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The United States Redrawn as Fifty States with Equal Population (fakeisthenewreal.org)
219 points by wdavidturner 829 days ago | 201 comments



I see another comment here has already pointed out that this submission is blogspam, and has been discussed on HN before. Blogspam is disfavored here,

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4583307

as is mentioned in the site guidelines.

http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

"Please submit the original source. If a blog post reports on something they found on another site, submit the latter."

AFTER EDIT: The curators here have fixed the link, as pointed out in a reply to this comment.

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As far as I can tell, this is the original source. The link below (Gary Canavan) is to an article that shows the map, but the map itself came from this submitted post.

Duplicate post? Yes. Blogspam? No.

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Thank you for bringing to my attention that the curators appear to have changed the link in the submission to point to the original source.

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The link to the original and original discussion is below.

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Somewhat off-topic, but since people are using this to riff on the Electoral College I'll drop in a mention for the National Popular Vote: http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/

Basically: The states themselves can require a fair election for the Presidency without any need for a Constitutional amendment or even a Federal law— this has been robustly defended by legal scholars, and it's already half-way to completion.

If your state isn't on that list, do your country a favor and call your state representative about it.

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I used to object to switching to the popular vote, for various constitutional reasons.

But I came across one justification that blew away all my objections.

Namely, the House of Representatives was originally designed to grow along with the population.

If it had been allowed to keep growing, then that "built-in advantage" of less-populous states would have dissipated. In other words, that built-in advantage wasn't actually built-in. The system was designed to degrade it over time.

In other words, if it had continued as it was, we'd have somewhere around... I forget, 3500 - 4000 representatives today. And that would change the electoral college calculations, to the point that they would almost exactly mirror the popular vote. It's asymptotic, but as the population grows, the (unrestricted) EC approaches the popular vote. It's worth noting that if the house of reps had been allowed to keep growing, Gore would have beaten Bush via electoral-college counting, hanging chads be damned.

So there's nothing sacred about the less populous states. Their advantage only exists because of the much-later agreement to freeze the growth of the house of reps.

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Thanks for pointing that out: to quote the site again, "The Founding Fathers did not create or anticipate—much less favor—our current system of electing the President."

Even more interesting, they note that the Constitutional Convention did consider electing the President by a direct national popular vote, which proposal failed by... wait for it... one vote.

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The United States has a federal government for a reason. The government is constructed in such a way that the majority doesn't get whatever it wants, if that majority isn't broadly representative of America as a whole.

In particular, the Electoral College ensures presidential candidates must appeal to a wide variety of people, from across multiple regions of America - instead of just focusing on running up the totals in large cities, which is what would happen if the Electoral College didn't exist. In the last election both political parties had to pay attention to the entirety of the electorate, from every county, in states as diverse as Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and Nevada.

You could do America a favor by calling your state representatives and telling them what a goofy idea this is.

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Please read the site. You are exactly wrong.

http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/pages/answers.php

MYTH: Candidates would "fly over" most of the country under a national popular vote.

This criticism applies to the current system of electing the President—not a national popular vote.

Under the current system, two-thirds of the states are indeed "fly-over" country. In 2004, the presidential candidates concentrated two-thirds of their campaign visits and money in just five states, 80% in just nine states, and 99% of their money in just 16 states. As early as the spring of 2008, the major political parties acknowledged that there would be only 14 battleground states in 2008. In 2008, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their campaign events and ad money in just states, and 98% in just 15 states.

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I did read the site, and I am exactly right. You just don't understand the point I'm making.

Where did the candidates go in the states they did visit? Did they just stick to the cities, or did they go talk to people in small communities? Did they decide that they could get by with only one type of person, or did they have to try to appeal to the entire population of that state?

I am pretty confident that a presidential campaign that has to contend with rural and small-town voters in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado will have to take into consideration some people like me, even though my state's not going to be a 'swing state' any time soon. Those states are plenty different and there's plenty of difference within them, as well.

I can't say the same about a campaign that focuses on the top fifty metropolitan statistical areas, which is exactly what would happen with your scheme.

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> I did read the site,

I want to believe you, but it's hard to when it refutes the exact claim you're making:

MYTH: Only the big cities, such as Los Angeles, would matter under a national popular vote.

...

The populations of the 50 largest cities together constitute only 19% of the nation's population. Arlington, Texas is the nation's 50th largest city (with an estimated population of 363,000 in 2005).

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There's a big difference between cities and MSAs, which the parent referred to. Using city populations like that is, IMO, almost always misleading. For the given example: hit the DFW metroplex, you're hitting Arlington. Another instance of the misleading aspect of looking just at city size: Atlanta has a city population of a bit over 400k. That makes it the biggest city in Georgia, and yet isn't even a tenth of the Atlanta metropolitan area, which has about 5.4 million people.

Top 10 US cities by population ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_cities_by... ):

  NYC
  LA
  Chicago
  Houston
  Philadelphia
  Phoenix
  San Antonio
  San Diego
  Dallas
  San Jose
Top ten MSAs by population ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolitan_statistical_area ):

  NYC
  LA
  Chicago
  Dallas
  Houston
  Philadelphia
  Washington, DC
  Miami
  Atlanta
  Boston
The 10th-largest MSA is four and a half million people, the 10th-largest city is just under a million.

The 10 largest MSAs contain over 80 million people. That's already over a quarter of the country -- more than the 50 largest cities put together. Taking it out to the top 20 MSAs brings that up to almost 117 million. The top 50 MSAs cover more than half the country's population.

Edit: restricting it down to "urban areas" instead of MSAs brings the numbers down a bit, but the top 10 and 20 still make up a huge amount of it ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_urban_are... 2010 instead of 2011 numbers here ):

  Top 10: 73.4M
  Top 20: 101.8M
  Top 50: 143.1M
(And as a resident of one of the largest urban areas, I would absolutely prefer more of a popular vote. But the country is much more urbanly clustered than the "top 50 cities" stat would suggest. But IMO that's a reason for a popular vote, not against one.)

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I'd argue that it's disingenuous to use MSAs rather than cities to talk about campaign stops. To use your example, the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta Metropolitan Statistical Area has four counties with more than 700,000 people, and fifteen with less than 100,000.

It's hard for me to imagine the average resident of, say, Jasper, GA (population ~2,000, median income ~$30,000) caring one way or another that you had a rally in Atlanta— but their votes still count.

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Looking up TV listings for Jasper, it appears that cable carriers there still carry the Atlanta affiliates, so I'd disagree on how much they'd notice a candidate making a stop in Atlanta. In a popular vote system, I wouldn't expect any presidential candidates to stop in, say, Canton instead of (or even in addition to) Atlanta, when local media is going to pick up on stuff going on in Atlanta, so Atlanta's the closest I think Jasper would see.

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That's fair, they might see it on the news if nothing more important was going on that day. But that's still press coverage, not a stop, and it's likely to backfire when the ad comes on saying, "But how much does Mr. Smith really care about Georgia?"

The more general point being that the dynamics of campaigning would be fundamentally different, such that none of the lines that are currently drawn will matter (and of course that's good thing).

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The split is urban vs suburban, not urban vs rural.

Imagine a replay of 2012 without the electoral college. Obama would still hit the urbans and some of the progressive rich enclaves. Romney would hit all the suburban, Wall St. and yacht clubs.

No one would bother with the rurals except for some photo ops. Same as before.

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Your advocacy site is confusing 'city' with 'metropolitan area', probably deliberately. Here's some real stats:

In 2010, the fifty largest metropolitan statistical areas had a population of 166,033,000 -- 53.8% of the United States' 308,745,000 people.

In the 2012 election, Los Angeles County alone had more voters than any of thirty-two of America's fifty states.

Also in the 2012 election, just 150 of America's 3,033 counties - less than five percent of the total, and all attached to a metropolitan area - made up 50% of the vote.

Given a limited amount of time to get in front of the voters, where do you think the candidates are going to go? Do this thing, and the days of candidates getting outside an urban area are pretty much over.

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So, disregarding the fact that an MSA includes an urban center and its non-urban surrounds... You're saying that a candidate is going to just pander to every voter in, say, the Indianapolis-Carmel, IN Metropolitan Statistical Area (#35, population 1.7 million) and ignore the rest of Indiana (population 4.8 million).

> Given a limited amount of time to get in front of the voters, where do you think the candidates are going to go? Do this thing, and the days of candidates getting outside an urban area are pretty much over.

I don't really care where they go; re-enfranchising the majority of the country will mean that personal visits by candidates to a handful of geographic areas will be much less important than, for example, their policies. I'm sorry if that sounds like a bad thing to you, I guess we just have to agree to disagree on that.

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If anything, it would have no effect because cities tend overwhelmingly democratic, and there are few undecided voters.

It's no use appealing to the area with the highest population density if their minds are already made up.

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If anything, it would have no effect because cities tend overwhelmingly democratic, and there are few undecided voters.

It's no use appealing to the area with the highest population density if their mind is already made up.

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In a world and country that is becoming increasingly urbanized, it's about time we removed the thumb on the scale in favor of non-urban voters.

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Right, it's definitely not possible that he considered the arguments unconvincing. He just hasn't taken the time to understand them yet. They are utterly unassailable, and anyone who sees things differently must be willfully ignorant or is driven by an anti-popular vote ideology or special interests.

