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A Crazy But Rational Solution To Our Electoral College Problem

Filed by KOSU News in Science.
February 15, 2013

Let’s pretend. Let’s pretend that politics doesn’t matter, politicians don’t matter, history doesn’t matter, nostalgia doesn’t matter, emotion doesn’t matter, habit doesn’t matter, romance doesn’t matter, prejudice doesn’t matter — all that matters is good old rational, mathematical, look-at-the-numbers common sense.

And now let’s look at the Electoral College.

We know what its problems are. Simply stated, by mathematician and fellow Obie (Oberlin College, producer of odd ducks) Neil Freeman, some states have lots of electoral power. Some states hardly any.

The largest state is 66 times as populous as the smallest and has 18 times as many electoral votes. This allows for Electoral College results that don’t match the popular vote.

Neil’s solution? Instead of eliminating the Electoral College he wants to reform it, with a simple formula: Recut the American pie. Re-divide America into 50 new units of equal population. Each new state will have roughly 6,175,000 inhabitants — which is our 2010 population divided by 50. Because he is also an artist, an urban planner and a nut, he has renamed his new units after plants, songs, cities, and geological features in ways guaranteed to irritate pretty much everybody. Here’s his modest proposal …

On his blog Fake Is The New Real, he lists the “advantages” of his proposal:

Advantages

Preserves the historic structure and function of the Electoral College.

Ends the over-representation of small states and under-representation of large states in presidential voting and in the US Senate by eliminating small and large states.

Political boundaries more closely follow economic patterns, since many states are more centered on one or two metro areas.

Ends varying representation in the House. Currently, the population of House districts ranges from 528,000 to 924,000. After this reform, every House seat would represent districts of the same size. (Since the current size of the House isn’t divisible by 50, the numbers of seats should be increased to 450 or 500.)

States could be redistricted after each census — just like House seats are distributed now.

… and then, because he has to, he very briefly lists the disadvantages, to which I have added one of my own …

Disadvantages

Some county names are duplicated in new states.

Some local governments would experience a shift in state laws and procedures.

[Editor's Addition] This will never happen.

In fairness to Neil, he explicitly says: “Keep in mind that this is an art project, not a serious proposal, so take it easy with the emails about the sacred soil of Texas.” So don’t rant to him. Save your rants for me. I am built like an Internet armadillo; I am rant-friendly. Neil, by the way, has been published in the Believer, Black Book and the Next American City, and his work has appeared in exhibitions in Chicago, London, New York and Cambridge, Mass. (Or “Casco,” as he would call it.) [Copyright 2013 NPR]

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