pessimizer 44 days ago [-]
I don't think that political parties or race should be included in redistricting plans, especially since I think that this could often accidentally result in optimally "cracking" or "packing" minority districts. Neither political parties nor races should be intentionally institutionalized.

The defining characteristic of a district is that it is geographically contiguous. A defining specification for districts is that they have a roughly even population. With those constraints, what you would want to do is find physical commonalities (not abstract loyalties.) For example: water sources, proximity to commercial areas, types of housing stock, local weather patterns, local roads/accessibility, proximity to major land features/employers (like quarries, factories, lakes.) That's harder than doing this.

A problem I have with with doing this by political parties is that the two parties aren't themselves part of government and shouldn't be. A real problem I have with making racial guarantees (other than the possibility of packing and cracking) is that it seems to be calculated through averaging "diversity" - meaning that a group with 6% representation would be guaranteed 6% voting power on the district level (assuming people vote purely based on racial allegiance.) "Diversity" is a red herring; it's remedy that is important. 6% can be ignored at the district level nearly as easily as it can be ignored at the individual level. You're not going to get remedy from redistricting, but districts that grow from material features of the places where people live will end up shaped by race anyway (due to the history of those places.)

not2b 44 days ago [-]
Districts drawn on natural boundaries as much as possible, that are geographically compact, will do a fairly decent job of representing people fairly as well as giving decent representation to minorities in segregated areas. Gerrymanders often are designed to violate this (for example, chopping up liberal Austin, Texas so that parts of it are in five separate congressional districts, each of which has a suburban majority).

It would also be an improvement to increase the size of legislatures to reduce the potential for gerrymandering. The UK parliament has 650 members, each representing 102.5k people. The US House has 435 members, each representing 754.5k people. The number is set by law and can be easily changed. Make it 1000. It would then be much harder to game things so one party can wind up with 80% of the seats with 50% of the vote.

dragonwriter 44 days ago [-]
> It would also be an improvement to increase the size of legislatures to reduce the potential for gerrymandering.

Increasing the number of single member districts doesn't reduce the potential for gerrymandering; quite the opposite, more single-member FPTP districts makes it easier to gerrymander.

dillondoyle 44 days ago [-]
This is a great solution and the historic number of constituents /per CD has been way lower - this is the highest ever and highest across modern democracies.

I believe it would allow more representation for under represented communities.

Here are some great stats:

tobylane 44 days ago [-]
The UK has a reasonably good and independent process for redrawing constituency borders. One extra goal it was given was to reduce the number of MPs, because 650 is considered too much. This is partly because of the small size of the Commons (ask your MP for a free tour). I don’t think increasing the number will fix ftfp problems.

kukx 44 days ago [-]
These are all arbitrary numbers. Besides, I am not convinced that a democracy is better than a republic. Additional layers of competent people and detachment from the current will of majority has benefits and mitigates the rule of the mob. It is like a filter on the underlying volatility, which we benefit.
dane-pgp 44 days ago [-]
> Besides, I am not convinced that a democracy is better than a republic.

Perhaps you need to read one of the many explanations of those terms, which make it clear that they are not mutually exclusive. For example "‘America Is a Republic, Not a Democracy’ Is a Dangerous—And Wrong—Argument" by The Atlantic.[0]

To steelman your position a little, let me assume that you meant "direct democracy" and "indirect democracy" respectively. However, I don't think anyone is proposing a completely direct democracy, where every decision is put to a referendum.

Also, even if there is some merit in dampening the underlying volatility and limiting the power of small majorities, it's not clear that gerrymandering (or the electoral college, or whatever else you had in mind) actually works to prevent extreme outcomes.

If anything, the current lack of democracy in the US conditions a minority of voters (not to mention a minority of citizens) to expect over-representation in the corridors of power, and, as we saw on 1/6, it is pandering to the will of the minority that is most likely to lead to the rule of the mob, nationally.


skygazer 44 days ago [-]
I’m sure there’s nuance I’m not appreciating, but my natural instinct as a person who votes is that minority rule doesn’t really feel like an improvement over majority rule. Sure, minorities need protection from majorities, but at the same time, majorities feel increasingly uncomfortable obeying the dictates of the few.
scarmig 44 days ago [-]
Physical commonalities are easily gameable. You could divide a city into east-bank/west-bank, or upstream/downstream, or even near-bank/far-bank. Give me enough factors and write me a large enough check, and I can give you whatever kind of partisan results you want.

I do find watershed democracy (legislative district boundaries defined by watershed) kind of an interesting thought experiment. At the very least it'd help to solve water politics.

pessimizer 44 days ago [-]
They're absolutely gameable, and would lead to a lot of debate. Maybe we should work on standardizing and democratizing the redistricting process rather than just skipping to the end.

I'm just saying that I think we should take gerrymandering more seriously than pretending that it's a map coloring problem. There's certainly a lot of math involved, but the properties that are theoretically desirable in a district are not straightforward.

I fear this recipe (especially for the political party balancing) might be optimizing for strife. The only people who would win would be local TV/radio and direct mail in an endless election cycle.

ttyprintk 44 days ago [-]
I would argue that it’s more important for watersheds to align on jurisdiction boundaries. Representative government doesn’t need to fall on the same lines as local policy decisions on pollution rules, water rights, and emergency prep. In the same way that some districts are richer than others, water is produced in some watersheds and consumed in others. Strongly aligning politics to those watersheds might not promote the cooperation you expect.
jhardy54 44 days ago [-]
Bioregionalism strikes again!
sershe 44 days ago [-]
Choosing geographic boundaries can be done very arbitrarily. I wonder if the best solution to prevent gaming the system is to use natural boundaries, but use ALL of them - every stream, every road, etc. possible, to create tons of tiny district. Then pick the one with the largest population and start attaching the closest (as crow flies, from the current center) neighbors to it until the population matches the target. Repeat. That way it's mostly deterministic...

One problem is that the last district(s) may be split up... Perhaps the largest boundary district can be picked as a seed instead, to avoid that.

m463 44 days ago [-]
I've always wondered if you could do 1x1 mile hexes, say centered around the washington monument or state capitol.

Something like:

Then have some algorithm for growing or subdividing if you need a specific population.

sershe 43 days ago [-]
The problem with this is that they it will be difficult for someone to figure out what hex they are in (some houses may be split in half; apartment buildings too; etc.), and would also seem completely arbitrary and ridiculous for people who happen to be on the boundaries.
roenxi 44 days ago [-]
> The defining characteristic of a district is that it is geographically contiguous.

That mattered a lot pre-internet, but theoretically that isn't as important now computers can be used to check 1 voter = 1 vote.

Districts could be redefined to mean something assigned randomly at birth, by lot or people could choose what district to belong to without living there.

From that perspective, any method of dividing the community up is pretty arbitrary.

etrabroline 44 days ago [-]
My African American friends are always very excited when a black politician wins an election. I can't imagine they would accept having even fewer black voices than they do now just so that every district can have the same "local weather patterns". That's actually pretty insulting now that I think about it to suggest "proximity to major land features" is more important that having representation for every community.

I don't really follow your argument in the last paragraph. Could you simplify it a bit?

pessimizer 44 days ago [-]
> I don't really follow your argument in the last paragraph. Could you simplify it a bit?

I'm not a great writer:) Political parties are private organizations; we shouldn't draw districts with the intention of either assigning half of the districts to each of them or assigning half of each district to each of them.

As for race, the way you fix historical wrongs is by fixing them, not through trying to tweak the system until everyone who has equal resources will get a fair shot regardless of race. Groups historically discriminated against by law don't have equal resources.

I'm also black, from the south side of Chicago, and don't care about "representation" in and of itself. I'm not insulting me.

benrbray 44 days ago [-]
Look more closely into how gerrymandering happens and you'll see it's not necessarily a good idea for all e.g. black voters in a certain area to be lumped into the same districts, since it might neutralize an "excess majority" that could otherwise change the results on another district.
ant6n 44 days ago [-]
Gerrymandering is used to minimize the number of black people in Parliament.
sudosteph 44 days ago [-]
I'm a North Carolinian - so it's fair to say that "creative" redistricting has harmed my state a bit more than most. However, I disagree with fundamental precepts they are using because they do not take culture into account. The representative system works best when it's able to group people with similar interests and values and lets them elect someone who can share those interests.

