Sunday, March 12, 2017

Solving the Electoral College

After last November’s election there was a lot of talk about the inequalities of the Electoral College, how the less populous states carry more weight because they have more representation per citizen in the EC. Back in November I wrote:
The more uneven our population is distributed, the more the EC favors lower population states. Every state gets two senators and at least one representative. Thus all states have at least 3 EC votes. Wyoming is one of those with 3 EC votes. At the other end of the spectrum, California has 55 EC votes. If Wyoming’s ratio of population to EC vote were to match the same ratio in California, then Cali should have perhaps 198 EC votes (by my calculation based on 2010 census data). The EC favors rural states.

Neil Freeman inverted the problem by creating a map that redraws the state boundaries so that all of them have the same size population and thus the same EC votes. In this case, based on 2010 census data, each state would have 6.1 million people. The states for Los Angeles, the Bay area, Chicago, and other big cities don’t cover much territory, and there isn’t enough detail to tell if New York City is divided between states.

This image is posted on Mental Floss, where you can study a big version.

The situation at the other end of population density stands out. The region from eastern Washington to the Dakota-Minnesota border, from the Sierra Nevada mountains to the middle of Oklahoma, from the middle of Arizona north to the Canadian border – an area that covers all of eight states and good chunks of eight more – would be only three states in this new map.

Yeah, Texas would be divided into four states, with parts in three others. But California would be divided into six.

Soon after we moved into the family home fifty years ago a USA map and a world map were displayed on the wall in the dining area. For about 15 years we drew the routes of family vacations on the USA map. It is still in the house (something I’ll have to attend to soon), though not on the wall. Dad or Sister put up new maps when Niece was young. The advantage of the current maps is one can draw on them and wipe them off. For a while Sis had drawn alternate state boundaries (Cape Cod really should be a part of Rhode Island), but then wiped them off because they looked too weird. Even so, I’ve thought of drawing another set of alternate borders – pay no attention to the mighty rivers, straighten up the stacking of the western states, draw a straight line up the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, and get rid of the meandering pieces of West Virginia and Maryland.

So I study Freeman’s map and want to tweak borders. Why have one state down the east coast of Florida and another down the west? Why not spread them across the peninsula, making them more compact? Why make the state of Gary wrap entirely around the state of Chicago, including both Elkhart and Milwaukee? Are there borders that could be made straighter, especially north of Phoenix? What criteria did Freeman use to put boundaries where he did? I’d enjoy an afternoon (or a week) playing with such a map program.

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