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With a popular Presidential vote, every state becomes a swing state, demanding greater attention. How hard is that to grasp?

Stalwarts like Utah and NYC may be relatively ignored. Big deal.

Your complaint is that the minuscule rural population are ignored by the more prosperous, more populated, more important urban areas.

That sounds about right to me. One person, one vote.

If people in rural areas want to be more relevant, they should either start creating some jobs, stop being freeloaders, and work harder to prevent their people from following the jobs. Which is not going to happen so long as we have a petrol based economy.

Once human labor is required to replace petrol, you'll have more people returning to rural areas, to work the land.

So if you care about the vitality of rural areas, you'll work to expedite the post oil energy future.

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You couldn't have proved my point better.

This is why we have a federal government - to prevent our government from being run by people who think like this. Presidents have to govern everybody, not just the people they like.

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You haven't made a point.

If your intended point was to prevent the tyranny of the majority, then your focus on the electoral college is sadly misplaced.

Edit: Here's the kicker. I ran for statewide office. Last minute ballot filler. (I was pissed the incumbent was unopposed.) In the limited time with limited resources, I tried to visit every legislative district and every county. I was greeted and vetted like a rock star. It was fun as hell. My family were farmers and I love the country. It was like coming home.

You know what? I was the only state wide candidate who did this. Because I had no chance of winning, nothing to lose, and could do and say whatever I wanted. If I had any prospects, I wouldn't have had the luxury of touring my state.

So whatever your grievances, I don't care. I want to end world hunger and ice cream for every kid on Tuesdays. Big deal.

If you want your vote to matter, you should probably do something to empower yourself. Or just wait for the return of farming, when every one will be courting your communities again, like they did back in my grandfather's day.

Or you could continue to belly ache about how all the big bad politicians ignore you.

Either way: Please, continue.

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It's not clear why a candidate should have to go court rural and small town voters in e.g. a place like Illinois, where two thirds of the whole state lives in the Chicago urban area.

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15 states as opposed to what, under a popular vote? certainly not 50, and probably not 1.

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Why not 50?

Further evidence of the way a nationwide presidential campaign would be run comes from the way that national advertisers conduct nationwide sales campaigns. National advertisers seek out customers in small, medium-sized, and large towns of every small, medium-sized, and large state. National advertisers do not advertise only in big cities. Instead, they go after every potential customer, regardless of where the customer is located. National advertisers do not write off a particular state merely because a competitor has an 8% lead in sales. Furthermore, a national advertiser with an 8% edge in a particular state does not stop trying to make additional sales in the state.

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Because to get 50% + 1 of the votes from a national popular vote, you don't need to campaign in all 50 states, as there are some states which are more populous than other states.

National advertisers are more expensive, and don't help local races as much or at all. Spend less money, hit more people in states with more people in them.

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In a national campaign, anywhere you don't advertise, you leave up for grabs by your competition. Currently, candidates can get away with leaving most undecided voters on the table, because the mechanics of the electoral college mean that their votes don't matter anyway.

That fundamentally changes if I can counter your Times Square billboard with a direct mail campaign in Minnesota.

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> In a national campaign, anywhere you don't advertise, you leave up for grabs by your competition.

And you can have Nebraska. The whole state, I wouldn't run a single ad there for a national campaign, in either scenario. Why would I? The ad money I might have to spend in Nebraska to get a thousand eyeballs might get me closer to ten thousand eyeballs in California or New York. Not to mention the ten thousand eyeballs I get in New York are also eyeballs I want to see my general platform and the fact that my party exists, because as you may well know, most people vote a straight ticket.

I see a lot of compelling reasons to believe that local media would remain a primary means of communication between candidates and prospective voters, even if we switched to a popular vote.

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> The ad money I might have to spend in Nebraska to get a thousand eyeballs might get me closer to ten thousand eyeballs in California or New York.

What market force are you imagining makes ad space cheaper in wealthier states?

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Wyoming and California have similar (when compared to the primary price driver) overheads in airing any given commercial, the price differences are mostly going to be market driven, and the 10k eyeballs in California won't end up costing as much as what you'd have to pay for 10k eyeballs in Wyoming.

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Look at the last few election campaigns, the candidates spend all of their time in tossup states with a large number of college votes. The candidates only go to New York or California to raise more money to spend in Ohio of Florida.

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Or did you miss the 6 months of campaigning this year in which the candidates spent almost the entirety of their time and money in a handful of districts?

The electoral college coerces candidates into appealing only to a small number of strategic areas.

If anything, a popular vote liberates candidates because they can make gains anywhere, and appeal to minority (the minority political party, that is) populations in areas where they wouldn't have bothered to go otherwise because the winner-take-all system makes it fruitless.

When every vote counts, candidates have an incentive to appeal to everyone.

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I'd be happier to see states allocate votes not all-to-the-same-guy, but rather in proportion to the popular vote. (Whether nationally or in your state.)

So, California might have 20 votes for X, 20 for Y, 10 for Z, and 5 for Q.

That would help ensure that your vote matters within your state, and preserves Some electoral votes for third party candidates. The goal as I see it should not be to elect the Most Popular President, but rather to most-faithfully represent the voting preferences of the constituents. The net result should be similar -- or will be if all states were to do this.

Of course I also dream on being able to vote for contingent people, so that I can vote for a 3rd party candidate, but if he's not going to win, have my vote count for a different candidate. I forget the name of this, but it's complicated yet very elegant. It allows you to vote your conscience and yet not worry about "throwing away" your vote and letting That Guy win because you didn't vote for his most-winning opponent.

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> The goal as I see it should not be to elect the Most Popular President

The goal is for every American citizen's vote for President to count for exactly as much as any other citizen's. That means, yes, the person who gets the most votes wins. How else can it work?

I'd encourage you to take a look at the National Popular Vote's site, especially http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/pages/answers.php . They've put quite a bit of thought into it.

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Better than a simple majority election or instant runoff would be approval voting. Suppose 40% of people strongly favor the Republican, and 39% the Democrat. However, suppose 62% would accept the leading independent candidate as a second choice. More people would be more happy if the voting system allowed the independent to win in this case.

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I would prefer a method that satisfies the Condorcet criterion (that a candidate who would win in a two way election against any other candidate wins, if such a candidate exists). Approval voting does tend to approximate this, if accurate polling data exists and voters are aware of that data and vote strategically, but I would prefer not to rely on that.

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Maybe, but that's completely tangential to the question of whether a vote for President should count the same across state lines.

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Not really, it actually assumes that all votes are equal. As soon as two votes from any two different people in the country are inequal, no voting system can be fair. So following the discussion, he saw we were supposing that all votes be made equal. In seeing this, we've already discussed how this effectively means presidential election is a simple majority, and his point was that simple majority isn't a good system by which to make a decision in a large group of people, that another one, any one that has proportionate voting for multiple candidates, can actually result in a much more agreeable outcome, but it assumes all votes are equal in power.

If the question is "should they count the same" -- the answer is an unequivocal yes, and almost every person would agree. Voting reform requires that people put in power by bad systems willingly reform those systems which would see them removed from power. Corruption doesn't remove itself, so discussing this at all is moot, really.

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> If the question is "should they count the same" -- the answer is an unequivocal yes, and almost every person would agree. Voting reform requires that people put in power by bad systems willingly reform those systems which would see them removed from power. Corruption doesn't remove itself, so discussing this at all is moot, really.

Did you read what I wrote? That's not true of the National Popular Vote. Legislators in a plurality of states[0] can alter the election for President (and so fundamentally shift the nature of national politics) without any cooperation from the President or any Federal official.

[0] Or rather, a number of states comprising a plurality of electors.

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That wouldn't indicate that corruption could be removed or would ever remove itself. When you give corruption more power (and that's what overriding popular vote is), it is almost always abused, which means the only outcome I see of such a power is to prevent people from voting for president at all, or at the very least to prevent people from electing a president that isn't corrupt or sympathetic to congress and their interests. So I would say any proposal that institutes such a power should be vehemently rejected by the public.

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Sorry, I'm legitimately confused about what you're saying. Who is corrupt here, and how does the popular vote give them more power?

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The legislators are corrupt, and being able to override the popular vote gives them more power.

The system that puts legislators into place is a local majority vote, which is just as flawed as a national majority vote. It leads to a 2-party system which concentrates power and typically results in corruption.

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I'm confused how you can argue that a national majority vote leads to a 2-party system when we have a 2-party system and we don't have a national majority vote.

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The parent comment said, "The system that puts legislators into place is a local majority vote, which is just as flawed as a national majority vote. It leads to a 2-party system which concentrates power and typically results in corruption." Reduced to a pair of logical statements:

  Local majority vote --> Two-party system
  National majority vote --> Two-party system
The parent poster did not make a statement of either of these forms:

  National majority vote <--> Two-party system
  Two-party system --> National majority vote
Thus, the previous poster is not arguing that only a national majority vote leads to a two-party system. In other words, a national majority vote is a sufficient but not necessary condition to have a two-party system. At best, we can infer that the parent poster intends to say that a majority vote on any scale leads to a two-party system, whether local, electoral college, or national, but even that was not explicitly stated.