I do not think that valuing "compact" districts is necessarily helpful for that. The better approximation here should be to aim for grouping similar population densities together. For example, rural voters should have much larger districts, which are made up of mostly other rural voters and urban voters should have much smaller districts.

Likewise, "minimal county splits" is not especially meaningful either. In NC, Charlotte is in Mecklenburg County - that county probably shouldn't get split. However, the population which lives edges of the counties which surround Mecklenburg (ie, southern Iredell, parts of Cabbarus county, Gaston county - are hugely impacted by Charlotte. Those counties have tons of growth from commuters to Charlotte and have very different needs depending on how close they are to Charlotte. These outer suburbs voters should be represented together, across county lines.

And finally - I don't every district needs to be all that competitive. We shouldn't be pitting people with totally different needs against each other for representation just for the sake of it.

It's a cool idea and interesting to see what a "fair" algorithm says - but the fundamentals here are critical.

wffurr 44 days ago [-]
A maximally representative district would be a large multi-representative district that elects 5 representative using ranked choice or approval voting.

Then you get the property of representation you're looking for without having to draw fine-grained arbitrary distinctions on a map.

jdmichal 44 days ago [-]
I assume you mean that all the candidates run against each other simultaneously, and the top 5 all win a seat? I don't think that has the properties you are claiming. At least not with approval voting.

Let's spherical cow this for a second and say that 51% of the population would like candidates from the Foo party, and 49% would like candidates from the Bar party. What prevents the 51% from electing five Foo candidates? When a "fair" split would be three Foo candidates and two Bar candidates.

In Approval voting, one would expect five Foo candidates with 51% votes, and five Bar candidates with 49% vote.

Ranked choice might fix this, but the actual results would depend entirely on the vote resolution mechanism.

wffurr 44 days ago [-]
The idea you are looking for is Single Transferable Vote aka STV:
Forbo 44 days ago [-]
I'm a fan of STAR (Score Then Automatic Runoff) though I'm not sure the details on how that looks with multiple positions up for grabs.
jdmichal 44 days ago [-]
I'm familiar with the concepts.

Instant runoff is listed as Hare, and it has some very... interesting results. I don't think it fixes any of the issues people have with first-to-the-post voting, and sometimes makes those issues even worse.

wffurr 43 days ago [-]
Would you please click the link and read about the Fair Voting Act in its entirety? I believe it addresses every issue you have raised so far.
jdmichal 43 days ago [-]
I'm confused. I haven't actually brought up any issues except those raised in the link I provided, where IRV has some serious issues. So allow me to remedy it by providing specifics.

Your link clearly says, in heading: "RCV for Single-Winner Offices (also known as Instant Runoff Voting / IRV)". So unless they are not actually using IRV, then the link I supplied is relevant. It's specifically this part which is broken, quoted from your link:

The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate as ‘number 1’ will have their votes count for their next choice.

So unless a candidate gets a good-enough first-vote showing to not be last, they have zero chance of winning. Even if 100% of the population picks them as their second candidate, and the remaining first-pick votes are spread over 100 other candidates, it doesn't matter they will lose without first-pick votes. And that's what results in graphs like the "square" graph in my link, where a centrist population ends up with a candidate that doesn't make sense.

The heart of the matter is that part of the vote information is ignored until other events happen. But by the time that triggering event happens, the information may no longer be used. In my example, the fact that 100% of people pick a candidate as their second choice is flat-out ignored until candidates start being eliminated. By the time that second choice is looked at, the relevant candidate is no longer in the running.

I have not seen similar multi-candidate simulations, but STV seems to have the same issue regarding ignoring information. Unpopular first vote candidates will be eliminated, even if they're extremely popular second vote candidates.

For single-winner elections, approval voting is both simpler to administer (because there's no ranking) and has better outcomes (because all information is taken into account at the beginning). However, a more complicated method would need to be used for multi-candidate races if "fairness" of representation is a target.

aldonius 42 days ago [-]
Hi, I'm from Australia, where we actually use IRV and STV. I dislike IRV's lack of monotonicity too, but for STV, which is the top-of-chain proposal, your objection

> Unpopular first vote candidates will be eliminated, even if they're extremely popular second vote candidates.

doesn't seem to be a major problem. Groups do well on second and subsequent choices from a combination of being popular in their own right and more-popular groups saying "put us first and then them second".

Our federal electoral commission publishes every ballot ordering for our Senate elections now. A guy named David Bahry has a "preference explorer" which lets you get a high-level overview for yourself:

wffurr 41 days ago [-]
There is a lot more to the Fair Representation Act than just RCV. Lots and lots of detail on the site, including some mathematics on multi winner elections.
arrosenberg 44 days ago [-]
Make it proportional to the vote. If it's 51/49, bar still gets 2. Also makes third parties feasible that way.
minot 44 days ago [-]
Personally, I think fully proportional meaning getting rid of districts is the best idea. The entire state is one district, parties publish a ranked list well before the election, and based on the votes everyone got, the top n people from the party's list get elected.

We still have a problem though: how many seats does each state get? Do we still continue to apportion seats each state gets every ten years on a census?

bobthepanda 44 days ago [-]
> We still have a problem though: how many seats does each state get? Do we still continue to apportion seats each state gets every ten years on a census?

This seems to work and nobody has an issue with the high-level apportionment.

The only criticism I've heard of it is the 435 cap, which is kind of arbitrary, and now one rep represents way too many people.

minot 44 days ago [-]
What would the number of representatives look like if it was fluid and we said the unit is the smallest state that only gets one representative is the yard stick?

A quick search shows Wyoming is the smallest state by population with 578,759 so if we decreased the apportionment from seven hundred thousand something to that 578,759, how many more seats would we need?

If a state with a population of 578,759 gets one seat does a state with population of 578,759 * 2 - 1 get two seats or one seat?

bobthepanda 44 days ago [-]
round up or down as needed. 330 million / 578000 is 570 representatives, give or take. To put this in perspective, the current French National Assembly is 577 members, the Italian Chamber of Deputies is 630 members, the UK House of Commons is 650 members, and the German Bundestag is 709 members.
thechao 44 days ago [-]
I see others have replied to you, correctly; but, to throw in my two cents: multimember districts use some form of ranked choice or quadratic or sortition system. What you’re talking about are called “multimember at large” districts and are both illegal (falling awry of the VRA), in addition to being unconstitutional.
majormajor 44 days ago [-]
> The representative system works best when it's able to group people with similar interests and values and lets them elect someone who can share those interests.

This sounds plausible, but I've been doubting it the past few years. It seems like a big driver in polarization because the most extreme subset of those "shared values" groups can more easily take the driver seat.

sudosteph 44 days ago [-]
I think there are cases where that happens - but I also think we can't underestimate how much reactionary sentiment has stoked this polarization outcome as well. Politicians have learned that "fear of the other guy" can be just as powerful of a motivator (if not more so) to get turnout. So they know that in some cases running an extreme "anti candidate" improves their chances of winning - if only because it energizes the base that is most afraid, and thus most likely to turn out.

For this issue in particular, I think ranked choice could be a huge help.

tshaddox 44 days ago [-]
This sounds nice, but who gets to choose what attributes of populations are the right ones to group together into districts? You suggest grouping by population density, which certainly makes sense for grouping together certain political interests (like zoning). And yet by doing that, you've essentially maximally fragmented people by gender, which is another attribute that makes sense for grouping together certain political interests.

That's an extreme example of course, and I'm not suggesting to instead create single-gender districts, but I hope it illustrates my point.

sudosteph 44 days ago [-]
I'm not sure I understand what you're saying. What does gender have to do with population density? I chose population density, because it was the only value that I could think of that closely correlated with culture and that was not a protected status (ie, not race, religion, sex, etc). If it's done algorithmically, it doesn't seem like a bad measure.

Anyhow, the "who gets to choose" thing is tough. Right now legislators get to choose, but the judges said that they are failing at that, so IIRC, now an academic from a state university got to make some map adjustment. Ideally, I'd have a committee of academics provide vetted map recommendations that elected officials choose from, and that a judge signs off on.

tshaddox 44 days ago [-]
My interpretation was that you chose to group together areas with similar population density because there are important policy concerns directly related to population density. And indeed that's true: water rights, zoning, building codes, pollution and noise restrictions, and more ought to depend highly on the population density of the area, and it doesn't seem necessary or even moral for rural voters to have much say in how dense cities set those policies.

