The Sixteen States of America

Thande

Donor
As noted below, I used to do this a lot. Check out my old thread here for more (I'm not bumping it as it hasn't been active for 2 years).

As periodically happens about 14 months, possibly driven by the fact that US states count their votes so damn slowly I can't finish all the Super Tuesday primary maps yet, I woke up this morning with an idea of how to fiddle with old US elections in an ASB way to produce some interesting results.

The US Electoral College and Senate are frequently criticised for a number of reasons. While the US founding fathers certainly regarded their new country as being a confederation of sovereign states, and thus it should be expected that states should have less than absolutely proportional representation by population, the deviation between the largest and smallest states in 2020 has drastically increased from where it lay in 1788. California has a population (and economy) larger than most countries and, based on the 2010 census, has a staggering 66 times more people than the smallest state, Wyoming. Yet each state has two Senators. Those Senators and each state's Governor are frequently treated as having equal credibility and experience when running for president or being appointed to a presidential cabinet or ambassadorship. Which is like treating the job of Prime Minister of Canada or Spain as being equivalent to the job of Prime Minister of Montenegro or the Solomon Islands.

This inequality of population is not the only reason why the current US constitutional arrangements are frequently criticised, but I'd argue it's often the root of the others. In this thread I propose a completely ridiculous and unworkable solution to this - which is no less likely to be adopted as any of the 'serious' proposals for reforming the electoral college etc made,as you can't have a probability lower than zero. So let's have a bit of fun, shall we?

Based on the 2010 census, California has a population of about 37 million; a big gap follows before we get to number 2, Texas, at 25 million; another big gap to number 3, New York (which has now been overtaken by Florida, but I'm using 2010 numbers) at 19 million; Florida 18 million...and then we start the slow fall down to the minnows. The mean average for a US state's population is just 6.1 million and the median just 4.4 million, illustrating how many more smaller states there are and just how top-heavy this list is. If we want to get rid of that ridiculous 66 to 1 ratio between California and Wyoming, we're going to have to do something about this. What ratio should we consider tolerable? For the sake of argument, let's say 2 to 1. My plan outlined below achieves this goal, just; the ratio from the biggest to the smallest state is 1.99 to 1.

How to do this? Merge smaller states into bigger ones, and make one (1) partition of an existing state, because California is absurdly big. The biggest population we'll allow is just over 25 million (Texas) and the smallest is 12.6 million. Of course, you can't just use the mathematically most pleasing method of merging states to get as close to an average population as possible, because that would link up states on opposite sides of the map. Instead, I've used a combination of geographic closeness and historical cultural regions to try to produce slightly more sensible combos. Emphasis on 'slightly'. The US does have recognisable cultural regions but they don't neatly follow state boundaries, and there are many states, such as Oklahoma and Missouri, which fall into several regions or have internal divisions themselves. The goal here is to avoid dividing any state (except California) so I have not done this. So some of these combos are a bit arbitrary, and also many of them have silly and arbitrary names - which is fine because that's how a lot of the original states got their names anyway.

Here's a rundown of the state combos from largest to smallest, followed by a map. I have also apportioned electoral votes based on the House total of 435 plus 2 senators each (thanks to @Ares96 for his help with this).

Texas (25,145,561, 37 EVs): Unchanged from OTL. Well, they're the biggest state now, that should make them happy.

South California (23,933,989, 36 EVs): Yes, even after you chainsaw California in half, it still almost makes it to the top spot. This is the most common definition of SoCal, taking in the ten counties of Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura.

Atlantea (21,494,273, 32 EVs): Pennsylvania + New Jersey. Look, Pennsylvania and New Jersey have an ideal combo name - the river that forms their border. The river which is called the...Delaware. So shut up, it was this or "Pennjersey".

Erie (21,420,144, 32 EVs): Michigan + Ohio Yes, I know Michigan and Ohio hate each other and have a sports rivalry and a border war. So do England and Scotland, but we've stayed together for 300 years, so shut up. Another one where I couldn't come up with a very good name.

