Neil Freeman’s “Electoral College Reform” Map

A few weeks ago a pretty cool map popped up on the internet: it’s a redrawing of U.S. state lines to create fifty regions with equal population. The goal is to end the disparity between popular vote and electoral college vote, and normalize the value of each person’s individual vote in both presidential and congressional elections. You should check it out here if you haven’t seen it, it’s quite fascinating: http://fakeisthenewreal.org/reform/.

There are many things I like about this map. It’s drawn based on both population distribution and commute patterns, so few people will have to cross a state line to drive to work despite the massive redrawing. The state names are whimsical but logical, based mostly on landscape features whose names we don’t usually see in common usage at least in other parts of the country. “Big Thicket” and “Firelands” look like they come from a fantasy novel, while “Shenandoah” and “Atchafalaya” are compelling for their unusual lettering and sound. I can’t help but imagine the map as describing an alternate reality United States, where history and culture are divergent just like the state boundaries. How different would history have been if there were no Mason-Dixon line? What would happen to college and professional sports if the states were so sharply divided between rural and urban?

As much as I like the map (to be fair, I’m likely to buy the poster once it’s available), there are a few ways in which it bothers my inner nerd:

1. There’s no quadripoint; no equivalent of the “4-corners” intersection between Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. This is disappointing since it’s one of my favorite quirks of the current U. S. layout. Quadripoints seem to me impossibly unlikely without some human intervention in border definition, which the current U.S. layout certainly had a lot of (witness the presence of so many straight lines). I suppose it’s inevitable that a programmatically-generated map is almost certain to have few such quirks, but it feels like some amount of human expression is lost in the transition.

2. It removes the elegant game mechanic of the unequal distribution of voting power between the House and Senate. The current system, where large states get over-represented in the House and small states get over-represented in the Senate, has always struck me as a clever way to create interesting discussions about how different types of legislation benefit different subsections of the population. I really like that it leads to different value systems and platform distributions between the two houses; it seems like this would likely contribute to more thoughtful legislation in the bills that can pass both houses. If we instead tried to make each state equally well-represented in both houses, the only differentiator left would be the longer term length in the Senate.

 

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