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I understand the logic of my parent's statement. To rephrase my question: We have a two-party system, and we do not have a national majority vote. Therefore, in absence of other evidence, I must assume there is a low upper bound to the importance of a majority vote on our two-party system.

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Your example assumes people will vote for their second choice when it counts against their first choice. Most people won't, so approval often wont' work. Runoffs or instant runoffs are better.

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That's how you get a situation like the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is in charge. Everyone gets to be governed by the people who couldn't get to the top of anyone's list -- their platform had some compelling elements but wasn't an overall winner.

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No.

Palestine has a parliamentary government. Their elections use a close relative to proportional representation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_legislative_electio...

Approval voting is for executive positions. President, Governor, Mayor. Not assemblies like councils and parliaments.

Approval voting prevents the "spoiler effect". It does not enable it. Nor is it applicable to parliamentary elections, such as the example you gave.

Lastly, your comment is just weird. Equating Hamas to a spoiler. Despite the electioneering by the PLA. The subsequent extra-legal attempt to invalidate the election results that brought Hamas to power.

I'm far from an expert on Palestinian politics, but if there's a lesson to be drawn from Hamas and The Gaza Strip, it's that Palestinian politics are messy.

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Except the people don't elect the president, the states do, as it should be IMHO. So as I see it the goal is for each state to cast it's electoral votes for that which represents it's population's desire the most accurately. The current first past the post popular vote devolves into a two party system. I would to see one state try instant-runoff voting to allocate it's electoral votes, as I suspect it would give third parties a far great chance of winning in the electoral college.

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These charts[0], which I did not create, should explain why instant runoff voting is less than ideal. In particular, its nonmonotonicity (a candidate getting more votes can cause them to lose) is problematic, IMO.

[0] http://zesty.ca/voting/sim/

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Here's the two big problems with the National Popular Vote:

(1) "it's already half-way to completion". Yes with all blue states. Basically changing the system will favor one party. The other party will not favor it meaning you lose 1/4 to 1/3 of the states. And you lose another 1/4 to 1/3 of states because swing states will also not favor it (they would stand to lose billions in advertising). So this sort of coalition will tend to always be stuck around 1/2 to 2/3 of where it needs to get to.

(2) "without any need for a Constitutional amendment" Technically yes you don't but then you're depending on the goodwill of other states. If some state doesn't like the way the election is going to turn out they can bust the coalition by changing their participation at the last moment. That's a recipe for disaster, the rules for the election should be as clear and open as possible as far in advance as possible.

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> Basically changing the system will favor one party.

What it will do is favor states that aren't swing states. Which is the large majority of both states and electoral votes. Texas would be a huge winner in a transition to the popular vote because it has so many people in it, and is currently almost completely ignored in Presidential politics. Most of the South is in the same boat.

And as I'm looking at the map right now, let me point out something extraordinarily dangerous about the current system: Florida has the largest number of electoral votes of all the swing states, and demographically it's full of retirees who don't live in the same zip code as their children or grandchildren.

Even if you're an arch conservative cotton farmer in Alabama, how does it help you that decisions about whether we send your children to college or to war are unjustifiably disproportionately influenced by a bunch of retired Giuliani-era East Coast elites with no connection to the future? Wouldn't you at least want to be able to cast your own vote and have it mean something, rather than blindly assuming that newly Floridian retired state employees from Jersey and Queens will necessarily have interests that coincide with your own?

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"What it will do is favor states that aren't swing states."

I think I said that. That's not the only thing it does. When it comes to Texas there's the idea that they might get a bigger share of the ad cash but this is in conflict with generally worse chances for the GOP candidates.

A better idea for a red state looking for ad cash would be to team up with one or more blue states of similar total size and move to an honest proportional EV system. The cash wouldn't be diluted as much either (at least initially).

By 'honest' I mean not the sorts of hijinks the GOP is trying out in VA (and elsewhere) where Obama would win the state vote and lose 2/3 of the electors. The problem there again is sooner or later some state get's kingmaker power by changing back to plurality = all evs.

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>When it comes to Texas there's the idea that they might get a bigger share of the ad cash but this is in conflict with generally worse chances for the GOP candidates.

Again, it's not about parties, it's about policies. The long-term average will always be for each major party to win about half the time because if they don't they'll change their policies until they do. The question is what policies they'll adopt in order to do it -- and if your vote doesn't count, whether you're Texas or New York, your voice isn't the ones they'll be listening to when deciding what policies to adopt. What good does it do a Texas social conservative to elect a GOP candidate like Mitt Romney?

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"What good does it do a Texas social conservative to elect a GOP candidate like Mitt Romney?"

I'm not sure what your point is. Where he differs from Obama, Romney's positions are nigh-universally closer to those of Texas social conservatives aren't they? What is the biggest issue for Texas social conservatives? Abortion? What office that a Texas social conservative votes for has more impact on the future of this issue than POTUS? Would Romney's Supreme Court nominees presumably be better or worse than Obama's from the POV of Texas social conservatives?

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Basically changing the system will favor one party.

Temporarily.

Demographically, the USA is transitioning to a Democratic super majority every where but in the US House (because of gerrymandering).

Long term, the parties will realign along the new normal, as the country moves back to the left.

The reason is Duverger's Law. With winner takes all form of elections, the political spectrum will always split into two parties, as each tries to attain the smallest winning coalition.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duvergers_law

In other words, no matter how big the pie, it's always split in two.

(The parties might even switch "polarities", for lack of a better word. As they've done approx every 70 years for the first 229 years. Seeing how conservative Democrats have become, there's a huge void in the political left. It's be easy for a reborn Republican party to reinvent itself to fill that void.)

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"Temporarily."

Yes but at any given point in time it's always the case that change X will generally favor party Y and party Y's states aren't going to favor for change X. They won't vote for it and if they previously had that is likely to be undone.

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Absolutely. Every change picks winners and losers.

That's the story of politics. The electioneering never stops.

The last 16 years (to pick a time frame) Republicans have been masterful at moving the needle to favor them. And it's worked. They punch way above their weight. But a correction is inevitable. And it'll hurt.

Just like how the left peaked in the mid 70s, kept power for a while longer than the country supported them, and then had their teeth kicked in.

But what rubs me about all the electioneering is the emphasis on the mechanics. There is a third player: the voters. Fair redistricting, publicly financed campaigns, universal voter registration, etc. would all favor voters and piss of the political parties. Because the candidates would have to focus more on platform and policy, less on GOTV.

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I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but look, just read the site.

http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/pages/answers.php

MYTH: A national popular vote would undermine a partisan advantage in favor of the Republican Party in the small states.

The small state issue sometimes serves as a surrogate for the unstated political concern (and misconception) that the small states confer a partisan advantage in favor of the Republican Party. However, this belief does not reflect current political reality. In the last six presidential elections (1988 through 2008), six of the 13 least populous states have regularly gone Republican (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota), while six others (Hawaii, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, Delaware, and the District of Columbia) have regularly gone Democratic. New Hampshire has been, in recent years, the one closely divided battleground state among the 13 smallest states (having supported the Democrat in 1992 and 1996, the Republican in 2000, and the Democrat in 2004 and 2008).

http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/resources/Withdrawal-V6-2...

  An attempt to change the “rules of the game” contrary to clause 2 of Article IV  
    ● would violate the Impairments Clause of the U.S. Constitution and be void; 
    ● would violate existing federal law specifying that presidential electors may only 
      be appointed on one specific day in  every four-year period, namely the Tuesday 
      after the first Monday in November (i.e., election day);  
    ● would invalidate the “conclusiveness”  of that state’s results under  existing 
      federal law specifying that presidential electors must be appointed under 
      “laws enacted prior” to the Tuesday after the first Monday in November;
    [et al]

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Regarding withdrawl: most of what you're quoting assumes I'm talking about changing the process after election day. I'm not. I'm talking about the entire electoral process being subject to one state deciding on July 19 to leave the coalition. So yes as said earlier it's possible without a constitutional amendment but I don't have great hopes for such a system. help

"MYTH: A national popular vote would undermine a partisan advantage in favor of the Republican Party in the small states.

... In the last six presidential elections (1988 through 2008), six of the 13 least populous states."

Obviously they're cherry picking here and framing their argument and "myth" around the statistic that looks the closest. What if we look at the biggest states? What if we look at the smallest 8 or 16 or 22 instead of 13?

What if we did something simple and honest and looked at the percentage of votes (or possible voters) of all states vs the percentage of electoral votes of all states? Going back to 2000 for a basically tied election we find that 31 states gain via the electoral college, 6 of them are purplish (<10%), 7 are blue and 19 are red states. If we weight by eligible voting population I suspect it's even worse.

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>Going back to 2000 for a basically tied election we find that 31 states gain via the electoral college, 6 of them are purplish (<10%), 7 are blue and 19 are red states.

You're assuming that what matters is which party wins rather than how the voters influence what the parties do. There is a reason that Floridians got Medicare Part D and Ohioans got the auto bailout but Monsanto continues to be allowed to rape family farmers in all the deep red states.

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"Ohioans got the auto bailout"

And Michigan? I think it borders on conspiracy theory to suggest that, on the precipice of a large depression, no bailout would have been issued to save a 3 million job industry had those jobs been centered in red states.