Roanoake (20,864,871, 31 EVs): Virginia + West Virginia + Kentucky + Maryland + Delaware. Named for the first English colony in the New World, that one which ties with the Marie Celeste for 'alleged spooky mystery which is not even slightly mysterious if you actually read to the end of the article'. Partly based on the old Virginian claims to what became Kentucky.

Carolina (20,506,952, 31 EVs): North Carolina + South Carolina + Tennessee. Self-explanatory; again, partly based on the old North Carolinian claim to what became Tennessee.

New Germany (20,471,001, 31 EVs): Idaho + Wyoming + Montana + North Dakota + South Dakota + Nebraska + Iowa + Minnesota + Wisconsin. OK, this is probably the weirdest one. But the Plains are so un-populous that you're inevitably going to end up with something huge or silly or both. These states do loosely share a lot of German ancestry (and Scandinavian) so there's the origin for the name. Yes I know you could also put Wisconsin with Illinois or Michigan, but those don't work so well for getting equal-ish numbers.

LaSalle (20,042,686, 30 EVs): Named for that French explorer what explored things, this is essentially the 'South Central' region minus Texas. A bit of a mish-mash but, as I said above, Oklahoma and Missouri are two of the most debatable region-wise so might as well kill two birds with one stone.

New York (19,378,102, 29 EVs): Unchanged from OTL.

Wabash (19,314,434, 29 EVs): Illinois + Indiana. There are lots of good river or tribal names for the area, but annoyingly most of them stick neatly within the state boundaries.

Apachea (18,944,828, 29 EVs): Colorado + Nevada + Utah + Arizona + New Mexico. Isn't it weird how everyone agrees the 'South West' is one of the better-defined regions of the country culturally, yet nobody has a good name for it? This is based on the Apachean native language family (including the Navajo and so on), not just the Apache tribe.

Florida (18,801,310, 28 EVs): Unchanged from OTL.

Yazoo (17,434,686, 28 EVs): Georgia + Alabama + Mississippi. Named ultimately for the Yazoo tribe formerly occupying these areas, who lent their name to the 'Yazoo Land Scandal' which was the original reason for Alabama and Mississippi being split off from Georgia.

North California (15,602,664, 24 EVs): The remainder of California minus the 10 southern counties.

New England (14,444,865, 22 EVs): Massachusetts + Rhode Island + Connecticut + Vermont + Maine. Too much of a recognisable cultural region to avoid, even though it's on the titchy side, and there's no geographic way to link it to anywhere else anyway as New York gets in the way.

Pacifica (12,626,146, 20 EVs): Washington state + Oregon + Alaska + Hawaii. I definitely thought Washington was bigger than this, incidentally. Even with the two non-CONUS states stuck on (look, they definitely both have Pacific coastlines, alright) the Pacific Northwest is a much tinier slice of the US population than I thought it was. But oh well.

(...and the District of Columbia is unchanged because this may be a silly ASB WI but we have to have some standards for plausibility)

This leaves us with a situation where we have no more than a 2 to 1 ratio of inequality between the population of the biggest and smallest states, with an average state size of 19.4 million and an average electoral vote of 29.2, with relatively little deviation from these. Each state's Governor and Senators now have roughly equivalent and comparable jobs.

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Does this solve all of America's political problems? NOW READ ON...
 

Thande

Donor
So the obvious thing to do is to plug in a recent election result. Can't really do Senate or Governors because they're voted on at different times. So I suppose we could do the presidency (sigh). Good thing the most recent election result is thoroughly non-controversial and struggles to excite any partisan interest, eh?

Let's profile the states one by one... (NB this obviously ignores the possibility of faithless electors)

Texas: Unchanged from OTL, so Trump defeats Clinton by a 9% margin and gets 37 EVs.

South California: The second strongest Dem state after its northern counterpart, going Democratic by 27.4%.

Atlantea: In OTL Pennsylvania narrowly went for Trump while Jersey remained in the blue column; here the latter's votes swing the combined state to a 5% victory margin for CLinton.

