people)!


    In this day and age, the only purpose of indirect elections is to give undue weight to rural areas.

    In this day and age, we forget that Massachusetts and New York and Virginia, etc, saw themselves basically as sovereign nations, only joining together in that pesky federal government business to give them a united front in dealing with the old European powers. We forget, in this era of "excuse anything with the Commerce Clause", that the vast majority of the constitution took great pains to refer to the states as such, rather than as mere political subdivisions of the whole.

    You also forget that before that whole "one man, one vote", having a voice in government depended solely on how much land you owned. Urbanites didn't give farmers more of a voice out of charity, but rather, the large landowners graciously allowed the unlanded to have a voice at all.


    Has the time come when we should realign our political system with modern perceptions? Or should we respect that we have such an archaic system for damned good historical reasons?

    Personally, I think the recent gun ownership debate has brought exactly this issue to the center of attention - We have urban yuppies who've created their own violent crimes hell, trying to take guns away from rural areas with almost no violent crime. Perhaps the Founding Fathers understood something about us that we have forgotten.
  • Re:What?! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:52PM (#42928561)
    I wish more people had the depth of your historical perspective. And by the way, Virginia still sees itself that way, try saying "State of Virginia" around a bunch of old natives and you may very well be corrected that "this is the Commonwealth of Virginia, sir."
  • Re:What?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JDG1980 (2438906) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:58PM (#42928619)

    The purpose of the electoral college was to avoid having the most important office in the federal gov't be victim to popular fervor. In a direct election, radicals can be too easily elected (see tea party). This system prevents that in theory (along with the voting system of the electors: in seperate areas. This prevented one guy from giving a moving speech and changing the minds of everyone.)

    The Electoral College was the result of a political compromise at the 1787 Constitutional Convention because the participants couldn't make up their minds how the President should be selected. Just about every possible method was suggested by one participant or another, and the Electoral College was just the one that happened to pass.

    We can respect the work of the Founding Fathers without treating them as infallible gods. In fact, refusing to think for ourselves and instead treating their work as a kind of Holy Scripture is completely against the Enlightenment values that they stood for.

  • Re:What?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:01PM (#42928643)
    Do you even know why there is a Senate? The Senate's obstruction is deliberate. The Senate is the chamber where bad bills which would become bad laws are supposed to die. It may seem like it "prevent things from getting done" but that's why it's there, because it is far better than the knee-jerk nonsense of two-year term political hacks who would enact virtually any law just so something "can be seen to be done" before their next election season.

    There is a reason that our Republic has 'undemocratic' elements. Pure democracy fails, fails quickly, and terrifyingly transitions through ochlocracy to some form of autocracy. This has been understood and demonstrated since antiquity (see Polybius et al), and it is why our founders were wise enough to establish a more complex, resilient, synthetic system of government.
  • Re:What?! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:01PM (#42928645)

    Then why is the USA the only country using indirect elections?

    While I think the electoral college is pretty nutty, in defense of the USA, they're not alone in their use of indirect elections.

    Virtually every jurisdiction using the Westminster Parliamentary System (mostly Commonwealth countries like the Canada, Australia, the UK etc.) use indirect elections.

    A riding ('district') elects a Member of Parliament (MP) who heads off to the legislature. The party with the most number of MPs form government, and the leader of that party becomes Prime Minister. So in that sense, the PM is 'indirectly elected.'

  • by dfghjk (711126) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:03PM (#42928663)

    The opposite of "tyranny of the majority" is not "tyranny of the minority". The problem you complain about does not result from a failure of democratic process, it is due to the monopoly enjoyed jointly by the two-party system. The electoral college does not contribute to that, it is victimized by it.

  • by demonlapin (527802) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:06PM (#42928683) Homepage Journal
    DC should never have been given EC votes; it should have (mostly) been given back to Maryland. The people mostly don't live in the key Federal building areas, and so the idiotic idea of DC statehood wouldn't matter - they'd be citizens of Maryland.
  • by brianerst (549609) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:08PM (#42928693) Homepage

    That one favors the GOP so it's evil. No really, the wonkish left [thenation.com] has been in a panic [latimes.com] recently over a proposal to do just that in a few of the swing states (Pennsylvania [prwatch.org] and Ohio, I think).

    The National Popular Vote [wikipedia.org] is assumed to favor the Democrats so it's all sweetness and light. Unless you're a Republican, where it's an obvious abrogation of the Founder's federalism.