"family farmers in all the deep red states"

There are no family farmers anymore. Let me rephrase that, there are almost no family farmers anymore. This has nothing to do with them being from red states (trust me, farmers in Hawaii get screwed by Monsanto just like everywhere else) and everything to do with there not being many of them.

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>And Michigan? I think it borders on conspiracy theory to suggest that, on the precipice of a large depression, no bailout would have been issued to save a 3 million job industry had those jobs been centered in red states.

Michigan is a swing state too. And the auto industry didn't fail because of the recession. The recession was just the last straw. They've been slowly dying for decades as a result of strong competition from foreign competitors. But that's the case across all traditional manufacturing industries. Why did we bail out General Motors but not any of the companies that used to make all the Walmart inventory that now comes from China?

>There are no family farmers anymore.

Because the Department of Agriculture and the president's veto pen had no incentive to care when they were being destroyed.

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"And the auto industry didn't fail because of the recession."

Never said it did.

"Why did we bail out General Motors but not any of the companies that used to make all the Walmart inventory that now comes from China?"

I already explained because the auto collapse came as we were staring down the barrel of a huge depression. It would have been a devastating shock to the economy to have an industry of that size collapsing suddenly added to the other problems.

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As to 1)...

Actually, at least in the USA's current configuration, the electoral college appears to favor Democrats. A tie or small Romney win in the national popular vote, for instance, would have more likely than not equated to an Obama win.

I think it's genuinely about ideology, here: favoring the will of the people over the historically contingent existence of the electoral college is making a kind of ideological statement. The kind that appeals to many liberals and is a turn-off to conservatives.

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"the electoral college appears to favor Democrats."

The electoral college has several distortions. The big one and it's raison d'etre is that it distributes power towards rural states and away from population centers. There's little question which party that favors.

Now it's certainly possible that Romney could have won the popular vote and lost the electoral college due to the first past the post distortion that dilutes big majorities. But that really says more about the relative competence of the two campaigns then it does about whether the electoral college structurally favors the Democrats. Romney clearly needed to run quite a bit farther to the middle than he did.

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Actually a far bigger issue is that the electoral college amplifies the leanings of states that are well balanced. That's why your vote is worth far more if you live in a state like florida or ohio than if you live in new york or texas.

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"a far bigger issue "

One way to evaluate claims like these is by looking at an extreme comparison:

Alternate World 1: red states are split into mini-versions of themselves the size of a single CD, a more than doubling of their electoral value. Ignoring effects on the Senate of course, this is just a test of POTUS electoral procedure.

Alternate World 2: 25 very red and 25 very blue states of combined identical population are subject to the whims of a single swing district that is right in the middle of the spectrum.

It should be obvious that the sorts of presidents you get in world 2 look a lot more like those in popular vote world than the ones you'd get in world 1. Actually we might expect that the liberal candidates in world 1 are nearly to the right of the conservative candidates in world 2.

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the electoral college appears to favor Democrats. A tie or small Romney win in the national popular vote, for instance, would have more likely than not equated to an Obama win

Do you remember the year 2000 at all?

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Yes, having been involved in it. Key phrase in my comment: the United States in its current configuration. Which is true: in Nate Silver's models, for instance, the probability that Obama would win the EC was always a good bit higher than the probability he would win the popular vote. He ended up winning both, but it needn't be so.

It comes down to the fact that anti-Obama voters were wasted in very red states that Romney had zero chance of losing, while Obama's popular support was better distributed among both blue and swing states.

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Wow. I'd heard about this, but I had no idea it had made so much headway.

From the website: "The National Popular Vote law has been enacted by states possessing 132 electoral votes — 49% of the 270 electoral votes needed to activate it."

From Wikipedia, for additional explanation: "The agreement is to go into effect only when the participating states that have joined the compact together have an absolute majority in the Electoral College. . . . Until the compact is joined by states with a majority of electoral votes, all states will continue to award their electoral votes in their current manner."

I initially thought that the first quote was saying that the national popular vote had gotten to 49% of the 50% of the total pool of electoral votes needed to activate it, but no, that's not what it says. It currently has about 24.5% of the total pool of electoral votes.

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I've already seen that site, only it was at a different URL.

http://www.CaliforniaAndNewYorkShouldRuleTheWorld.org/

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Oh well, since I'm here anyway...

http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/pages/answers.php

MYTH: Only the big states would matter under a national popular vote.

...

If anyone is genuinely concerned about the possibility that a candidate could win the Presidency in a nationwide popular vote by winning 100% of the popular vote in the 11 largest states, they should note that the situation is even worse under the current system. Under the current state-by-state winner-take-all system, a candidate could win the Presidency by winning a mere 51% of the popular vote in the 11 largest states. That is, under the current system, it is possible for a candidate to win the Presidency with a mere 26% of the nation's popular votes.

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I suppose you also feel we should reconfigure the Senate? It is certainly not evenly apportioned.

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I think there are good arguments for abolishing the Senate and returning the House to proportionality, but at least everyone gets a vote for their Senator that counts. You can't use the disproportionality of the legislature to defend disenfranchisement of Americans on a national scale.

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You can't use the disproportionality of the legislature to defend disenfranchisement of Americans on a national scale.

What's the difference really? Take Civil Rights for example. The Senate held this up against popular will for at least a decade, and arguably much longer, but we did thankfully finally get the Voting Rights Act and the Civils Right Act, and I would argue that Slavery and Civil Rights were a special case of growing pains that the country had to go through, and not a reason to change the whole structure of government.

I think it's obvious that the authors of the constitution purposely created our government with with built-in dampers against simple majority rule, and I would be very hesitant to remove them.

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The difference is that every state has one Senator (per cycle), and every state resident gets one vote for Senator that counts the same as everyone else's. Representation on a national level is disproportionate, but on a vote-to-vote level the election is fair.

This is not the case in the Presidential election; the President is supposed to represent all Americans, and yet when campaign season comes around we get maps that look like this: http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/11/01/163632378...

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> but at least everyone gets a vote for their Senator that counts

Unless you live in DC. We get disenfranchised there, too.

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The purpose of the Senate isn't to ensure the people's voice; it's to ensure the States' voices. If we did away with the Senate, we should seriously think about doing away with the Tenth Amendment as well and consolidating state law into a single national codex: they both rest their existence on the same principle.

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[deleted]

original HN thread: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5217434

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Even if you TRY to make votes equally powerful by adjusting state boundaries to equalize population, you still ignore the fact that the electoral college is like a MASSIVE round-off error, and thus entirely fail to succeed in your goal and in understanding the essence of the problem, in general.

To massively simplify things: consider that there are only 3 states. State A is 60/40, state B is 45/55, and state C is 50/50. All 3 have identical populations. Now states A and B are marginally won before the election, so the race is tied and the decision lies in C. That means 1/3 of the population actually gets to decide who is going to be president. And a small fraction, some 2-3% of that state's population will actually be deciding voters (the loose cannons, the ones who could go either way). So you're down to 0.67-1% of the population deciding who will be the president. And that's completely ignoring how HORRIBLY BAD a simple majority vote is. It essentially guarantees a 2-party system. C.G.P. Grey has some nice videos on YouTube explaining the basics, if you're interested.

You don't fix an utterly broken system by changing the inputs. You fix it by throwing it away and building a better one. As interesting as the resulting map is, this is just a pointless exercise.

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> And that's completely ignoring how HORRIBLY BAD a simple majority vote is. It essentially guarantees a 2-party system.

Yes, personally I think this is a much more important issue than the electoral college.

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> Advantages of this proposal

> * Preserves the historic structure and function of the Electoral College.

I think we may be sort of putting the cart before the horse here. The purpose of the electoral college was to get the states to agree to adopt the system (right?). Now we're supposed to preserve the thing meant to get the states to agree by destroying the states?

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No, the point of the electoral college was to elect a set of representatives that would make the journey to DC to cast their votes to elect the president. You have to realize when the US was formed that traveling from California to DC wasn't a quick plane flight, and we didn't have communications technology that could transmit information from one point in our country to any other point in milliseconds.

The electoral college is no longer necessary, and should be abolished as it only causes problems that were acceptable in the 1800s, but are no longer acceptable today.

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I think you're reaching a bit here. When the Constitution was written there were thirteen states along the East coast. There was no California for an elector to travel from to go to D.C. to cast their vote. I have never heard of the travel time as a reason for the inclusion of the Electoral College in the Constitution. I seriously doubt that's a justifiable reason for such a thing.

I'm curious as to what problems the EC causes that you state were acceptable in the 1800s but are no longer acceptable today. From my perspective the problems would most likely be political in nature. So any problems that existed 200 years ago would much be the same today.

I'm not the biggest fan of the EC but I believe it more desirable than true Democracy, as that only leads to mob rule. In that case the states with the highest populations would be in a position to rule over the smaller, less populated states. This was part of the debate of the EC in the first place.

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> I think you're reaching a bit here. When the Constitution was written there were thirteen states along the East coast. There was no California for an elector to travel from to go to D.C. to cast their vote. I have never heard of the travel time as a reason for the inclusion of the Electoral College in the Constitution. I seriously doubt that's a justifiable reason for such a thing.

They were still spread out over thousands of miles of coastline. You're not going to deliver votes efficiently even if you constrict the entire country to the size of a state like New York, because transportation was human/animal powered at the time. This is the historical justification.

