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.)
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.
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.
I believe it would allow more representation for under represented communities.
Here are some great stats: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/05/31/u-s-populat....
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Something like: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hex_map
Then have some algorithm for growing or subdividing if you need a specific population.
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.
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.
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.
Then you get the property of representation you're looking for without having to draw fine-grained arbitrary distinctions on a map.
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.
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.
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.
> 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: https://pappubahry.com/pseph/aus_2019/
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.
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?
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.
For this issue in particular, I think ranked choice could be a huge help.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Let the voters decide. Allow them to group themselves into self-selecting affinity groups, i.e. have proportional representation.
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.
For extra proportionality, have top-up seats (as used in Germany or Scotland).
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.
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.
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.
We also already have systems of representation along other lines that feed into geographically-representative government - consumer groups, interest groups, lobbyists, etc.
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.
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.
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).
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:
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.
Removing districts, or enlarging them so the borders barely matter, and implementing ranked choice voting and proportional representation is a far, far better solution.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 rangevoting.org and the follow-up link: http://bolson.org/dist/
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.
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.
> guaranteeing that a faction which got floor(1/n+1)+1 votes in a district with n seats
> guaranteeing that a faction which got floor(1/n+1)+1 votes in a district with n seats gets a seat
The German greens forcing Angel Merkle into shutting nuclear energy early and having to use more ghastly lignite coal.
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.
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.
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 ]
"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.
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  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  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.
 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 :)
Even here in Annapolis, an hour from DC, it seems like everyone is from here.
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.
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 :)
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.
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.
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.
>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.
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.
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).
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.
Districts, on the other hand, are drawn to serve the drawer.
There's no particular reason to treat the current boundaries as holy writ.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Algorithms are fair right guys? It can't be biased if it's just math. \s
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.
We need multi-member districts to achieve something closer to proportional votes and reduced polarization.
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.
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.
Even the appearance of a conflict of interest should be treated as a conflict of interest. No burden of proof required.
"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"
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.
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)
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.
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?
It would also make a two-party campaign schedule impossible, so it’s unlikely to gain traction. Just wondering aloud.
Or do you not really agree with this concept? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyranny_of_the_majority
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: