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United States Politics

The US Redrawn As 50 Equally Populated States 642

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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  • Place names (Score:4, Informative)

    by hoboroadie (1726896) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @10:50AM (#42928105)

    Geography is beautiful. I made this my wallpaper yesterday.

    • 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:Place names (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:13PM (#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:5, Insightful)

          by demonlapin (527802) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:40PM (#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.

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

          by alvinrod (889928) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:53PM (#42929103)
          I don't know if that's quite true. I live in a small state and there's very little campaigning ever done here. Why? Same reason that there's not a lot of campaigning done in other states: it's pretty much a given that no matter who runs under the Republican ticket, they'll get the most votes here. Kind of like how it really doesn't matter in California and New York, because they're going to go to the Democrats. Why bother campaigning beyond a token appearance when everyone already knows that baring any major scandals, the results are practically a given. So really, it's just the states that have early primaries or the swing states that get the most attention.

          Also the system was originally designed in such a way so that the larger, more populous states wouldn't have too strong of an influence over the federal government.
        • Re:Place names (Score:5, Interesting)

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

          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 [], 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.

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

          by swillden (191260) <> on Sunday February 17, 2013 @03:33PM (#42930295) Homepage Journal

          The problem is the small state bonus.

          The small state bonus doesn't exist. Part of the Electoral College design was intended to give small states a boost, so they're not completely dominated by their larger brethren, but the founders didn't have the mathematics necessary to really understand the effect of their design. We do now, and the conclusion you reach by evaluating the situation according to the various vote power measures is that in fact the reverse is true. The power of bloc voting means that power disproportionately accrues to large blocs, which means large states in this context.

          If all states were to allocate their electoral votes proportionally, then small states really would get a boost. As it is, they're actually disadvantaged by the system. Not as disadvantaged as they'd be without their extra vote or two, but still disadvantaged.

          Candidates for President rarely if ever campaign in larger states because we have less pull than the smaller states do.

          Nonsense. They focus their campaigning on the states whose vote isn't a foregone conclusion. Obama didn't need to campaign in California or New York, and there was no point in him campaigning in Texas. Both Obama and Romney spent lots of time in Florida, however; a swing state with 25 electoral votes is important to them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nutria (679911)

        That's a guaranteed recipe for fragmentation and Balkanization.

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

          by taiwanjohn (103839) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:39PM (#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, 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.

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

          by ShanghaiBill (739463) * on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:49PM (#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:Place names (Score:4, Insightful)

        by demonlapin (527802) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:38PM (#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: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.

        • You are pretty much talking about abolishing the notion of "state" and the "federal" government does everything.

          Not necessarily. You could still have states that are geographical areas, it is just that the state borders would no longer be electoral borders for electing congressional representatives.

          Good luck convincing people to make a new constitution.

          I think everyone recognizes that we are engaging in fantasy here. Amending the constitution requires approval from 75% of the state legislatures. Since most states are small and rural and benefit from the current system, there is no way that this is going to happen.

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

        by Jhon (241832) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:43PM (#42929525) Homepage Journal

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

        Spoken like someone who doesn't understand the constitution.

        We do not have a single election for president. We have 50 SEPARATE elections for president. Each state decides who best represents it's population and all electors (with few exepctions) go to that cadidate and the number of electors is based on population.

        We need to remember we do not have a "democracy" by design. It's a consitutional republic based on federalism. And if you want to understand the reasons for that feel free to read the federalist papers (particularly Federalist 10).

        "Congresspeople shouldn't represent geographical regions, but specific groups of people, where ever they are"

        Um -- they don't represent regions. The do represent "specific groups of people". They are called their "electorate". I'm sorry, but my representative wasn't selected by the San Gabrial mountains, but by the majority of the people in his disctrict. Those very specific groupe of people.

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

          by kenj0418 (230916) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:58PM (#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?

      • You don't need to limit it to 435 at that point. Barrier clauses and the limit on the number of representatives are chiefly for cutting administrative costs. In your model, the election and regular government would have to be carried out electronically anyway (due to complexity of vote counting), which scales well.

        You could end up with a system where all legislative action is essentially by referendum, but where constituents could assign their vote to delegates at will.

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @10:55AM (#42928135)

    Where is Puerto Rico, USVI and others in this map?

    IF you are going to remap stuff at least put them in as well.

  • by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @10:55AM (#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.

    • by brianerst (549609) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @11:13AM (#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?

      • We live in a country where being asked to show identification in order to vote is considered beyond the pale, as is the simple expedient of dipping a finger in ink when you have done so. (I am aware that this is not how much vote fraud occurs - fraud generally being wholesale rather than retail - but it has a significant effect on the perceived legitimacy of the vote.)
    • by spikenerd (642677)

      Popular vote is the only method to accurately capture the desire of the entire population.