>I'm curious as to what problems the EC causes that you state were acceptable in the 1800s but are no longer acceptable today. From my perspective the problems would most likely be political in nature. So any problems that existed 200 years ago would much be the same today.

Education and dissemination of information makes the problems more widely understood, but it was unlikely that the decision was made by people who understood the flaws in the voting systems, as major theoretical study into voting systems didn't really take off until the mid-late 1800s, and that information wasn't publicly disseminated until the 1900s. It "just worked" and was simple, so it was justifiable. These days, we can easily educate ourselves by reading public work in voting theory and see how mathematically bad such a voting system is. As well, the justifications needed to make electors a necessity no longer exist. This leads to problems as we've already discussed here, such as EC leading to roundoff errors and enabling gerrymandering, which are well understood PROBLEMS caused by the system. So what was acceptable then is no longer acceptable.

> I'm not the biggest fan of the EC but I believe it more desirable than true Democracy, as that only leads to mob rule. In that case the states with the highest populations would be in a position to rule over the smaller, less populated states. This was part of the debate of the EC in the first place.

This was in a time when the federal government hadn't expanded its role and power, so I highly doubt that argument would've held much weight. Federal systems were in place to prevent that, and it was very, very clear in the constitution that the federal government was to be extremely limited in power, while most power was reserved for states. Every state had equal representation in the senate, amending the constitution wouldn't happen just because one state has more people than another, since their voting power wouldn't influence those systems, so it's hard to see how having more people means you can "rule over" smaller, less populous states. The constitution just doesn't permit it. And they still made the electoral college proportionate to the number of people in the state, so that wouldn't have actually prevented what you mention -- the federal framework would've. Except they did the math wrong, and smaller, less populous states have more voting power, and due to problems the electoral college causes, states that are pretty evenly split along party lines, especially less populous ones, are the only important states in any given election, and receive significantly more congressional concessions to win votes. So the electoral college has created a favor imbalance (not really a power imbalance) that results in some states being pampered by congress, while others (particularly large, populous ones) are left to fester, which I'd argue is a pretty crappy outcome if the system was intended to do anything about that.

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I would like to see a "historical justification" in writing. A source showing the Founders being concerned over distance and time of travel. This sounds like your reasoning for the creation of the EC.

It seems you are assuming that today's voter is more educated in terms of governance and voting systems than the one's of yesterday. Academics are certainly more up-to-speed in such theories but that doesn't make them right. Any voting system that avoids majority rules is going to have problems and errors inherent in the system. I'd rather take the risk of the occasional error over mob rule. If there are justifications that electors are no longer required, when they represent people that wish them to vote a certain way, then there's an argument that any representative is no longer needed. Unfortunately the U.S. has a representative government, in an effort to avoid true democracy. Gerrymandering is more of a problem for the House of Representatives than the EC, because the Republicans control most of the gerrymandering right now and it didn't seem to help Romney. But I have no problem discussing ways of eliminating that power from the hands of state legislatures. For one, I'm not aware of anything in the Constitution giving such power anyway, it mostly speaks of how many Representatives per state.

But again, I asked for examples of problems that were acceptable two hundred years ago but are no longer acceptable now. I didn't see any in your statement.

I would say that many decisions made in the creation of the government, including the EC, did revolve around the fear of a more populous state dominating less populous states. I say this because they, as you point out, had a fear of an all-powerful Federal government. Just because the problems did not exist at the time doesn't mean they weren't foreseen nor being prepared for. Amendments are ratified by the states so they get equal votes on those regardless, but that's another step they took to avoid a popular vote problem. But since many laws on the Federal level are written, passed, and signed without regard to the Constitution it would stand the reason that the fairness of the amendment process is irrelevant.

What you say about swing states is true, except that they tend to vary from election to election so I fail to see how Congress can get favor from them via entitlements. But Congress can lavish the gifts upon their state strongholds just to be sure they keep them as much as providing something to swing states to get them to vote their way. Technically, according to the Constitution, they shouldn't be doing that in the first place to any state regardless of its political leanings. You say that large states are left to fester which is an outcome that possibly the system is supposed to do something about. I would say that the original intentions was that the Federal government shouldn't have been involved in the first place. Most of the problems you lay out are there, sure, but most of them have been created by people who wish to tinker or game the system. Therefore the problems lay in the people running the system, not the system itself. But even with these problems and roughly a 5% error rate, as I said before, I would choose that over mob rule any day.

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I don't believe that was the main concern at the time, what I've read from the arguments at the time was that the electors (the guys in the Electoral College) were supposed to be people you had voted for that you trusted to make the right decision about who should be president. This sounds silly now, but at the time they really thought that they could avoid having a party system (or at least many people thought this), and they also wanted to separate the choice of president from the uniformed rabble of the masses. Not that that conceit survived contact with reality...

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I'd agree that would be a legitimate concern of the time, but I think that still agrees with my argument, given how easy it is to educate yourself on issues today.

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I know it's not supposed to be a functional map per se, but I find the typography really hard to interpret - which names are cities, which are states? Is Chicago the capital of Gary? Or is Chicago a state that is surrounded by Gary? What is up with Albequerque and Las Vegas? Are they square because they are large cities, or are they capitals, or what?

Of course this isn't a serious proposal, but I wonder how reorganizing this way would impact government and the current political system.

Redistricting would of course have even more enormous implications (would counties switch states every so often?)

Would Big States be the new Red States?

In this day and age would it be hard to administer an area the size of Shiprock?

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Seems clear to me; the state names are in all caps. So Chicago is a state, for instance, and so is New York. Also illustrating this, you can see that the city of Detroit is labeled, but the state of Detroit is also labeled in all caps, since there is room to do so in that case.

Edit: You can also see that the state capitals are underlined.

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I grew up next to Shiprock, the actual city, in New Mexico, in addition to other places around New Mexico.

The interesting thing is that the "state" of Shiprock would likely be the poorest and most nuclear capable state on this map, containing both Kirtland AFB and Nellis AFB in addition to Los Alamos National Labs and Sandia National labs.

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I think the states of Ozark and King might rival Shiprock for being the poorest.

It seems weird how many cities are at the very edge of their large states. I know that's common for real states because rivers, but it seems to contradict what they're doing here. Aren't they trying to keep regional economic patterns within the same states? Springfield MO seems to sort with Tulsa, Topeka, or Columbia MO (we're not very original with our city names are we?) far more than with Little Rock or Memphis. Lexington would be more naturally included in any of the nearby states rather than in Blue Ridge.

Also it's hilarious that Toledo isn't even close to being in Maumee. Fort Wayne is the single point where that state intersects with the Maumee River's watershed. A more suitable name for that state would be Wabash or Ohio or, to go by the highway signs, Lincoln.

Still it's all good fun. You could use this as background for a dystopian (or not, depending on your politics) scifi story. Much better than "District 12" or whatever.

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Thought experiment: let's say we could implement this tomorrow. What would be the effect on our politics? My theory is that it would somewhat rectify our inherent rural bias[1].

[1] http://teachingwithdata.blogspot.com/2011/06/elections-and-r...

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> States with small populations (which tend, of course, to be rural) are overrepresented in the Senate and Electoral College.

That's the whole point of the Senate: to give states equal weight, not citizens. For that, we have the House, where everybody does (in principle) have equal command of a representative. This is pointing to a feature and calling it a bug.

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Stating that it's the point of the Senate does not make it desirable. Not to mention the fact that it's not the _only_ point of the Senate: it was also designed to be a smaller, more deliberate body than the House, with each member trying to represent larger (and theoretically more diverse) constituencies with longer term limits (and thus less knee-jerk responsiveness to the whims of the people).

This function of the Senate is IMO far more important than arbitrarily giving group A of citizens multiple times more political power than group B. Equal representation of states was conceived of in a time when our nation was very different. The Senate's current form was an acknowledgement of the fact that each state was sovereign. The framing of our Constitution almost bears more similarity to the EU than it does to the US that we recognize today, at least with respect to the attitudes towards the relative independence of each state.

On top of that, the divisions that made a "state" anything more than an arbitrary administrative division based on an accident of history are largely gone. The urban-rural divide is far more of a dividing line in terms of demography and ideology than state lines are. Citizens of Los Angeles and Richmond, VA are far more similar to each other than they are to citizens of Shasta County, CA or Wythe County, VA. Just look at any per-county electoral map if you don't believe me.

This map, or something like it, preserves all the benefits of the Senate while going a long way to fix what's horribly broken about it: namely, granting huge amounts of political power to arbitrary blocks of citizens.

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I appreciate your response. For what it's worth, I like this map and I am a rural American (a citizen of "Shiprock," apparently). I'm aware of all and agree with most of your points.

What I am saying is that in the "rural bias" link they refer to the Senate as "overrepresenting rural citizens" and the point I'm making is that the Senate is not about representing citizens, it's about representing states. And it's meant to balance the House, which is about representing citizens. So the rural bias of the one ought to be adequately met by the urban bias of the other. The ethanol subsidy may be stupid and bad, I'd hardly put it in the top 10 problems we have. I think it would take a lot of spin to recast all our problems as inherited from the Senate and wide open spaces.