But my point is that there are plenty of other policies which don't (or shouldn't) vary based on population density, and thus grouping districts based only on population density might give very little influence to interest groups for those other policies. Civil rights are the extremely obvious example, but there are others.

SllX 44 days ago [-]
What you’re probably looking for is an increase in the number of Representatives rather than a change in the formula of districting. I am at least.

Look at it this way, if it were 1 Rep per between 30K and 50K instead of 1 Rep per ~700K, there is a decent shot that somewhere in those several thousand Representatives you’ll have a few that are from just about every slice of American life, and elections are still every 2 years if one session of Congress just isn’t good enough for you. Even Wyoming would be sending between 12 and 19 Representatives to Congress rather than the lone Rep they send now, and would have more and various opinions and interests represented.

cabalamat 44 days ago [-]
> but who gets to choose what attributes of populations are the right ones to group together into districts?

Let the voters decide. Allow them to group themselves into self-selecting affinity groups, i.e. have proportional representation.

tshaddox 44 days ago [-]
How would that work with representative democracy? With direct democracy that's pretty straightfoward: one could vote with conservationists on land policies, libertarians on drug policies, progressives on welfare policies, etc. instead of having to vote for a representative who probably disagrees wildly with at least one of those views.
cabalamat 44 days ago [-]
> How would that work with representative democracy?

With PR there would be a larger number of viable parties, for example in the last Dutch election, 13 parties got elected.

> instead of having to vote for a representative who probably disagrees wildly with at least one of those views

With 13 parties you'd probably be able to find one which is reasonably close to your own views.

tshaddox 42 days ago [-]
Having a larger number of viable parties doesn’t seem like it would help that much when your district is huge and gets one representative elected with FPTP.
cabalamat 42 days ago [-]
This wouldn't happen, because districts would be multi-member.

For extra proportionality, have top-up seats (as used in Germany or Scotland).

maxerickson 44 days ago [-]
Competitive districts select representative candidates.

Safer districts select the candidate aligned with the majority party (competitive primaries are less common than competitive elections).

Michigan has term limits. The notional goal is to avoid people that become lifetime representatives; much of the actual outcome is that policy expertise is concentrated in lobbying groups, and well liked, effective legislators are forced out. More rules end up making it easier to work the system.

sudosteph 44 days ago [-]
I don't think your first sentence necessarily holds true - at least it doesn't lately. We just don't see powerful "blue dog democrats" and moderate republicans holding the keys any more.

While moderate candidates have more independent appeal - it's voter turnout that wins elections, even in competitve districts. Appealing to emotions, especially appealing to fear has been extremely successful at getting turnout for particular voters (ie, anti-abortion voters for example). Maybe that will calm down or moderates will turn out more and end this trend (as they did with Biden) - but even competitive races can turn out extreme candidates.

Another possibility to consider, is that what we call "competitive districts" are really just "moderate districts" to begin with. Places the population isn't particularly threatened by or well-served by either party. In that case, it makes sense that they would be both more competitive, and more moderate.

maxerickson 44 days ago [-]
Sure, it isn't an absolute effect, I could have phrased that better. I think it's pretty clearly a directional effect that safer districts pick their representatives in the primary (which often have a candidate backed by the institutional power structure).
PaulDavisThe1st 44 days ago [-]
But that just reflects the fact that a given party has overwhelming support in those districts. It doesn't mean that the result is unrepresentative. So Phila. and NYC pick their mayors in the Democratic Party primary. The result isn't unrepresentative - there was no question that the mayor was going to be a Democrat.
maxerickson 44 days ago [-]
Yeah, I'm not arguing that it isn't representative, I'm arguing that we shouldn't design for that outcome, because it shifts power in the direction of the party and away from the constituents (and it does so even in districts where the constituents are largely comfortable with the resulting representative).
WorldMaker 44 days ago [-]
A lot of that gets to the question of what are we optimizing our k-clusters for?

The idea of geography-based representation spurs from the ideal that a representative should be able to "shake hands" with everyone they represent, right? That a townhall with one's representative might be isomorphic with one's "neighborhood meeting"?

In those cases things like "compact" serve a purpose in going back towards that "neighborhood" ideal (which arguably has never existed in US practice).

But it's 2021 and is geography and the "neighborhood" ideal still useful for us in selecting representatives? When was the last time you shook hands with your representative? When was the last time you had a neighborhood meeting where the representative just swung by for an impromptu townhall?

Maybe we should find a better optimization for our k-means clustering that isn't geography because gerrymandering seems to imply that we'll never fix geographic clustering? With tools like TV and the internet, geography may not even matter like it did to 18th century Americans. A Zoom call isn't a handshake, of course, but we have more tools for virtual shared interest groups than ever before and don't necessarily need to remain tied to the vagaries of geography.

I don't necessarily have good answers for what those metrics/optimizations could be/should look like beyond geography. All I know is that it would be hard to impossible to find good ones under the current two party system and as with most things, the blame for a lot of our problems continues to be directly on the two party system.

arrosenberg 44 days ago [-]
The important thing about geography is that cultures tend to develop along with it. That matters a little less today than in the past, but someone in Fresno is still going to have more in common with someone from Los Angeles than someone from Louisiana.

We also already have systems of representation along other lines that feed into geographically-representative government - consumer groups, interest groups, lobbyists, etc.

scarmig 44 days ago [-]
> someone in Fresno is still going to have more in common with someone from Los Angeles than someone from Louisiana

I question this. Someone from San Francisco is likely to have much more in common with someone from Portland or even NYC or London than they would someone from Bakersfield or Shasta. You can see that in lots of different areas, from migration patterns to election results to what they do on Sunday morning to which media people consume.

SubiculumCode 44 days ago [-]
We have not shaken hands with our representatives because we capped the size of the House of Representatives because they felt it would be awkward to have so many Representatives in a single hall, or some such. Hard af disagree for me. I want to know my Representative, and in the modern era, there is no reason why we can't have a house of 1,000s of members, or some such. Our congressional districts are much too big.
jandrese 44 days ago [-]
I'm not sure I agree with this. It seems to create a lot of safe seats but with just one single token representative for the entire group who doesn't have enough power to get an agenda passed.

If those voters were spread across all of the state's representatives then they would have to care what the group thinks, but when they're all crammed into a single token rep they can be more easily ignored.

sudosteph 44 days ago [-]
That sounds bad, but it's really not. First of all, sometimes groups should be ignored. For example, the pig farming agriculture industry of NC is causing huge environmental destruction. If the rest of the state doesn't like the precedent it sets to let these companies contaminate our water supply - then we shouldn't have to all compromise our values just because people in that industry want special treatment and command a lot of money / swing votes in multiple districts. Secondly, it incentivizes disticts to elect representatives who are good at coaltion building and who are capable of compromising and winning over allies to actually get stuff done.
ablerman 44 days ago [-]
Who gets to decide which groups "should be ignored". The pig farmers certainly don't agree. The whole point of competitive districts is that the groups who should be ignored will be eliminated by competition. Your whole premise seems to set up all districts with functional lifetime appointments rather than elections.
sudosteph 44 days ago [-]
In competitive districts, politicians are far more dependent on campaign funding. Competitive elections are extremely expensive. So the group that gets ignored is just the group that has the least money to throw at candidates. It's the average person that always loses in that case. That's not fair either.

I would certainly prefer term limits, but if a population thinks their representative does a good job representing their needs - why shouldn't they get re-elected? Nobody is stopping them from having a competitive primary. Remember, AOC only got elected because her district was so non-competitive for republicans, that the establishment didn't bother channeling massive money into the primary for the incumbent. So this setup would actually make it easier for non-establishment candidates to sneak in, and even incentivize the other party to run a non-traditional candidate to compete (ie, like how dems used to win with blue dog democrats in rural areas).

dane-pgp 44 days ago [-]
> In competitive districts, politicians are far more dependent on campaign funding.

If we're dreaming big here, how about we try fixing campaign funding too? To give a concrete suggestion, the US should pass a constitutional amendment which allows Congress to limit expenditure on political advertising (but not other forms of political speech). Here is one such approach:

viraptor 44 days ago [-]
> The representative system works best when it's able to group people with similar interests and values and lets them elect someone who can share those interests.