Erie: Unsurprisingly, with both Ohio and Michigan going for Trump in OTL, the combined state votes for him by a 4.4% margin.

Roanoake: Combines OTL strongly Democratic (Maryland, Delaware), Republican (Kentucky) and swing but trending Democratic (Virginia) states. The whole combo narrowly tilts to the blue column by a 1.2% margin.

Carolina: All three states went for Trump, so unsurprisingly so does the combo, by a 12% margin. This makes it the third strongest GOP heartland.

New Germany: Comprised almost entirely of 2016 Republican states as Wisconsin went red, with only Minnesota the exception and that a rather narrow one. So unsurprisingly the combo goes Republican by 9.6%. Interestingly, the third party vote was 8.0%, so there might be some internet talking heads saying the Dems could win it next time based on some imaginary progressive coalition.

LaSalle: Goes for Trump by a 23.1% margin, making it the most strongly GOP state in the nation.

New York: Unchanged from OTL, Clinton by a 22.5% margin.

Wabash: Unsurprisingly Illinois overpowers Indiana and the result goes Democratic by 5%.

Apachea: The narrowest result, in this scenario it would be the most important swing state. In the end it goes Republican by just 0.8%. Gary Johnson would be Nader'd to death by the internet in this setting, as it was also the biggest third party vote of anywhere with 10.8%.

Florida: Unchanged from OTL, goes to Trump by 1.2%.

Yazoo: The second strongest GOP heartland after LaSalle, going Republican by 13.6%.

North California: Clinton beats Trump by a swingeing 33.6% margin, the biggest in the nation (except DC which doesn't count). Fourth biggest third-party vote of the states, with 7.8% going to third parties.

New England: Democratic by 18.1%.

Pacifica: Democratic by 13.7%, a bit less than I expected given its component parts. Also has the second biggest third party vote with 10.6%, only just behind Apachea.

And DC goes Democratic which you might as well just fill in on any map from the start.

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So let's add up the electoral votes...

Result:
Trump (Republican): 244 electoral votes
Clinton (Democratic): 226 electoral votes


So this system preserves the same dynamic of the OTL election - Clinton got the popular vote by piling up votes in places that were always going to vote Democratic (most obviously the Californias) and Trump won the electoral college due to much narrower wins in swing states. It would come down to the wire in Apachea, and expect calls for recounts and the usual controversies about voter suppression and so on.

It's noteworthy that only the Californias and LaSalle are what you could call really safe states, with a 15%+ margin; in a real election held under this system there'd probably be more firming up of the battle lines, I imagine.

If there's sufficient interest (oh come on I'll probably do it anyway) we'll try winding the clock back and doing some earlier elections, including reapportioning accordingly...
 
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Do you have any idea for a Timeline where this is adopted? Or is this just intended as a thought experiment? Interesting either way
 

Skallagrim

Banned
This is truly fascinating. I love thought experiments such as these, and I admire the thought you put into this. Quite stunning how the outcome of the most recent Presidential election remains generally the same. Not to cast any kind of "current politics"-flavoured opinions about, but just from an analytical viewpoint, this suggests to me that (all the heated partisanship notwithstanding) the election results actually did quite closely reflect the opinon(s) of the people.

Which would in turn suggest that the current electoral system, while messy, isn't that bad. (Of course, you'd have to compare it to other elections as well, but if this holds up, and the outcome ends up being the same, then this hypothetical altervative to the existing system would be a solid argument against changing anything... because it would be a lot of hassle with very little effect!)
 

Thande

Donor
OK, let's wind back 4 years and do 2012, in which incumbent president Barack Obama defeated the worst person ever to have lived Mitt Romney, seeing as that doesn't require reapportionment calculations.

Texas: Unchanged from OTL, i.e. Romney won by 15.8% margin.

South California: Very Democratic, just not quite as Democratic as the north. Obama wins it by an 18.8% margin, which makes it his fourth best state after South California, New York and New England.

Atlantea: With Obama winning both component states in OTL, unsurprisingly it goes Democratic by a 10.2% margin.