  • by demonlapin (527802) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:11PM (#42928731) Homepage Journal
    The key insight of the US federal structure as originally embodied in the Constitution was that every constituency deserves a hearing - the people are represented in the House, the states are represented in the Senate, and the President is elected by whatever means the States appoint - they can be more or less democratic in the selection of electors. A necessary consequence of the first-past-the-post system with specific electoral districts used in the US is that it is designed to produce a two-party state. Third parties have to influence one of them. Yes, third parties matter less here. On the other hand, it relentlessly forces both parties' platforms to the center of the electorate, strongly curbing radical influence.
  • Re:Place names (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hedwards (940851) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:13PM (#42928747)

    The problem is the small state bonus. In 2000 Bush wouldn't have won without the extra votes that small states get beyond what they're populations justify. Candidates for President rarely if ever campaign in larger states because we have less pull than the smaller states do.

    What's worse, is that these same states that are sparsely populated also tend to be welfare states where they're contributing far less to the federal tax receipts than they're receiving in tax dollars. All while fighting to eliminate programs that are necessary to keep the urban decay to a minimum.

  • Re:Place names (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nutria (679911) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:18PM (#42928799)

    That's a guaranteed recipe for fragmentation and Balkanization.

  • by dfghjk (711126) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:25PM (#42928865)

    The winner-takes-all rule in most states is a core problem but not the only problem with the electoral college. A solution, though, that promotes a different version of us-versus-them tribalism like you suggest isn't a solution at all. Changing from red state/blue state to urban/rural is a step backwards. We need to break the stranglehold of the two-sides-of-the-same-coin, two party monopoly that ruins our representative government. Restoring the proper role of corporations and breaking the power of money would help greatly too. Then the electoral college might return to providing the function for which it was designed.

    BTW, Texas has the same urban/rural divide as California but in different proportions, so if you think that making California more like Texas would help the country you are misguided. It's not even clear that would help if it was done in lock-step with making Texas more like California. We have a "choice" between two terrible options. We need better options, not different rules for making the same crappy choices.

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

    by demonlapin (527802) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:38PM (#42928979) Homepage Journal
    Your geographical location matters quite a bit to your local economy. As an extreme example, Telluride and Ouray, Colorado, are only about ten miles apart, but try getting from one to the other in the middle of winter and see how long it takes...
  • Re:Place names (Score:5, Insightful)

    by taiwanjohn (103839) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:39PM (#42928991)

    The GP's notion sounds like a standard "parliamentary" system. How is that going to lead to Balkanization? For that matter, considering how polarized we are in the USA right now, would it really be any worse?

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

    by demonlapin (527802) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:40PM (#42928999) Homepage Journal

    rarely if ever campaign in larger states

    No, they rarely campaign in states that always vote the same way, large or small. They campaign like maniacs in NH and IA because they're early, and they campaign like hell in the major swing states - ask anyone from Ohio.

  • by jkroll (32063) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:44PM (#42929025)

    That one favors the GOP so it's evil. No really, the wonkish left has been in a panic recently over a proposal to do just that in a few of the swing states (Pennsylvania and Ohio, I think).

    Actually the reason it favors the GOP is that the proposal is just to do it in states that went Democratic that happen to have Republican governors. The Republicans certainly weren't proposing splitting up the electoral vote in Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina. Just the states they lost.

    Then you tie in the rampant gerrymandering that passes for redistricting these days, there would only be a few places worth campaigning.

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

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:49PM (#42929075)

    That's a guaranteed recipe for fragmentation and Balkanization.

    Is that a bad thing? With our current system, large blocks of representatives behold to their parties obstruct everything. Anything that weakens the power of political parties, and enables representatives to vote their conscience, should be good thing.

  • Re:What?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TrekkieGod (627867) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:54PM (#42929111) Homepage Journal

    We have the electoral college because we live in a federated representational republic, not a democracy

    You seem to think that this is a good thing.

    I certainly do.

    It bothers the crap out of me to see uninformed people voting for their representatives. To see them voting on actual decisions? No quicker way of destroying the country that I can think of.

    Before I'm accused of defining "uninformed" as "believes differently than I do," I'll just point out that I follow my own guidelines, and unless I've taken the time to research the issues and all of the candidates running for a particular office meticulously, I don't cast a vote. Which generally means that I rarely vote, and when I do I leave most of the ballot empty, voting only for those offices for which I've taken the time to study every candidate and the relevant issues. I refuse to potentially cancel out the vote of a more informed citizen.