This sounds like it would essentially result in big differences in economic status and in a few decades pit people against each other. It would lead to "let's put retired NIMBYs over here and social housing over there and let each vote for representation of their extreme views". I've never seen it lead to good results.

spankalee 44 days ago [-]
Districts themselves are the problem. They can be more "fair" than they are currently, but they can't overcome the fact that common interests and voting alignment are not exclusively geographic.

Removing districts, or enlarging them so the borders barely matter, and implementing ranked choice voting and proportional representation is a far, far better solution.

andrewla 44 days ago [-]
You have to be very cautious with this approach. The intent is not that you are nominating a faceless member of a party to the office, but an individual that you hold personally accountable for their political actions.

Removing districts means that you are moving to statewide elections, and then it becomes a statewide office rather than a local office, which is not the intent.

The better solution is to make the scarce resource less so; limit districts to 60k people (i.e. pre-Reapportionment Act levels) and expand the house of representatives correspondingly. Then this problem mostly becomes moot.

The other problem, of having ~5000 people in the house of representatives, presents additional challenges, naturally, but the house has the power to set its rules so it can put more work on committees (which can have additional specialization levels) and less work on floors.

scarmig 44 days ago [-]
> The intent is not that you are nominating a faceless member of a party to the office

The "intent"? Whose intent?

Regardless, that's not how modern elections work. The strongest predictor of vote, by a wide margin, is partisan affiliation. Candidates (on both sides!) who are known for exceptional constituent services are regularly voted out for faceless party hacks. When people do switch their votes, it's a consistent shift up and down the ballot. The days when representatives carefully pursued their local constituents' interest are long gone: consider how Californian Republican representatives voted to hike their own property owning constituents' taxes in 2017.

It doesn't make sense to have local elections, because politics isn't local now.

andrewla 44 days ago [-]
> The strongest predictor of vote, by a wide margin, is partisan affiliation

I mean, I guess I think this is a problem, rather than something that we should encode structurally into the system.

I personally would prefer reforms that push back in the local direction. Right now there is a very small number of heterodox senators (Manchin, maybe Sanders, any others?) and a larger number of heterodox reps. To lower those barriers to make it more feasible for people to run for national office as a representative would be a vast improvement.

scarmig 44 days ago [-]
I don't disagree that creating a much larger House would lead to better representation and better constituent services. It's also probably one of the most feasible approaches we could take to electoral reform. So, pragmatically we see eye to eye.

I predict it wouldn't change the tendency toward governance by party hacks, though. That's an effect, not a cause. The root cause is that residents of geographically contiguous regions don't represent a shared interest in the same way they did in the past: there are different dividing lines nowadays.

jedberg 44 days ago [-]
You may be interested in the cube root rule ( which strikes a nice balance between number of people represented and number of people in the House.
specialist 44 days ago [-]
PR seems like the ultimate end goal. Especially for assemblies. Ideally, eliminating districts.

Because of path dependencies (the legal version of technical debt), we gotta start where we're at. So I support any and all reforms that move us in that direction.

I've long advocated approval voting for executive and single member districts. But since I support any move away from FPTP, I support my friends working on RCV. (Don't let perfection be the enemy of good enough.)

I'm newly curious about multimember districts. I don't really get the math (details) yet. I read that Illinois' state house had multimember districts and that it was more effective and less polarized today. And this reform might be an easier lift.

I'm also newly curious about unicameral legislatures. Especially at the state level. Meaning no upper houses aka senates. Or maybe giving the senates different responsibilities. Like the lower house controls the budget and appropriations whereas the upper house does more meta stuff like democratic and governmental reforms. I like the notion of a fast changing lower house and a slower changing upper house. One of the stated intents of the US Senate. But without a more clear division of labor (balance of powers), it hasn't seemed to work out.

ttyprintk 44 days ago [-]
Maybe less theoretically, the US Senate does fulfill a perspective on food security: cows are better represented than people.
AnthonyMouse 44 days ago [-]
What's really needed to fix this is to switch from first the post to range voting:

Then where you draw the district lines doesn't matter nearly as much because no matter where you put them, the candidate that pleases more of the voters in their district has the advantage, which makes it hard to disenfranchise anybody.

By removing spoilers from the equation you can have two highly similar candidates running against each other without splitting the vote and both losing, so a candidate that satisfies more of the district defeats one that disregards the concerns of 49% of the voters.

It also makes it much harder to gerrymander for the advantage of a particular party because it would make third party candidates and independents viable, and shifting voters around would have hard to predict results on party balance. Moving some Democrats you "didn't need" from a Democratic district to one that used to go to the Republicans might make the first district go to the Libertarians and the second to the Greens.

ttyprintk 44 days ago [-] also provides interesting redistricting boundaries:

Colorado is an interesting case because it accidentally reveals a degenerate solution. Geography and population form boundaries in the denser areas, but not the sparser ones.

See the special section on and the follow-up link:

dane-pgp 44 days ago [-]
A voting system which leads to more proportional outcomes is probably the correct solution here, but there is a "hack" which could fix gerrymandering specifically (if implemented) without changing the ballots, the size of districts, or the counting process.

The idea is to look, after an election, at the proportion of seats won by each party, and the proportion of votes won (in aggregate) by each party, and ask "Could these two sets of proportions be brought more into line by appointing a different winner in one of the districts?".

If a change to some winner could improve the proportionality, then a rule would say that this change to the results should be imposed (on the district where the losing party came closest to winning).

Of course, overriding the true result in a district would be hugely controversial, but the idea is that the rule would act as a deterrent and never need to be invoked, because the districts would be drawn in a proportional way to begin with.

mcguire 44 days ago [-]
At-large elections are also a good way to avoid having minorities elected to office.

dragonwriter 44 days ago [-]
That's at-large FPTP elections, which basically guarantee the statewide plurality gets all the seats.

At-large STV, guaranteeing that a faction which got floor(1/n+1)+1 votes in a district with n seats (to make balloting manageable, you probably want 3≤n≤7) provide representation to significant minority interests regardless of geographical distribution.

dragonwriter 44 days ago [-]
This may be clear, but:

> guaranteeing that a faction which got floor(1/n+1)+1 votes in a district with n seats

should be:

> guaranteeing that a faction which got floor(1/n+1)+1 votes in a district with n seats gets a seat

spankalee 44 days ago [-]
That's why you need proportional representation. Various minorities, not just racial, can form blocs that ensure a fair chance of representation.
walshemj 44 days ago [-]
PR unfortuetly can give the extremes kingmaking powers which can go against the well being of the majority.

The German greens forcing Angel Merkle into shutting nuclear energy early and having to use more ghastly lignite coal.

dane-pgp 44 days ago [-]
I think that similar "kingmaking" problems can exist in non-PR systems, but the effect is obscured by how unrepresentative the parties are.

For example, instead of a small party forcing one unpopular policy on a coalition, you end up with a single large party that only 25% of the population voted for, running the government without any accountability (because of "safe" gerrymandered seats).

Moreover, these large parties usually contain multiple competing wings, and so are effectively coalitions themselves, except their "coalition agreements" are done behind the scenes, and then internal party discipline mechanisms are used to force all the politicians in that party to follow the party line, even if that party line is set by a minority of a minority.

chalst 44 days ago [-]
The Greens actually had little parliamentary influence then: the CDU could have counted on the support of their coalition partners, the pro-nuclear FDP, at the time. Merkel went with massive anti-nuclear sentiment post-Fukushima to pass legislation with over 80% Bundestag support to phase out nuclear power.
obelos 44 days ago [-]
It depends on the voting system. Some methods like Proportional Approval Voting are less prone to this kind of gaming in PR/MMD settings:
freeone3000 44 days ago [-]
How is that working out for the Senate?
spankalee 44 days ago [-]
Horribly. States borders are one of the worst districting systems imaginable, and the fundamentally undemocratic nature of the Senate makes it a huge, and basically insurmountable, problem.
sudosteph 44 days ago [-]
States aren't supposed to be districting systems though - they're meant to be independent governing bodies that work under a set of shared constraints for a shared repbublic. The entire point of the Sentate is to give a representation to the need of the state as its own entity - not as a representation to the people in the state. It wasn't even intended to be an elected body.