The idea that you're dominated by the whims of rural voters is a little absurd when we're both so clearly dominated by the whims of large corporations and special interests. To me, this is simply whining about the wrong problem, and a much harder problem to solve. It's not going to be fixed either by an amendment or by redrawing state lines, so what exactly is being proposed here? Nothing--it's simply a fun thought experiment. I just don't approve of fun thought experiments becoming vehicles for absurdist political melodrama.

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> What I am saying is that in the "rural bias" link they refer to the Senate as "overrepresenting rural citizens" and the point I'm making is that the Senate is not about representing citizens, it's about representing states. And it's meant to balance the House, which is about representing citizens.

Why do we need a balance against representing citizens? I think the only reason for this is that money from the Federal gov't often goes to States and not directly to the people.

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The U.S. national government was designed to be a federal system: The national government handled an explicit set of duties, leaving all other responsibilities to states, which were and are more proper as a government of the people.

Since the U.S. is a union of the states, it makes sense to have a legislative body representing states' (and indirectly, peoples') interests. Whether the population differences between Texas and Wyoming are too extreme is a legitimate question, but I still believe in the original intent of the Senate.

BTW, the original intent of the Senate was all but destroyed by the 17th amendment, which seriously impacted states' rights by moving the motivating factor of Senators from "How do I get reelected by my state?" to "How do I get reelected by the people?"

Finally, (and this is only a statement of fact, not of defense) it is fairly well known that most Founders, especially Federalists, were wary of democracy unchecked. IMO, fair democracy does depend on an educated populace, which makes me sad about today's government.

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Corporations and special interests gain much of their power by paying for political advertisements, directly or indirectly. They get a lot more bang for their buck because of the inequality in voting power. Not only do they have to reach fewer people but those people happen to be the ones that watch a lot more TV.

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>"Stating that it's the point of the Senate does not make it desirable"

However, the country is "The United States," not "The United Population."

The U.S. Constitution was version 2.0, the MVP for the U.S. were the Articles of Confederation. [And to push the bad startup analogy further, the Declaration of Independence was when the founders quit their jobs and the Revolutionary War was the period when they burned through cash to develop traction.]

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I don't see any population based formula ever working to re-draw the state borders, because it lacks representation by those being "re-stated". You'll inevitably get rural areas being added as population filler around the smaller cities in "urban" states, and some urban areas overflowing their urban state and forced to be in a "rural" state.

All of that ignores that states are not simply "administrative divisions". Though IMHO we have far too much federal law these days, your average person interacts mostly with state and local laws. Those can be vastly different between states. The state lines may now be arbitrary and historical, but the hundred/s of years of laws, legal rulings, and forms of government are not.

As long as we intend to be a union of states, the state lines are very important. For some states like GA, FL, TX the urban/rural divide arguably seems to be equal enough neither side has a huge advantage in state politics. For others like NY and CA, it's a far bigger issue. I sometimes wonder if perhaps New York City and Long Island wouldn't be better off joining the state of New Jersey. Leaving the remaining state of New York better balanced between rural/urban.

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>This is pointing to a feature and calling it a bug.

That depends on if you are a democrat of republican.

Democrats would probably prefer to have every state have equal population and make representation equal for all.

Republicans would probably prefer to keep the old system in place which gives land mass credit over individual people.

I'm not arguing for either one, but saying it is definitely a feature is in the eye of the beholder.

EDIT: I made a bad assumption about who would favor what system. In any event, the basic point stands that one group will think its a bug, while the other group will think it is a feature.

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This doesn't jibe with the current House and Senate, where the equal-population represented House has a substantial Republican edge and the Senate has a majority of Democrats.

Edit: btilly below is right, the House isn't technically proportional representation, it's equal-population districts. Still, state by state representation doesn't seem to be breaking reliably for Republicans.

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If the House is "proportionately representative" then how did Democrats win substantially in the popular vote in congressional races, while Republicans won the house by a solid margin?

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A note on how gerrymandering works:

In a perfectly gerrymandered system, the party in power can win using only 25.1% of the vote - and that's if all districts have equal population. You can get by with even less if the districts have imbalanced populations. In that "perfect" system, you draw the districts so that your detractors are 100% of the population in the districts you know that you're going to lose, and your supporters are 50.1% of the population in the ares you want to win.

In real life, of course, it's messier and you can't draw the lines quite so perfectly, but here's a link to the districts near Chicago - look how oddly-shaped they are, especially as you get closer to the city center. (They'll probably change again next election season, doubly so if the other party gets control.) http://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/IL

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Chicago is pretty silly but, check out Lamar Smith's district. http://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/TX/21

If you look at the TX map and zoom in on Austin you will see how silly it is.

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The same way that the reverse used to happen when the Democratic Party caucus had a majority in the House of Representatives in the 1980s. In those days, there was much higher turnout in Republican-leaning districts, but there were fewer of those districts, because Republican voters were concentrated into just a few congressional districts in most states by state legislatures that mostly had a Democratic majority. Now that the tables are turned, people from the other side of the aisle notice this as a problem, but always it takes "tide" elections to switch majority control of state legislatures, which then lock in place (until the next tide) advantages for the majority party in the drawing of electoral districts. This too shall pass.

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One word: Gerrymandering.

The Republicans were able to control the house while losing the national congressional popular vote by being better able to redistrict their congressional seats in ways that were favorable to them.

This is why it is important which party controls State legislatures, those legislatures favor their own party when they draw the map.

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FWIW, if the House were truly proportional then Democrats would control it as well.

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I don't think the politics break out quite the way you think.

For the 10 smallest states by population, 14 of the 20 senators caucus with the Democrats.

I think a radical electoral rewrite like this would probably help the Democrats in the Senate, but not by as much as you might think.

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Those 14 Senators are some of the most conservative in the Democratic party and some of them often side with the Republicans on key issues, and/or play the middle to get more of whatever it is they want.

Remember how hard it was for Obama to pass health care reform when he had 59 Democrats and Joe Lieberman?

Thats what the Senate + the filibuster does to our politics, it grinds it to a halt.

Edit:

First line should read: Some of those 14 Senators are amongst the most conservative in the Democratic party.

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Huh? Bernie Sanders and Pat Leahy? The Rhode Island and Delaware delegations? I think you have a narrative in your head that is detached from reality.

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My thesis is simply that more rural states tend towards more conservative politics and when Democrats get elected in rural states they tend to be the more conservative members of the Democratic party.

Ben Nelson is one of the best examples of this phenomenon. During the health care reform bill he was a holdout until the end, threatening his own parties signature piece of legislation. He caved when his state was given a special deal.

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But small states aren't all rural, and even some of the ones that are elect fairly liberal Senators. Vermont is the classic case, but Democrats from the Dakotas have been almost legendarily liberal, too. Hell, Tom Daschle was Minority/Majority Leader.

And liberal Republicans get elected from small states, too. Remember Lincoln Chafee?

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Yes, the Senate is a massive structural advantage for the Republican party and it's policies in the US.

It is an advantage that violates the principle of one person one vote and equal representation.

People that believe in equal representation as a founding principal of democracy are justifiably outraged by this assault to democratic principles.

The Senate was a compromise to form the union at the start, and it has evolved with time. The 17th amendment gave the people the right to vote for their senators directly, previously state legislatures elected senators for the people.

The basic truth that all men are equal and there should be one vote for one man supersedes the privilege of some citizens, in some states, having more political power than other citizens in other states.

Citizens of large states do not deserve to be discriminated against in the legislature while at the same time subsidizing rural states. The rural states get more than they give in taxes.

It's just not right. The Senate, in it's current stage of metamorphosis, is a basic violation of democratic principles and the time has come to alter or abolish it. A quixotic cause to rally for no doubt, but a right and good cause for anyone that keeps a candle burning in the window, that one day America will live up to its promise and potential.

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It's just not right. The Senate, in it's current stage of metamorphosis, is a basic violation of democratic principles and the time has come to alter or abolish it.

Does not follow.

Democracy is not the one true form of government. Constitutional representative democracy just has relatively few catastrophic failure modes.

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I have to wonder if you'd feel this strongly about these particular principles if you knew about approval voting or what happens in countries with a unicameral parliament.

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Explain what happens in countries with a unicameral system that you think are negative?

I like the streamlined efficiency of a unicameral system in a time where technology is changing things so quickly.

New Zealand, Denmark and Sweden have moved from a bicameral to a unicameral system. In the United States, Nebraska operates with one.

What are the negatives?

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No, the old system gives the Senate and the House equal power, so it gives equal power to both conceptions.

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The whole idea of trying to do that may, in fact, still be a problem.

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Whether it is or not, it's misleading to say "States with small populations... are overrepresented in the Senate" because all states are equally represented in the Senate, by design. Populations are not equally represented in the Senate by the same design. If you consider this a "problem," fine, but the only solution would be to rewrite the Constitution.

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I would say that you're pointing to a bug and calling it a feature, personally.

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"Rural bias" is a feature, not a bug. In allocating power in Congress and the Electoral College, the Founders wanted to give weight to geographic region as well as population. Obviously this benefits lower populated states. America was founded as a union of states, and a republic, and was not designed as a direct democracy. Rule of the urban majority mob would be a lot worse than the current structure.

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Is it true that they wanted to give weight to geographic regions?