Erie: Again, Obama won both component states; it goes Democratic by 6.0%.

Roanoke: Still fairly close, but a stronger win than Clinton in 2016; it goes Democratic by 3.7%.

Carolina: Republican by 9.0%, not as strong a victory margin as Trump got four years later.

New Germany: Perhaps surprisingly, the closest result other than Florida (which is unchanged from OTL), going Republican by just 1.4%. It would be interesting to see campaigning in this region as a swing area, which in OTL other than Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota perhaps don't usually attract it.

LaSalle: Republican by 18.7%; Romney's strongest region, but not as strong as it would be for Trump in 2016.

New York: As OTL; the second most Democratic state after South California, with a 28.2% victory margin.

Wabash: Although Obama's home state effect faded somewhat in 2012 (as is not uncommon), Illinois still easily overpowers Indiana and he carries it by 7.8%.

Apachea: The only superstate in which Romney does better in 2012 than Trump did in 2016, in part due to Utah. He wins it by 5.4%.

Florida: Unchanged from OTL, a narrow win for Obama by 0.9%.

Yazoo: The third strongest Republican state after LaSalle and Texas, won by 12.6%. These three are the only ones to go Republican by a double figure margin, whereas six states went Democratic by a double figure margin.

North California: Typically even more Democratic than the south, Obama's strongest state (though just barely over New York) with a victory margin of 29.1%.

New England: A somewhat stronger win than Clinton achieves over Trump in 2016 (grammatical tense is hard when you're working backwards in time!) Obama wins it by a 20.0% margin. (I can still remember when people were claiming, in all seriousness, that Romney would have a home state advantage in Massachusetts; lolno)

Pacifica: Surprisingly closer than I expected, although it still goes Democratic by double figures (14.5%). Also the state with the biggest third party vote, although this was only 3.3%.

(and also DC is there or whatever)

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Count the electoral votes...

Barack Obama (Democratic): 286 electoral votes
Mitt Romney (Republican): 184 electoral votes

As in OTL, a pretty crushing victory in the electoral college even though the popular vote margin was only 4%. I can imagine this would produce some 'permanent Democratic majority' memes like OTL, with confident expectations of Democratic pickups in New Germany (I mean this kind of happened OTL with Heidi Heitkamp's unexpected Senate win in ND) only for the 2014 midterms to be, er, quite different.
 

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Thande

Donor
This is truly fascinating. I love thought experiments such as these, and I admire the thought you put into this. Quite stunning how the outcome of the most recent Presidential election remains generally the same. Not to cast any kind of "current politics"-flavoured opinions about, but just from an analytical viewpoint, this suggests to me that (all the heated partisanship notwithstanding) the election results actually did quite closely reflect the opinon(s) of the people.

Which would in turn suggest that the current electoral system, while messy, isn't that bad. (Of course, you'd have to compare it to other elections as well, but if this holds up, and the outcome ends up being the same, then this hypothetical altervative to the existing system would be a solid argument against changing anything... because it would be a lot of hassle with very little effect!)
Thanks for commenting. I'm reminded of a scenario I did once where every state has an equal one electoral vote, I ran all the OTL elections, and at the time I think it only changed the results of three elections in American history! (However, this has gotten less true in recent years with the current landscape, because the Republicans typically have the capacity to win more states even when they lose).
 
Hey, I hope you don't mind, but I did a thing based on your work so far...
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So basically Democratic gains are even more concentrated in the Southwest than OTL, while the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest obviously swing heavily towards Trump. Georgia in Yazoo and Massachusetts in New England essentially prevent their respective superstates from having even bigger swings, while the states of Pacifica individually didn't swing much from 2012 to 2016. Roanoke and Wabash don't swing as far as their surrounding states, thanks to Democratic gains in the Chicago and DC suburbs.
 