It may feel unfair, but it's intentional, and it does help ensure overall stability of the nation. The entire philosophy behind the US, right down to the the name of the nation, revolves around the fact that states are the fundamental unit and they have long-term needs which are not always understood or valued by the people. The house of reps is for the the needs of the people, not the Senate. This is why the US is a democratic republic, not a pure democratic state.

PaulDavisThe1st 44 days ago [-]
The concept of "a state as its own entity - not [ ... ] the people in the state" is so broken as to almost need no remark.

What on earth does that even mean? How does a Senator represent "the state as its own entity - not [ ... ] the people in the state" ? Presumably the Senator responds to legislative proposals based on how their perceive them to affect the state, but what can it mean to say "how it affects the state" if that doesn't actually mean "how it affects the people of the state" ?

Well, I'll suggest how: it makes sense only if you reinterpret "the state as its own entity - not [ ... ] the people in the state" as meaning "the existing distribution of power and resources within the state". That is, the role of the Senator from state XX is to ensure that the existing power structure of the state remains in place.

I cannot imagine any other intepretation of "the state as its own entity" that can be offered. Do you have one?

Also, this notion of "the states as the fundamental unit" is a concept that was certainly in place at the time of the DoI. It simply isn't how most Americans experience their citizenship or lives, and arguably it suffered a fatal blow post-civil war. You can argue, if you wish to, that the Constitution still reflects the old arrangement (there are some smart folk who will disagree with you). The de facto situation on the ground, however, is that Americans conceive of themselves living in a single nation with differences in laws and regulations from state to state.

[ EDIT: clarify para 3 and drop word bombs ]

sudosteph 44 days ago [-]
Perhaps I'm an idealist, but I see nothing broken about my understanding of statehood and it's more than an the existing distribution of power. If we're using the dictionary definition, a state is:

"a nation or territory considered as an organized political community under one government."

Which is exactly which each US State is. My home state, NC, is a territory which has a distinct culture and community, and it's own governing body. I'm a 10th generation North Carolinian, and I respect that fact that NC existed before I was born - and will continue existing after I'm dead. A state is more than the people who are currently residing in it or it's current power distribution - it's a long-standing culture, governing body and community of people that are inextricably tied to their own geography and their own decisions, past and future.

I don't care about preserving the current power structure for future generations - but you can bet I care about preserving NC's culture, environment, and state sovereignty for future generations. Those things are all bigger than any individual, and I certainly still believe they are worth fighting for. NC has the world's first public university and an amazing state university system in general. We have amazing food and BBQ culture, we have 3 different unique dialects of American English, we have our own tradition of folk music, we have our own religious traditions and our own way of going through our lives.

Also, FWIW - if you think Americans think of themselves as a single nation with minor variations - you really haven't spent enough time in the South.

PaulDavisThe1st 44 days ago [-]
I appreciate the concept of a state as a culture. But like the concept of a state as a community, that means nothing without people. I grew up in a country (long, long ago [0]) that takes it culture so seriously that it frequently forgets this association, and believes that culture has some kind of existence above and beyond the people who might (or might not) share it. NC, relative to the UK, is a young place, and it should not make that mistake. This is how you block change, this is how you oppress the future, this is how you become irrelevant.

But I also think that your connection between the concept of a state and its culture in a political context seems odd, to put it mildly. What possible decision can the US Senate make that has any real bearing on any of what you consider NC's "culture" to be? I mean, I suppose that if they were to ban BBQ (to use one of your examples), it would be a problem, but this is hardly the work of the Senate. There's really nothing about a state as a culture and/or community that the Senate makes decisions on. So when a NC Senator takes their seat in DC, what is it that is driving their decision making process? It's not voting for a particular folk music tradition. What are they voting to defend? To maintain? To extend? It's not your dialectical plurality, I assure you.

Next: your NC traditions have a history that goes back much further than the founding of NC. To imagine that they are somehow the unique property of NC is quite a stretch. Just yesterday, I watched an incredible documentary [1] about how southern baptist and presbyterian "line singing" is almost certainly a continuation of a presbyterian (read scottish) religious song form. And a great book [2] talks at length about how 4 British "folkways" (you have to read it to understand what is meant) form the basis of the majority (not all, obviously) of white culture in North America. Picking the declaration of independence and/or creation of NC as a state as some definitive breaking point with history is, IMO, not reflective of how human cultures work.

At the same time, those traditions do not stop at the borders of NC, but twist and change across the state and across state lines.

> if you think Americans think of themselves as a single nation with minor variations - you really haven't spent enough time in the South.

Possibly not. 7 years in Seattle, 23 in Philadelphia, 2 in Santa Fe. And I do acknowledge that an overriding impression I have of Texas where I've spent several months is that the people there consider themselves Texan's first and Americans second. Nevertheless, I would posit that with the level of migratory behavior in the US today (still not huge - the median American lives 18 miles from their mother, apparently), for an awful lot of people this sort of strong state level association has become much weaker. When you have children spread to the 4 corners of the country, which is quite common these days, it's hard to view their home states as "the other" with quite the same vehemence.

[0] please don't accuse me of not "getting" the US by virtue of being an immigrant. There's a reasonably good chance, based purely on the demographics of HN, that I've lived here longer than you :)



rayiner 44 days ago [-]
I think people underestimate how much state ties people have. My wife’s family has been in Oregon for 150 years. They all still pretty much live there, a couple of hours from where their family homestead used to be. There’s a strong separatist (secessionist) streak in Oregon too.

Even here in Annapolis, an hour from DC, it seems like everyone is from here.

PaulDavisThe1st 44 days ago [-]
Even in England, which nobody would dispute is "one nation" (note that I used England here, not the UK), you can travel around to various regions and find exactly the same level of regionalism as you're describing. People from (say) Cornwall (extreme southwest) feel a distinctly different identity for themselves compared with (say) the far north east, and particularly with the southeast. We're talking across distances of just a few hundred miles.

So I don't think that this has anything inherently to do with "states" per se. People like to feel affiliated with a region and/or a community that they feel they can get their hearts and minds around. In the US, for so many reasons, "states" tend to be the natural attractor for such feelings. But even then, as you note, the "95ers" versus eastern OR is still a thing.

sudosteph 43 days ago [-]
Culture is such an interesting topic. I do think cultures do exist and have an impact even after they've lost their community (ie, how the great works from hellenistic culture and Roman culture continued to influence later scholars in the west), but you're right that they must ultimately be able to co-exist and progress with their own community to be relevant. That said, I happen to think that NC Culture has managed to progress and has the capacity to remain meaningful.

The fact that our culture is young and highly syncretic (as many cultures are) does not delegitimize it at all. The Scottish have an influence over certain elements - but so do the descendants of various African cultures, the English, German Moravian settlers, and local tribes like the Cherokee. It doesn't matter when my ancestors first decided that the label of "North Carolinian" suffices to encompass all that and more - it just matters that it happened - or rather, it matters that we believed it happened and acted accordingly.

As far as impact the US Senate can make on the state of NC, here are a few I can think of:

- Federal laws about cigarette labeling were very impactful to NC, since our tobacco industry was historically a huge piece of economy (and it remains significant today, though not as powerful).

- Laws that relate to climate change and rising sea levels - The NC outer banks is a fragile ecosystem and is already eroding.

- Funding for interstate transportation infrastructure - which cities should have priority to be put on future interstate routes? This is huge for tourism.

- Rural Broadband expansion - there are parts on the NC mountains, such as where my grandparents live, that STILL don't have high speed internet connection. In fact, the crazy pants representative my district just elected (Madison Cawthorn), despite being a "small government republican", made rural broadband core to his platform - because it's that important here. If NC can ally with other states that have underserved populations on this, then maybe we can get an "internet new deal".

Fwiw, your examples of Texans being Texan first, and American second is exactly the norm in the south that I'm talking about. I didn't even grow up in a particularly southern-culture dominant part of the south, but I only lasted for 5 years in Seattle before I got my behind back to NC. It wasn't just that I missed the trappings of home (though I did), but I still felt that I couldn't relate to how most people there were thinking and acting, and I felt like an outsider. I could have tried harder to change myself to be more like them I guess, but I don't think I would have liked myself as much. The other part of it was, the state of NC played such a big role in making me who I am - that I do feel that I have the duty to help NC as well.