I'm curious because the way I heard the story it went something like, "they needed the House to get the big states to agree to the Constitution, and they needed the Senate to get the small states to agree". That also has the effect you're talking about, but I never heard that it was deliberate. I would be interested in why they set it up that way.

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From the Federalist Papers 62:

"In this spirit it may be remarked, that the equal vote allowed to each State is at once a constitutional recognition of the portion of sovereignty remaining in the individual States, and an instrument for preserving that residuary sovereignty. So far the equality ought to be no less acceptable to the large than to the small States; since they are not less solicitous to guard, by every possible expedient, against an improper consolidation of the States into one simple republic.

Another advantage accruing from this ingredient in the constitution of the Senate is, the additional impediment it must prove against improper acts of legislation. No law or resolution can now be passed without the concurrence, first, of a majority of the people, and then, of a majority of the States. It must be acknowledged that this complicated check on legislation may in some instances be injurious as well as beneficial; and that the peculiar defense which it involves in favor of the smaller States, would be more rational, if any interests common to them, and distinct from those of the other States, would otherwise be exposed to peculiar danger."

http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/fed/blfed62.htm

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Yeah this is pretty much it. The senate is there to help preserve the state's rights equally. Without it the larger states get an unobstructed bigger say over the smaller ones. Remember the federal government was setup to be very limited keeping most of the power in the hands of the states.

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I don't see why people out in the country are any less likely to be part of a mob, or why their vote should be worth something around 10 times what an "urban" person's vote is.

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"Rule of the urban majority mob would be a lot worse than the current structure."

That's pretty clearly only your opinion and not an obvious fact. Urban centres tend to vote for more progressive policies in the US, so all you're saying is that would be too progressive for your liking.

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No the goal is to have some regional balance, so one region of the country can't use the reins of power to exploit another region.

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But who says one region matters proportionally more just because it's bigger? Isn't society all about the people, so isn't it the people that matter? Are you really saying that it's not about being a person, it's about how much land you have?

Besides, what this imbalance really does is allow national groups to game the system. By focusing lobbying/campaigning efforts in smaller states, you can gain influence in government more efficiently than by trying to influence the high population regions. Which distorts the importance of those small states even more...

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In what ways would it be worse?

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It would relieve some of the rural areas of the overwhelming urban bias. Most of New York is rural, suffering from being out-populated by New York City; "upstate" NY would like to secede from NYC and get their freedom/liberty back. I left NY per its political oppression; returning to the same homes now in Adirondack state would be marvelous.

Some states are ripe for "redistricting".

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While this isn't a hot topic among New Yorkers I know, I did have a professor at b-school (NYU) who went on rants about the amount of money transferred by the citizens of New York City to the rest of the state of NY. If this is true, I wouldn't be surprised if most "downstate" residents wouldn't mind splitting the state in two, also. Seeing the typical political lockup between the senate and assembly in Albany, I think it would be best for all state citizens to split NYS.

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This money transfer, about which urbanites complain regularly and in numerous contexts, is what one would expect given well-known legislative dynamics. Rural legislators represent constituents who are mostly against expanded benefits spending (you might say that these constituents' preferences are against their interests, but that doesn't change those actual observed preferences). In order for rural legislators to support new benefits against the wishes of their constituents, they must be bribed by receiving an outsize share.

I think this redrawing of states would end that dynamic decisively, which maybe is what urban people want.

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If you throw enough money at people, it's hard for them to refuse even when they don't like the circumstances. Take a hard look at WHY all that money is being transferred.

Example: Milk production is heavily subsidized in NY, obviously a lot of money being given to rural businesses. Most of the farmers don't want the subsidies, but if they refuse the 'free' money their product prices would rise 2-3x and instantly be driven out of the market. A few politicians find it very beneficial to keep those subsidies in place.

Don't complain about people accepting offers they can't refuse.

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Strong objection to any map that puts Chicago in the state of Gary.

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Actually, you are lucky. It looks like Chicago is its own state nestled within Gary.

More info here: http://fakeisthenewreal.org/reform/

I might end up living in the state of "Newark" under this proposal. Not happy.

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Looks like Chicago's actually in its own eponymous state, with Gary surrounding it.

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Come move to Houston! :D

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Good luck telling Montana they are now part of Utah

The real issue with this is that you would have to change all the states every so often to account for population shifts.

Besides, the states have long histories that you would lose. Better fixing the electoral college, which is what is really broken.

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Does anyone have a link to a larger version where the New York/LA/Chicago areas are zoomed in?

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This is the biggest I could find: http://gerrycanavan.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/electoral10-...

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Is LA it's own state, or is it part of Temecula?

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Its own, you can see an orange fringe if you zoom in.

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I'm just at a loss as to why my state has the previously unknown name of "Willimantic", a state which also contains Providence, Hartford, Springfield, the Five College area....

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Disclaimer: I'm not from the US.

Question: Can somebody explain to me why on Earth can't they just calculate every single vote and whoever gets the most of those win the election? Why do you need this over-complicated system of states, electoral votes, blue vs. red states, etc? Why is it NOT fair if the majority elects their president?

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Because the United States was created as a union of formerly independent self governing states (Of varying levels between colony and full nation state). Think of a stronger form of the European Union. This is referred to as the Federal Government. Each member state has it's own state government, laws, police, military etc. The federal government is elected by the states, as it's role in general is to govern the states and interstate matters.

If you are not familiar with the US, you may not realize that for instance "murder" is not a federal crime. Each state has it's own laws to cover "murder", and these crimes are investigate by state police authority. Federal laws (historically at least) only govern interstate laws and laws affecting state governments.

The electoral college and senate are designed to give each state fair representation in the federal government. AFAIK, there is no federal requirement that people even be allowed to vote for president. In the past the congress/legislatures of some states would decide who to vote for, but now almost every state now uses the popular vote to decide who that state will vote for in the electoral college.

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You are correct, each state can decide on its own how it portions out the electors for President. Most of them currently use a winner takes all system for their electors. Some states break them up according to vote totals. In the past the state legislatures often chose the electors. But over time this has changed to popular vote methods, as you say, which is interesting since that eventually lead us to a discussion about abolishing the Electoral College in favor of a national popular vote.

Not is there only no Federal requirement for people to vote for President, there's nothing in the Constitution about the right to vote in the first place. It's more like a privilege that can possibly be taken away. There is a list of reasons in the Constitution that cannot be used to prevent you from voting, many of them added in later via the amendment process. Most of the language of the Constitution doesn't actually give rights to the people, but restricts the actions of the government. The "right" to vote is considered a human right to determine your own leadership, but technically the states can prevent you from voting for any number of reasons. One common example is you lose your ability to vote if you commit a felony. I bet in some states it's even being convicted of a lesser charge is the threshold.

If you do have a "right" to vote, according to government, then it most likely will come from your state's Constitution.

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Actually it shouldn't create as much drama as it does. In our nation's history, I believe only three elections for President had a disagreement between the Electoral College and the national popular vote. In the vast majority of the elections the system works just fine.

The main reason for not having a straight popular vote count is a historical fear of true democracy. Some would say that popular vote leads to mob rule, I being one of them, and that must be avoided. Our own history shows examples of popular vote being used to take advantage of the minority, but that's mostly been on the local and state levels.

Our Federal government was partly designed from the beginning to avoid popular vote problems. There are several checks and balances in place to prevent a majority from absolute rule over the minority. We have three branches of government that keep each other in check in many ways. The most confusing in today's terms is Congress. Congress itself is made up of two bodies, the Senate and the House. The House is supposed to be have elected members based on population of the states, meaning they represent the People. The Senate was originally meant to represent the states, not the People, but since they are voted upon directly by the People it ruins the point of the Senate. Many people forget that the original intention of the Senate was to represent the State's interests on the Federal level. That's why there are two Senators per state, each state gets equal vote. A quick look at the powers given to the Senate versus the House shows which each was intended to represent. Congress writes the laws of the land within the restraints as defined by the Constitution, which often they don't follow. The President, who often used to be voted on by the State legislatures, represents the Nation as a whole. But the states currently decide how to choose electors, most choose popular vote within their state, that ultimately vote for President. He/she (one day) signs into law the bills that Congress passes. The third branch, the Supreme Court, decides on whether laws are valid under the Constitution after a series of rulings from lower courts. Arguments can be made on whether they should be rewriting laws or creating new ones from scratch, of which they do. Supreme Court Justices are nominated by the President, confirmed by the Senate (see? state's interest on the Federal level), and are given lifetime tenure to try to avoid political influence.

To complicate things further, most states follow the Federal government in terms of their design of state level governments. Typically the local levels, city and county/parish, tend to go a much simpler route.

So, is it complicated? Yes, it is and that is by design. You can go the quick and easy route of popular vote for major things but history shows that's just a bad idea overall. The system is designed to force people to think, to debate, and to somehow agree before action is taken. Sadly, over the years the system has been degraded in an effort to be "more fair" to somebody. Often politicians wish to "tinker" with things to make things more fair, as long as it gives them an advantage over their political opponents in some way.

Don't feel bad over your confusion, most over here are confused by it as well.

Also, the red/blue states thing is drama created by the news media. I would imagine most everyday citizens could care less.

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Is there any legal concept of "nationwide popular vote"? The media reports it, but isn't it something they decided to make up on their own?