      Nope. No method exists [] that accurately captures the desire of the entire population. Plurality voting is especially biased by the choices, whether done with electoral colleges, popularity, or any other system of tallying.

    • Popular vote is how Jersey Shore runs for six seasons and Firefly for one. It's mob rule; tyranny of the majority. The fact that the US is a republic protects you against that, or it used to.
    • Actually, the best system is one that maximises the power of an individual vote. To do that, you need to increase the chances that your own vote is the tie-beaking vote, to do that you split the voter base into units and sub-units, because you are more likely to be the tie-breaking vote in the tie-breaking district in the tie-breaking state, than you are the single tie-breaking vote in a single national poll.

      Second, you need to ensure the counting system doesn't introduce its own biases that effectively pre

  • Of course, everyone's going to look at their own area - to see how it got right or wrong regarding where they live.

    In my case, I'm in Western MA, and I have to say that they got this little part of it exactly right - merging us in this area into "Willimantic" which connects us with CT with Hartford as the capitol instead of being in the "ass end" of Massachusetts.

    I've long been bothered by how little we in this part of MA have to do with those east of 128 / or even east of 495.

    I can't speak for any other pa

  • Eh? I don't even know what that sentence was trying to say, but certainly not what was written...

  • 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 [] 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, [] which was more about the cultural mass regions that make up the continent.

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

    by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @11:33AM (#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.

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

      by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> 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 RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @11:34AM (#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.

    • by foniksonik (573572) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @11:51AM (#42928553) Homepage Journal

      Don't forget Suburbia where the people could care less about the depraved city dwellers or the backwoods ruralites.

    • 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.

      But of course the reverse never happens. Nope. Those pure honest virtuous salt-of-the-earth country folk just naturally know by common sense what's best for everybody.

    • by dfghjk (711126) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @12:25PM (#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.

    • by nomadic (141991)
      "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."

      The system favors rural voters; due to the peculiarities of both the electoral college and congressional districting, people in rural Arkansas get a larger voice in national politics than someone in the South Bronx.
  • by plopez (54068) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @11:41AM (#42928487) Journal

    Slavery and the balance between slave and free states. The author of the article has no sense of US history, which is sad and scary. Logically it makes no sense to lump Hawaii with a west coast area due to isolation and different climate. Lumping Alaska with Rainer makes no sense either for the same reason. There is more to geography than human population. Remember, the "Geo" in geography means "Earth". The physical features of the planet, politics, and limitations of technology often trump an idealization of reality. So over all I give the article a big "meh". It's too simplistic to be interesting.

  • I agree with some posters that this lacks a sense of history and an appreciation of geography.

    It also deeply lacks a sense of culture. There are combined areas with no common culture and indeed cultural opposition across geography. This re-Balkanization, so to speak, might as well offer the opportunity to dismantle the United States -- which is, in all ways except language, as culturally distinct as most of Europe.

  • 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.

  • 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 [] 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 [] in B.C., but that didn't get off the ground. I would have welcomed it.


  • 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. :)

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Monday February 18, 2013 @10:18AM (#42935447) Journal

    The problem with the premise (and I recognize it's not serious) is that it utterly ignores the entire basis of the foundation of the United States.

    It's understandable when people from other countries don't "get it". It's sad/pathetic (and I'm really talking about the comments here) when people ostensibly FROM this country don't understand the basic premises of their own history.

    "The electoral system overrepresents the least-populated states". Yes, that is PRECISELY the point.

    The United States is not a country like most others, in which case the subdivisions are relatively-arbitrary political/administrative districts, counties, oblasts, whatever.
    The separate states are (or were) SOVEREIGN states, with a constitutionally-enforced protection of that sovereignty. The US Federal government is only allowed to act in very narrowly-defined areas that were mutually agreed by the original colonies to be of jurisdictional benefit - defense, foreign policy, etc.*

    It's worth saying again: the States are NOT 'districts' of the US in the familiar sense that most countries have. For example, the US Federal government passes few laws that directly impact citizens. By far, the majority of laws applicable to people directly in the US are state laws and local (city) ordinances. The US Fed doesn't set national speed limits, for example; they set a limit and tell the states to comply or they won't get their Federal highway maintenance dollars.

    The union of the Colonies was specifically predicated on a level of balance that allows them a voice disproportional to population.

    One might further point out that Congress ITSELF has worked to make it less representative. Note that in the first Congress, the House was approximately 62 members for a colonial population in 1790 of 3.8 million. Proportionally, this would mean the House today would be over 5000 members. Remember, that this likewise would impact the number of electoral votes in play, and pretty much eliminate the 'senator' anti-populist bias.

    *Granted, the Constitution is pretty nearly in tatters, the remaining shreds filthy with the wipings of modern administrations and congresses who have actively colluded to evade and sap both the letter and spirit of the original framers.

"I've seen the forgeries I've sent out." -- John F. Haugh II (jfh@rpp386.Dallas.TX.US), about forging net news articles