I totally see what you're getting at and respect it - but it's just not in line with how I'm tuned to operate. As I said before, I'm probably just a hopeless idealist :)

PaulDavisThe1st 43 days ago [-]
Some great examples there. But let's dissect them a little.

But first, let me just that I had no intent to try to "delegitimize" NC culture at all. If anything I was more trying to just move the boundaries a bit, and insist that it is bigger than that description suggests. I see it as more like some sort of set theoretic thing: any given culture anywhere on earth is a complex set of overlapping previously-existing cultures, gathered from across time and space, and the exact mixture will vary if not inch-by-inch then probably mile by mile. My sister- and brother-in-law live are OBX'ers and from many visits with them combined with a few to friends in the NC mountains, one could scarcely imagine they even live in the same timezone let alone the same state.

Tobacco: a huge piece of the economy measured in terms of dollars, but measured in terms the percentage of the population directly involved in it, not so much. So on the one hand, we have an industry that made and keeps a small number of people very wealthy, and on the other we have an industry that provided nothing more than a regular wage to many others PLUS doing substantial harm to those who smoke, both in NC and elsewhere. Thus ... when a Senator from NC votes on tobacco related issues, I would insist that what they are generally voting for is to preserve the existing distribution of power and wealth within the state.

Now, with rural broadband, one could argue that this goes the other way. Surely, one might say, universal (and affordable) access to reliable high speed internet service changes things a lot, in ways that actually threaten to change the existing distribution of power and wealth in NC (and obviously elsewhere too). I don't think that this is wrong, but I think it's very important to dig deeper into such proposals. Why? Because so often when someone bothers to do this, we find all kinds of nefarious self-interest still at work, hidden under what is almost certainly excellent public policy. Does it matter if someone who is already among NC's "landed gentry" (they would never call themselves that, of course) gets a bit richer while a process that gives everyone functioning Netflix occurs? Maybe, maybe not. I'd just be curious to see how Cawthorn sells this idea to his wealthier donors compared to his more public facing version.

I am not surprised by your reaction to Seattle. As I mentioned in another comment here, most people want to feel part of a group of "similar" folks that is of a size that they can wrap their hearts and minds around. I was reading something this morning that mentioned an area of Manhattan called "Alphabet City" - a relatively tiny area but one that still contains enough people for its residents to think of themselves as living some aspects of life with shared experiences and goals. So this sort of association/community/culture building goes on everywhere and at all times.

I don't think your a hopeless idealist. I think your experience and outlook is probably much closer to that of a majority of Americans than mine.

bloaf 44 days ago [-]
> A state, is called the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly lieth it also; and this lie creepeth from its mouth: "I, the state, am the people."

-Friedrich Nietzsche

spankalee 44 days ago [-]
I know it's intentional, but it's unfair and broken. There's no valid reason for a WY resident to have 60x the voting power of a CA resident.
totalZero 44 days ago [-]
The reason is that WY would never become part of a federation where its partial sovereignty means nothing. Look up the Great Compromise.
PaulDavisThe1st 44 days ago [-]
WY was created by the United States of America. It wasn't some pre-existing entity that opted to join the union.
totalZero 44 days ago [-]
This is hilarious for two reasons.

One, Delaware existed prior to the founding of the United States of America, so your general point about small states is not carried by this WY-specific comment about the process whereby territories become states. And besides, there were people in WY before it formally became a state. Do you also believe that doctors don't exist before they graduate from medical school? lol

Two, during that debate about Delaware in 1787, Elbridge Gerry made the same exact argument that you are making here. It wasn't a convincing argument then, and in fact he is now best known for the term "gerrymandering" that was named for him.

The Tenth Amendment limits the rights of the federal government and requires the federal government to respect and protect the rights of the states, something that the Supreme Court has repeatedly done. So even if WY did not and could not exist independently, the fact that it is a state makes it CA's equal in some respects, including upper-house representation. This design was not an accident, but rather a thoughtful and intentional check upon the tyranny of the majority.

PaulDavisThe1st 44 days ago [-]
> there were people in WY before it formally became a state

I believe I addressed this in the rest of this sub-thread.

> a thoughtful and intentional check upon the tyranny of the majority

That's an interpretation. There are others, including that it's a thoughtful and intentional way to preserve and even magnify the interests of those who own land.

ndiscussion 44 days ago [-]
That seems... like a creative way of putting it. Wyoming may not have existed as a state entity, but the people sure did. And they had their reasons for joining the federation - this is one of them.
PaulDavisThe1st 44 days ago [-]

>The region acquired the name Wyoming by 1865, when Representative James Mitchell Ashley of Ohio introduced a bill to Congress to provide a "temporary government for the territory of Wyoming".

> The region's population grew steadily after the Union Pacific Railroad reached the town of Cheyenne in 1867, and the federal government established the Wyoming Territory on July 25, 1868

> Once government-sponsored expeditions to the Yellowstone country began, reports by Colter and Bridger, previously believed to be apocryphal, were found to be true. That led to the creation of Yellowstone National Park, which became the world's first national park in 1872. Nearly all of Yellowstone National Park lies within the far northwestern borders of Wyoming.

> In August 1886, the U.S. Army was given administration of the park

> Democrats and Republicans alike in Wyoming Territory agreed by the late 1880s that it was time their territory became a state. Statehood was attractive to the territory’s businessmen and politicians, as it offered them much more local control over land and water issues

> Gov. Warren called a special election for Nov. 5, 1889. The Constitution passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 6,272 in favor to 1,903 against. [ this at a time where the total population of the state was around 60,000 ]

>Cheyenne businessman and rancher Francis E. Warren, was appointed to a second stint as territorial governor in 1889, replacing Moonlight. Warren strongly supported statehood. [...] (Territorial governors and other top officials were appointed by the president.


I don't find your view of Wyoming's history persuasive. The territories were created and managed by the US federal government, with every expectation that they would either become states or simply remain US-controlled territory. They were never independent pseudo-states, and if they remained a territory, they had even less control over their own destiny than if they became a state.

ndiscussion 44 days ago [-]
You're certainly more educated on the history than I am. My main point is that the smaller states would have never agreed to a representative democracy which made their desires 100% irrelevant.

There's enough small states like that to get some leverage. WY is one example, but there's many more. And as we saw in the civil war, states and people were willing to go to war to defend their interests, whatever those interests were.

I simply can't imagine the feds trying to conquer Wyoming. There are no cities to burn. There would be a rifle behind every shrub-brush, and the casualties would be so massive, and so demoralizing, that they would be forced to allow those states to form their own federation. It would be a high-desert Vietnam situation.

edit: I'm actually so ignorant on the history that I didn't realize WY became a state in 1890. The Great Compromise was in 1787. So this matter was already long settled by the time they had a chance to become a state - this nation was clearly intended to be a federation of states with independent control.

PaulDavisThe1st 44 days ago [-]
> this nation was clearly intended to be a federation of states with independent control

Appeals to history like that don't work for me. You could just as easily say:

"this nation was clearly intended to be a place where only white men got to vote"


"this nation was clearly intended to be a place where slavery was legal and a slave was counted as 3/5 of a human being"

The emancipation proclamation, and later civil rights movements have changed those things in an explicit way. But I would argue (and I'm not alone in this) that many other legislative and judicials changes since the end of the civil war have undermined the historical notion of "a federation of states with independent control".

I don't disagree that it would be better if we were to explicitly modify the constitution to reflect these changes. But modifying the constitution is very tricky to do (a major defect in the constitution IMO), and so for now we have to deal a de-facto situation rather than one necessarily reflected in the words of an amendment or three.

The feds have never (so far) been faced with "trying to conquer Wyoming". As outlined in the quotes I gave last time, the federal government created the Wyoming territory, appointed its territorial governors, voted on whether to allow it to become a state. The federal government owns most of the land in Wyoming too. This story repeats for more or less the entirety of the western states. It is purely an imagined fiction that these were once sovereign independent nations that finally decided to join the continental union. They were paid for and controlled by the union until they decided to be states instead of territories, at which time they had more self-determination in many important ways (but less in others).

This process is more or less unrelated to the formation of the states that existed at the time of the DoI. These states had already existed for 40-100 years in various ways, and had never been part of anything other than the dominion of the British monarchy.

