Huntington Apportionment Is Easy!*

Most people don't think about the intricacies of elections. Do

you ever wonder why your U.S. congressional rep is reelected in


Fuzzy Math


Huntington Apportionment Is Easy!*

Most people don't think about the intricacies of elections. Do

you ever wonder why your U.S. congressional rep is reelected in a landslide

year after year? (See: Jim McDermott.)

Or why most people can't even name their state

representative? This is often because the election is settled in advance, for the

benefit one party or another, by redistricting. Then these "safe seat" races fall

off the political radar.

The United States constitution requires that congressional seats

be reapportioned every 10 years according to the census. This has profound political

implications, because somebody needs to draw the new district boundaries. The

way it happens usually turns the notion of democracy on its head. In effect,

the result of redistricting is to cherry-pick voters for incumbent lawmakers, instead of forcing them to compete for

votes. Thus the major parties maintain control of those safe seats.

No matter that your calendar currently reads 2009, the 2012

reapportionment of congress has already begun. I'll let the Republican

Governors Association state how much reapportionment counts: "The 2010 state-level elections will

determine congressional and state legislative apportionment for the next 10 years,

and who is governor of each state will be of utmost importance. A 25 seat congressional

swing is up for grabs as a result of state-wide elections."

In other words--let's rig the system in our favor! Though, to be

fair, Democrats mostly feel the same way.

After the next 2010 census, people will get together in each state to draw political district lines. Sometimes, there's fairness involved. In other cases, it's a cynical power grab.

Here's how most elections are settled, before you even see the ballot. An appointed committee considers demographic data, geography, state and federal electoral rules, and other criteria to create political districts. Political insiders are watching closely. They've likely benefited from the last 10 years of safe political seats. If the district lines change, they might have to run an actual campaign. Other interested parties may claim violations of the Voting Rights Act--if, for instance, too many African American neighborhoods are carved up to create of a predominantly white district. Then, often, the new political map triggers the legal process, and everyone winds up in front of a judge.

At the national level, there are currently** 435 seats in the House of Representatives. Regions like the Midwest are losing population, while the South is gaining. So we can expect Michigan's delegation to shrink, and Arizona's to swell.

It's been reported that our Washington state population has grown by 11 percent since 2000. Our current ratio of U.S. representatives to constituent is roughly one to 600,000. Our state's population, totaling around 5.9 million at the last census, is projected to grow by that same number--around 600,000 new people. It makes sense that we should get an extra congressional seat in Washington, D.C. (we currently have 9), but that's not going to happen.

Unfortunately, redistricting isn't as simple as comparing state populations and assigning congressional seats in direct proportion. There's a mathematical formula used. But I'm not going to delve into a math lecture--my columns can get wonky enough as it is! So go to this following link, and have at the Huntington method of reapportionment.

Here's my point: Please tell me how ranked choice voting is more complicated than the current system? Here's a link to the proportional version of ranked choice that I think is fun to consider. But, again, I tend to be a wonk.

Don't believe critics of ranked choice voting when they claim the system is too complicated. All electoral systems are complex. Ranked choice is a better way to vote, because it puts the sophistication of elections in the hands of voters, instead of in the backrooms manipulated by governmental committees.

*Find the modified divisor - D such that each constituency's quotient { population / D } when rounded by geometric mean of the lower and upper quota yields the correct number of seats.

**There is no Constitutional requirement that the US House be set at 435 seats. Congress could simply vote to add a seat for Washington - or any other state -  and increase the number of House members.

comments powered by Disqus