  • Re:What?! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 17, 2013 @02:00PM (#42929153)

    The president of Germany is elected by the Federal Convention, which is made up of

    The president of germany has almost no power at all. He acts as a representative and while theoretically a law has to be signed by him to be valid - the most he can do is refuse to sign a law for some time, but even that is questionable.

    The position was completely guttet after Hitler missused the power it held (starting wars, ordering people killed, enemies of the state,... sounding familiar?).

    So comparing the election of a public figure head with literally and intentionally no power to the most powerfull american is quite a bit of a stretch.

  • Re:What?! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ElectricTurtle (1171201) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @02:02PM (#42929169)
    You're the one who is wrong. Outside of the legislature, virtually no office is popularly elected. The Supreme Court isn't, the cabinet isn't, the bureaucracy under the cabinet isn't, etc.
  • Re:Pedantry (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hhw (683423) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @02:35PM (#42929471) Homepage
    Just because many people use it incorrectly does not make that usage correct.
  • Re:Place names (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jhon (241832) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @02:50PM (#42929581) Homepage Journal

    "But my local economy matters very little me."

    Either you are lying or you don't know what you are saying.

    Do you live in the slums? Does it take 20-60 mins for the cops to arrive if you call them? Are your streets covered in potholes? Are the local restaurants and food stores infested with rats and roaches? If it really doesn't matter to you, and the economy was so bad there was very little tax base to pay for these things, this would be your life.

    Trust me -- your local economy matters VERY MUCH to you.

  • by Fulminata (999320) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @02:54PM (#42929621)
    It was not designed to produce a two-party state. There's a great deal of evidence (for example, Federalist Paper #10) that many of the designers of the Constitution were, in fact, trying to create a non-partisan system. Unfortunately, with few real-world examples to take lessons from, they did not see how the system they were designing would inevitably lead to a two-party state.

    It's no accident that most democracies to be founded after the United States have chosen not to directly copy its system of government.
  • Re:Place names (Score:5, Insightful)

    by demonlapin (527802) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @02:55PM (#42929625) Homepage Journal
    Where do you shop for food? Where do you eat, if and when you eat out? Who provides the telecommunications services you need? How far away is the nearest plumber, electrician, or hospital? In a large city, you have a huge variety of choices on most of these. In a rural area, such simple things as choice of cell phone provider usually boil down to a monopoly because only one carrier has service at your house. You most assuredly depend on your local economy.
  • Re:Place names (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kenj0418 (230916) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @02:58PM (#42929653)

    "It is pretty neat, but it still reflects 18th century thinking"

    ...

    And if you want to understand the reasons for that feel free to read the federalist papers (particularly Federalist 10).

    So, how is reading the document written 1787 supposed to convince him it's not 18th century thinking?

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

    by Jhon (241832) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @04:42PM (#42930363) Homepage Journal

    Where the fuck do you get off thinking people are "special" and need special representation based on race? The only "race" that needs representation is the human race.

  • by vakuona (788200) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @05:03PM (#42930503)

    The fear is not bogus.

    Republicans managed to win more congressional seats while losing the popular vote (for the congressional elections). So it's not a fantasy that such a system gives them an advantage.

    The gerrymandering is not bogus. While a state may lean one way or another, the distribution of the votes is not uniform, therefore Republicans and Dems will tend to win in states that the other party generally has an overall majority in. Gerrymandering is real, and is easier for Republicans because Dems votes are concentrated in urban areas and tend to be overwhelming. There was a fairly large precinct in the last election without a single Republican vote. Congressional districts tend to be the same size, so if, as a party, your supporters are concentrated in a single urban area, you get really large margins there. If you are trying to win an election, all other things equal (especially overall number and distribution of voters), you want to win by slim margins, and have your victories spread out.

    Secondly, the only states where this was proposed were states that vote Democrat and have Republican controlled state senates and governors. Basically, the system rather blatantly takes away Democrat electoral college votes in the states the Dems are winning, while leaving them unchanged in the states that the Republicans are winning. Ignoring the 2 electoral college votes given to each state for the senators it has, if all states that vote Dem did this, they would lose up to 40% or so of their electoral college vote, and could never win a presidential election. For this alone, the idea is deeply repugnant. The fact that a "serious" politician actually discusses this should be unsettling to all voters. When politicians lose elections, they should either change to suit their electorate or quit, not change the rules to get into power regardless of the electorates wishes.

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