I would wager that even had the constitution not granted WY it's 2 senators for its 60k people, the handful of those who voted in 1889 would still have decided to become a state (the alernative was not some glorious independent future, but simply remaining as a territory).

ndiscussion 44 days ago [-]
Nice chatting with you, thanks for humoring me. If we don't modify the constitution legally, how do you propose we do it? I am aware that the constitution doesn't mean much of anything in the courts these days. But how is this different from the law of the west? The powerful make the rules with no accountability.

Historically, people have burned the government to the ground and started with a brand new document. I suppose that's what most people are advocating when they wish to change the constitution in a way which it does not allow.

If not by law, how is it decided? Can I decide? I suppose I can if I become a supreme court justice or someone like Bill Gates.

The founding fathers certainly knew that the constitution would be hard to change - that's the whole point. They saw what happened to past governments with wimpy foundations. I really can't see the point of keeping the constitution at all if we are going to violate it due to "current sentiments" - it's all a sham.

Perhaps they would have voted for becoming a state even without their 2 senators, but that seems far from certain to me. Like the American Revolution itself, I just can't see Wyoming people sitting down and taking what's given to them.

Of course, my predictions about the future of America are different from most. I think we've only just begun to hear the rumblings of a deep conflict. This election was not the climax, but the prologue.

AlgorithmicTime 44 days ago [-]
There is if both California and Wyoming are sovereign states within the federal system of the United States. The alternative is the abject subjugation of vast regions to the will of the more populous regions. Should Canada be subject to the will of the American people because the American people outnumber the Canadian people 10 to 1?
chx 44 days ago [-]
> States aren't supposed to be districting systems though disagrees

totalZero 44 days ago [-]
The advantage of state borders is that they are static and precede many years of polity shift and demographic migration.

Districts, on the other hand, are drawn to serve the drawer.

scarmig 44 days ago [-]
States are also drawn to serve the drawer. Why do we have a North Dakota and a South Dakota? It's not because we had a North Dakota Territory and a South Dakota Territory; it was because they would enter the Union as solidly Republican states, cementing Republican dominance in the Senate and in the Presidency, and admitting two states instead of one doubles the effect.

There's no particular reason to treat the current boundaries as holy writ.

rayiner 44 days ago [-]
There is a reason, which is that regardless of how and why states were created, they are legally sovereign entities with their own separate governments.

A bunch of countries in the world were drawn on a map with boundaries set by the UN or the British. That doesn’t make them any less sovereign entities.

jrussino 44 days ago [-]
Whenever the topic of of redistricting/gerrymandering or voting comes up, I always like to recommend CGP Gray's series of videos on the subject:

I think the "meta" issue of improving our political system is probably the most important political issue we should focus on for the long-term health of our society. Does anybody here have other good resources to recommend for learning about these issues, both from a theoretical standpoint as well as groups/organizations that are advocating for improvements in this area?

dane-pgp 44 days ago [-]
Another popular resource that is often shared is the explorable explanation "To Build A Better Ballot" by Nicky Case here:

It's a great way to get to grips with some of the theory of different voting systems, and has some links at the bottom to various relevant groups.

MengerSponge 44 days ago [-]
Any attempt to completely automate this process is destined to fail, for all the reasons given in this thread. Weighting factors matter, and it is naive to assume that nobody is going to attempt to subvert a nonpartisan board, when so much power is at stake.

Don't despair! There's an alternative that generates an equitable outcome between two parties that are trying to screw their rivals: Cake Cutting.

You've probably heard the basic version of how to fairly divide a piece of cake between two children. Have one of them cut it, then the other choose which piece to keep. The cutter guarantees the largest possible piece of cake by cutting the cake in half.

This is the same idea, just extended: one party divides the state into districts, then the other chooses one district to "lock" and divides the remainder, then the process repeats.

jedberg 44 days ago [-]
But then you just further entrench the political parties.
dane-pgp 44 days ago [-]
It doesn't have to entrench the political parties, depending on the system used. For example the people tasked with drawing each district could be selected from the general public by sortition, i.e. like jury duty.

These people would be given access to every tool and expert help they need, and if they wanted to just rubber-stamp the suggestion of whichever party they support, then they would be free to do so.

A slightly more deterministic process would be to generate a list of all parties (or independent candidates) who received more than 10% of the vote at the last election, and allow each of them to draw a number of districts in proportion to the share of the vote they received.

rayiner 44 days ago [-]
For all of the talk about gerrymandering, it’s worth noting that it had almost no net effect this year:

Democrats won 50.8% of the House popular vote, and 51% of seats.

Or in 2018: Democrats won 54% of seats and 53.4% of the vote.

It had a modest effect in 2016: Democrats won 45% of seats but 48% of the vote.

qndreoi 44 days ago [-]
With gerrymandering, the ruling party will pack voters in districts by party. Instead of competitive districts, one party districts are formed, and more extreme candidates win primaries. That's how you end up with really objectionable people being elected instead of centrists, and compromise becomes near impossible.
ogre_codes 44 days ago [-]
Your average kindergartener could draw up districts which are more fair than the current ones.

The problem has never been finding a fair way to do it. The problem is that the people in power aren't at all interested in doing it fairly.

clircle 44 days ago [-]
The website is down, so I don't have much to say. But I will be very interested in how the authors define 'fairness' for this sort of problem.

Algorithms are fair right guys? It can't be biased if it's just math. \s

totalZero 44 days ago [-]
One advantage of a system like this can be the static nature of the objective function. If you set the rules up clearly beforehand (perhaps in a Constitutional amendment), then after a while the ebb and flow of two-party politics will balance out in the new reality (see Duverger's Law) and you no longer have to deal with gerrymandering.
Rebelgecko 44 days ago [-]
I can't access the website either, but I'm really curious to see if their definition of fairness creates districts that violate the majority-minority rules in the Voting Rights Act
jedberg 44 days ago [-]
We really need to get the cube root rule passed.[0] Gerrymandering wouldn't really be useful if each district were smaller, and then we'd get Representatives that have a similar breakdown to the people they represent.

For example in the US each representative would represent ~475K people instead of ~755K. So California would have 84 representatives instead of 53.

It's a lot harder to gerrymander when the districts are much smaller.


brianolson 44 days ago [-]
I used to think smaller districts would be harder to gerrymander, but the 99 Wisconsin State Legislature districts (each none too big) can still be gerrymandered plenty to distort the balance of that body.
jedberg 44 days ago [-]
Interesting. I hadn't heard about that. I just read up on it, and it's crazy how well they gerrymandered. Look like in one election Democrats got 56% of the vote but only 28% of the seats.
sagarm 43 days ago [-]
More districts just means more opportunities to gerrymander.

We need multi-member districts to achieve something closer to proportional votes and reduced polarization.

jedberg 43 days ago [-]
This is a fascinating idea. Make the districts bigger but have each one elect two people. Which in California would basically be the two people who run in November since we have a jungle primary.
mywittyname 44 days ago [-]
This is a mostly great idea.

The only thing I can't get behind is their mechanism for competitiveness. While it sounds like a feature that is desirable, I suspect that in reality, it serves to provide the minority candidates with disproportionately high influence.

I feel like it introduces the same problem that the electorial college does, where a swing of 10,000 votes in one region can be used to negate 100,000 votes in another.

I think a better target would be to optimize for for minimal difference in demographic between neighboring districts. That way districts act as kind of a gradient, where neighboring districts influence each other slightly, keeping each district closer to the overall political affiliation of the region.

chris123 44 days ago [-]
Pretty sure the politicians don't want it fair. Politicians don't do fair. It's the worst of humans that are attracted to politics and surviving politics, after all.
PaulDavisThe1st 44 days ago [-]
The more you believe this, the more you guarantee its truth.

If you want it to be otherwise, you have to believe that it can be. You have to believe that we can have political systems where people who actually care about issues, about people, about the welfare of other people, about justice, abdout the future can play a role.

If you really don't believe that's possible ... I don't want to be you.

specialist 44 days ago [-]
Most every incumbent tries to pull the ladder up after themselves. That's why it's so ridiculous to have electeds in charge of redistricting, reforms, oversight.

Even the appearance of a conflict of interest should be treated as a conflict of interest. No burden of proof required.