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Thande

Donor
Hey, I hope you don't mind, but I did a thing based on your work so far...
View attachment 528676
So basically Democratic gains are even more concentrated in the Southwest than OTL, while the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest obviously swing heavily towards Trump. Georgia in Yazoo and Massachusetts in New England essentially prevent their respective superstates from having even bigger swings, while the states of Pacifica individually didn't swing much from 2012 to 2016. Roanoke and Wabash don't swing as far as their surrounding states, thanks to Democratic gains in the Chicago and DC suburbs.
Thanks, yes please feel free, that's very interesting.
 
You think Bakersfield is SoCal? And Visalia isn't? Why would those be two different regions?
The cutoff points between regions always gets a little sticky, because there is no straight line where any culture or subculture stops and another begins. It fragments and spreads across it, and you kinda have to make a judgement where that mark is for you.
 
The cutoff points between regions always gets a little sticky, because there is no straight line where any culture or subculture stops and another begins. It fragments and spreads across it, and you kinda have to make a judgement where that mark is for you.

Generally true, but the nice thing about the Central Valley is that most of it is bounded by large mountain ranges. Especially at the southern end of things, there's an extremely obvious boundary between "the Valley" and "not the Valley". If we were talking about the coast it'd be a different story.
 

Thande

Donor
From non-Californians, yes.
I'm a Californian and I agree with the definition.
I'm using this definition because a) It has a Wikipedia article :p b) I'm trying for as roughly equal a division by population as possible and adding more counties to SoCal would create an even bigger imbalance and c) I only want to add the votes in 10 counties every time, which is the most time-consuming part of this process.

Note - I was originally not going to divide California at all as it would be too much work and I would have settled for a 1 to 4 ratio of states, but I was surprised to learn only the 10 counties in SoCal constitute more than half the population. I know it has LA, but still.

This is very interesting. How far back are you planning on doing elections?
Arguably the farthest I could go back is to the accession of Hawaii and Alaska for it to still be comparable.
 

Thande

Donor
Right, if we keep working back in time, in order to do the 3 presidential elections using the 2000 census apportionment we will need to (deep breath) REAPPORTION.

I won't do +2 or -2 or whatever because that's confusing when you're going backwards in time, so I'll put it in words.

2000 Census Apportionment

Erie (21,291,584, 35 EVs):
Surprisingly, in 2000 Michigan + Ohio was a bigger state (barely) than Texas by population, making it the biggest state in the Union. It would lose 3 congressional seats going from the 2000s to the 2010s, ouch rustbelt.

Texas (20,851,820, 35 EVs):
Although smaller than Erie, Texas ends up with an equal number of EVs due to overhang. It would gain 2 seats with the 2010 census.

Atlantea (20,695,404, 35 EVs): The three biggest states have equal congressional delegations here. Like Erie, Atlantea would lose 3 seats going to the 2010s.

South California (20,637,512, 34 EVs): Although California's population growth from the 2000s to the 2010s was described as sluggish compared to the dramatic norm in the state, SoCal still jumps from fourth to second biggest state with the 2010 census and gain 2 seats.

Roanoke (19,008,714, 31 EVs): No change.

New Germany (19,007,715, 31 EVs): Also no change.

New York (18,976,457, 31 EVs): New York loses two seats going from the 2000s to 2010s.

LaSalle (18,876,659, 31 EVs): LaSalle would lose one seat with the 2010 census.

Wabash (18,499,778, 31 EVs): Wabash would lose 2 seats (again, ouch rustbelt).

Carolina (17,750,608, 29 EVs): Carolina would gain 2 seats from the 2010 census.

Florida (15,982,378, 27 EVs): Florida would gain 1 seat, rising through the ranks more because the rustbelt states fall.

Apachea (15,482,365, 26 EVs): Apachea gains a remarkable 3 seats with the 2010s.

Yazoo (15,478,211, 26 EVs): No change.

New England (13,922,517, 24 EVs):
Already a smaller superstate in the 2000s, New England loses two further seats with the 2010s.

North California (13,234,136, 22 EVs): North California gains two seats with the 2010s.

Pacifica (11,153,989, 19 EVs):
Although it remains the smallest state in the 2010s, Pacifica does gain one seat.
 
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