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We started out as a collection of states that wanted to present a united front, and smaller states didn't want to have no say (so we get the senate and electoral college) while larger states didn't want their individual voters to have no say (so we get the house of representatives). I'd compare the early structure to the EU, but I haven't looked much at history since highschool.

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Despite the overreach of the Federal Government of the last few decades, some say since the Civil War, we are still a collection of states to attempt to present a united front. But the apparent lack of that united front is bigger than just discussing the pros and cons of the Electoral College.

The EU structure from what I know is a similar idea, but I'm not familiar enough with the details on the EU to comment much more than that.

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> Why do you need this over-complicated system of states, electoral votes, blue vs. red states, etc?

The overly complicated bits of the electoral system aren't an accident, they originally existed to provide a way to award more votes to slaveholding states. There just wouldn't have been a lot of people (remember, most of the founding fathers didn't count slaves as people) voting in those southern states, so they'd feel underrepresented.

These things take a long time and a lot of effort to change once people figure out whether the system benefits them or not.

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No one makes an argument for fairness that's worth taking seriously. But the reality is that the people that would lose power under direct majority vote don't want to change and the 90%+ overlap with majority vote for the winner means there's rarely sustained outrage about "unfair" results (and those are in very close contests anyway).

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Problem: Redistricting states every x years would introduce unwelcome difficulties into government. E.g. what happens to state workers in towns that move from one state to another? Would states have a disincentive to invest in their border regions, knowing that they might end up becoming their neighbors' problems in a few years?

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The districts don't have to be the same as the states.

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I don't think this would solve the electoral college problem because a candidate would go to the neo-states with the highest density and beable to work up more votes quicker due to the higher densities. I think we should just drop the EC completely or at least step away from the winner take all system.

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I'm all for refactoring. Every once in a while, you just need to shake up that Etch-a-Sketch.

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Can you imagine the gerrymandering crap we'd have to put up with if state lines could be redrawn?

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Does this feel backwards to anyone else? States with small populations have inflated sizes. States with large populations are tiny and thus look insignificant.

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You're thinking of the size weighted electoral college map.

http://www-personal.umich.edu/~mejn/election/2012/

This map depicts how the USA might look today if the state boundaries were balanced for population. Redistricting of the states, if you will.

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You can look at it as a map of population density. Each state contains the same amount of people.

I think it's fairly interesting and nicely shows that most of the US is practically empty.

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Almost every (large) country is practically empty.

Japan - 4/5 of territory is inhabitable. China - the same. Russia - Siberia is almost inhabited.

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Um, I think you may not be a native english speaker, so just a semantic note here:

inhabit breaks the "in" prefix convention (or the "in" is not a prefix) in that the meaning of "inhabit" is "to live there". So an "inhabitable place" is on where people could live. If you mean "a place where people can't live", the correct term is "uninhabitable".

Note - the word "habitable" means the same thing as "inhabitable".

It is just one of those confusing English language things, where all rules are more "guidelines" than hard rules, and there are exceptions to the exceptions.

Another word that follows a similar pattern: flammable and inflammable mean the same thing. Namely "easy to burn or start on fire".

So I think that to support the empty statement in your first sentence, your second sentence should read:

Japan - 4/5 of territory is uninhabitable. China - the same. Russia - Siberia is almost uninhabited.

edit - The statement "Siberia is almost inhabited" is also a funny/sarcastic way of saying "Siberia is almost uninhabited".

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Thank you!

I'm Russian. And I was unsure when I wrote "inhabitable".

I'm glad that HN-readers can understand what I wrote in my Runglish.

(I suppose it's the same as when I reading Japanese VNs thru online translators)

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Related: "flammable" and "inflammable". Either means that the object in question can be set on fire. The second word is an abomination that should never, ever, ever appear on warning labels. However minor an abomination it may be, it is an abomination all the same.

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I'd always though that "flammable" means "not hard to set on fire" while "inflammable" is closer to "really, extremely, absurdly easy to set on fire".

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From dictionary.com:

flammable: "easily set on fire; combustible; inflammable."

inflammable: "capable of being set on fire; combustible; flammable."

[Standard boilerplate about dictionaries being imperfect reflections of what words actually mean.]

[Perhaps less-standard boilerplate about how words can mean different things in different places.]

Whatever the nuances are, "inflammable" doesn't mean "fireproof", which is my main point.

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As a non-native English speaker, your semantics are incorrect. There is a nuance.

Habitable is an adjective and means it supports life (usually of humans).

Inhabitable is an adjective form of the verb "to inhabit" and deals with one's intention.

So habitable means something supports life and inhabitable means intending to live there is viable, possibly with some modifications to the environment to make it habitable.

Just a minor nitpick.

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As a native speaker, I'm going to push back on the nuance you suggest, and say that that distinction certainly does not exist in my idiolect. Which jibes with a quick dictionary check.

Neither word connotes intention, as far as I can tell.

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> Keep in mind that this is an art project, not a serious proposal, so take it easy with the emails about the sacred soil of Texas.

(From the original source.)

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and using the name Ogallala.......

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Why would draw any map that increases the size of Gary?

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I figured the artist just wanted to get in a dig at Chicago.

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Also, there is already a strong sentiment in all non-Chicago parts of Illinois that Chicago should be it's own state, because it dominates all statewide politics, gets the lion's share of resources, and has a tendency to mess up calculations for needed rural aid for the rest of the state.

Calling the State "Chicago" would certainly add fuel to that fire.

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I'm originally from Illinois (Non chicago) and I would agree with that sentiment. In fact, where I'm from, everyone called it the People's Republic of Chicago and the rest of the state as Kentucky proper . (As a joke of course) On a more serious note though it is frustrating from a political perspective when Chicago dominates stae politics so much. For example, the city of Chicago sued my town, because there was an obscure provision on our books that allowed a certain tract of land to be Section 8 housing. So the state jacked up our taxes to build cheap apartments and then literally bused people from Caprini Green (A project) to our sleepy little town. This was all done in the name of lowering Chicago's crime, not by fixing it, but simply moving it outside the city. I'm sure it had something to do with their failed olympic bid. (Another issue our town had to deal with)

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But there is a state of Chicago on the map, at least it appears that way. Chicago is a state nestled within the state of Gary.

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I wish there were zoom ins of the major metro areas.

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Same. Manhattan and the surrounding buroughs are sure to be effectively dots on this map. Would love to see how many states are represented in the New England cluster.

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Since this is on the front page, I'll mention it here: I'm most interested in the names and any background anyone has on their origins.

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Big Thicket is a nature preserve that is almost entirely within the areas of Houston and Atchafalaya on this map and not in the area called Big Thicket.

The area called Big Thicket on the map would be hard to characterize as a whole. It is primarily Llano Estacado, northern Texas Hill Country and Piney Woods.

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It's on the original site: http://fakeisthenewreal.org/reform/

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Thanks! Don't know how I missed that. As a "Temecula" native, I didn't know it came from a song, and not from the valley.

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Almost exactly 1/2 of the US population lives east of the Mississippi, which is only about 1/3 of the continental US's land area.

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It would be really cool to see what the 2012 election would've looked like with this map.

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As a resident of Atlanta, I am strongly in favor of any reform that miraculously puts me in a blue state...

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...with water.

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So far I have to agree with David Kurtz at http://talkingpointsmemo.com/ - my favorite part is that it renames Alabama in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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I'm from Alabama and if we were to rename the state on a historical figure I would suggest Rosa Parks over Dr. King. But I fear the chosen name is an attempt at humor at the expense of the white people of the state. Which is unfair to them and to most especially Dr. King.

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I think it's an attempt at humor at the expense of _racists_. I don't see why any non-racist white person should be concerned about it.

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It's an attempt at humor that's an over-generalization. It suggests that for those of us from Alabama who would have gladly marched with Dr. King or stood with Rosa Parks, had we been alive to have done so, are to be lumped in with the racist history of the state simply because of the color of our skin.

But that's my opinion, you have your opinion, and I respect that.

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This really looks incredible, even if it is simply fantasy.

The names are far better than the states we have now... I mean, Utah? Where's the excitement in that? Ogalalla is where it's at. Texas? Really? Big Thicket sounds way better.

Jokes aside, I think rather than abolishing the College completely or doing something as radical as splitting up states, the real solution is perhaps to count the popular vote for each state: for example, if California had 66% of the popular vote for the Blue, it could be counted as a Democratic victory. Likewise, if Texas got 12% blue, it would be a Republican victory.

First one to 26 wins.

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Instead of Rainier, this state would probably prefer our first choice, Columbia.

(There was fear Columbia would be easily confused with the District of Columbia, so our state was named Washington after the president.)

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I actually kinda like that I'd be living in Seattle, RR.

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I've read this three times, and isn't that the way the EC works now?

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Nope. The electoral college assigns "points" to each state based on its population. So rather than 50 equal points, we have 270. This kind of system is woefully outdated and allows for an unfair advantage in populated states. If the states had one point each, rather than being weighted through population, the result would be much fairer and not the clusterfudge of a mess it is right now.

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I must be missing something. Under your system, the smallest portion of the whole presidential vote a state could get is 1/50 or 0.02. Currently Wyoming accounts for 0.18% of the population and gets a 3/538 or ~0.006 portion of the vote. how is your system more fair?

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