44 days ago [-]
cafard 44 days ago [-]
Isn't this a matter of political will rather than of algorithms? Iowa seems to have a good process:
phnofive 44 days ago [-]
Are geographic districts required by the Constitution? State and Federal laws certainly follow from this assumption, but could a state simply assign registered voters at random (per election, roughly in line with ballots being finalized) to each of its districts? Single-seated states already enjoy this luxury.
dane-pgp 44 days ago [-]
I believe the requirement to have single-member districts was introduced with 2 U.S.C. § 2c in 1967. The name for the previous practice was "at Large" election, and the text of the law[0] includes a reference to that practice as part of a transitional measure:

"a State which is entitled to more than one Representative and which has in all previous elections elected its Representatives at Large may elect its Representatives at Large to the Ninety-first Congress"

ogre_codes 44 days ago [-]
It is good to know who your representative is and for a representative to be able to visit their district and have community meetings so they can (in theory) represent the interests of the people in that community. If the district is spread across the state like avocado on toast, you aren't really representing anyone.
WorldMaker 44 days ago [-]
If you keep the group small enough per representative you can still hold community meetings. The internet adds more options for "central meeting places" even if the geography is absurdly large (say, a random sampling of Texas or Alaska) even if you can't find other ways to incentivize travel to in person meetings.

That said though, when was the last time any representative in the US was concerned about in person community meetings? It's a beautiful ideal, but in practice it seems nonexistent. The status quo, especially when you look at the maps of how some districts have been gerrymandered to incredibly abstract shapes is already broken from the ideal. Maybe it's time to shift the ideal? We have the technology to try new things that aren't necessarily beholden to geography today, among other ideas.

ogre_codes 44 days ago [-]
> The status quo, especially when you look at the maps of how some districts have been gerrymandered to incredibly abstract shapes is already broken from the ideal.

This is something we can fix though.

I know where our representative's office is. While I haven't gone to our representative for specific needs, I know people who have. Knowing our representative lives in our district and is local means I know he understands what our community is dealing with at least at some level.

While there are a lot of things broken with the current representative model, being regional is not the problem. (The stupid way they designate the "regions" on the other hand is)

WorldMaker 44 days ago [-]
I'm not saying being regional is the problem, but that we have an opportunity to question the definitions/assumptions behind "regional". A lot of our country's ideals of a representative district stem from concepts/assumptions that a representative's office should be no more than a brief horse ride away. Gerrymandering has insured that isn't the case in a lot of places today hence the assertion that the original ideals are unmet ("broken").

But what happens if we question the assumption directly? Is it okay to take public transportation into account? What about car travel? To get into useful extremes for illustrative purposes, what about air travel? How far in travel time is feasible/allowable, an hour's distance? Four or more, like some of the classic representative horse "ridings"?

It doesn't entirely matter where you stand with specifics to those travel methods/distance qualifiers: the point is that those are variables/knobs in the equation. If the outcome is better representation overall, knowing that your representative is less than four hours by car away, for instance, may still be sufficient to meet the useful parts of the "regional" ideal while providing more options to explore in optimizing representation (such as random sampling or some k-means clustering gradient) than the traditional "geographies need to be contiguous and no more than a simple horse ride big".

Technology also presents other opportunities to explore: Would you be happy if your Representative's "Office" was a Discord server of "the right size" (say, small enough that it isn't a cacophony, big enough that it isn't just in jokes and memes of two to three shitposters every day) and your Representative had mandated "Office hours" to "hang out/townhall" in a voice or video chat channel? I know that a lot of people might find the idea ugly or terrifying, but I find it an interesting ideal of a different more modern sort. You might feel more likely that your voice is directly heard, and a good Discord server can feel very "regional" even when the actual participants are scattered to the winds geographically. I'm not saying "Discord but for Politics" is necessarily the best idea either, just that it is a useful thought experiment in questioning what it means to be "regional" in 2021.

ogre_codes 44 days ago [-]
If someone is a 4 hour drive away, they don't have any feel for the community and are essentially limited to doing vague party line sort of things. I want my representatives to represent ME and the needs of our community, not just focused on generic issues that affect the whole state.

As an example:

Our representative managed to snag a chunk of funding for a local park here which will benefit the community. Without being local, would he have even known there was an opportunity to build the trails and help fund this?

phnofive 44 days ago [-]
I get the idea, but if you can live across the street from another district while living in the same neighborhood, I don’t think it bears out.

It would also make a two-party campaign schedule impossible, so it’s unlikely to gain traction. Just wondering aloud.

frankydp 44 days ago [-]
Is this seriously recommending institutional race based procedural gerrymandering?
rohan-ramchand 44 days ago [-]
This is really cool! I built something very similar for my undergraduate thesis:
andromeduck 44 days ago [-]
Can we just gamify it via fair cake slicing algorithm and call it a day?
ndiscussion 44 days ago [-]
These things are all just opinion - there is no such thing as a "fair" district.

Or do you not really agree with this concept?

Voting blocks are how they are... and these kinds of changes will have sweeping, unpredictable consequences. I find it humorous that people have a big enough ego to think that they could get it "right".

More generally, what people consider "fair" voting policies are what benefit their political party.

majormajor 44 days ago [-]
You seem to be suggesting that tyranny of the minority would be no less preferable to tyranny of the majority, while it seems strictly worse: it still isn't properly representing everyone, but now the unrepresented population is larger...

Don't let an improvement not being perfect prevent any improvements from happening.

manux 44 days ago [-]
> Don't let an improvement not being perfect prevent any improvements from happening.

I strongly agree. I often hear this type of argument and it appears to me as just another kind of Nirvana Fallacy.

ndiscussion 44 days ago [-]
Tyranny of the minority is a different problem, and I don't think it's a given that this will occur if you take away majority rule.

Think historically - would you really want the tyranny of the majority in the 1960s? 1920s? It's my opinion that minorities deserve a place at the table.

majormajor 44 days ago [-]
> Think historically - would you really want the tyranny of the majority in the 1960s? 1920s? It's my opinion that minorities deserve a place at the table.

Do you think we didn't have that? It took a LOT of protesting and lobbying and effort to get changes made in the US, more than in many other nations which, say, didn't need civil wars to end slavery.

We had to change the majority to get those things, and while it's sad that the majority didn't move faster (and that's a different problem), now we have problems created by groups that can't even command a majority of the population being able to set policy.

tshaddox 44 days ago [-]
This might be controversial, but how about no tyranny at all?
AnthonyMouse 44 days ago [-]

Suppose you have a state with five districts and the state is 60% Brown Party and 40% Black Party.

If you draw five districts that are each 60% Brown, you get five Brown representatives even though 40% of the state is Black.

If you draw districts along party lines then you get three Brown representatives and two Black representatives, but the districts are totally uncompetitive and the representatives from both parties can steamroll everybody because none of them ever have any chance of losing their district no matter what they do.

There are also several other options, and most of those are even worse.

MarkLowenstein 44 days ago [-]
It used to be that geographic proximity caused a lot of similarity in needs/votes. But now our votes are more alike when our "tribe" is alike - e.g. professional, rural, urban poor. Plus few people ever see their local representative except on national TV. So maybe the time for geographic districts has passed.

To get real minority interests some representation, and to solve the geography problem, I'd like to see a state say they've got 10 representative positions, and you're all going to have a vote (or maybe 10). The top 10 vote-getters are then chosen.

AnthonyMouse 44 days ago [-]
> It used to be that geographic proximity caused a lot of similarity in needs/votes. But now our votes are more alike when our "tribe" is alike - e.g. professional, rural, urban poor.

But that stuff is still aligned with geography. A rural district is full of the rural poor. An urban district in San Francisco is full of professionals. You can draw the lines in a way that causes this not to happen, but if that's your concern it's easier to draw them a different way than change the whole system.

> To get real minority interests some representation, and to solve the geography problem, I'd like to see a state say they've got 10 representative positions, and you're all going to have a vote (or maybe 10). The top 10 vote-getters are then chosen.

This has all kinds of different terrible problems. Obvious example: If you're still using first past the post then you still have vote splitting and then opponents can dump anyone they don't like out of the legislature by convincing someone similar to run against them so that they both lose.

But if you switch to range voting then you can fix it without getting rid of districts: