In Forbes, Johns Hopkins Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science, and Biostatistics Steven Salzberg has put forward a modest mathematical proposal to solve some of our current political problems:
The root of our problem is that each Congressional district elects just one person, in a winner-take-all election where you only need to win by one vote. This means that the losers end up with a Representative who simply doesn’t represent them. This means that, in a close election, 49.9% of the voters can be effectively disenfranchised. Even in lopsided victories, where 70% of the voters support the winner, the remaining 30% are stuck with someone who doesn’t represent them.
The solution: elect TWO representatives from each Congressional district, and award them each a fractional vote in Congress. Each of the top two vote-getters would have a Congressional vote that is proportional to the number of voters who supported them. Thus if a district elects a Democrat (D) with 55% of the vote, and the losing Republican (R) gets 45%, both of them go to Congress, and D gets 0.55 votes while R gets 0.45 votes.
This will double the size of the House, to 830 members. It will also completely fix partisan gerrymandering. Here’s why: imagine a state that is 50-50 Democrat and Republican, but that has packed one district so that 80% of its voters are Republican, allowing it to create three majority-Democratic districts that are 60-40 in favor of D’s. Under the current system, that state has 3 Democrats and 1 Republican in Congress. (We have many states that look just like this under our current system.)
Under my new system, our hypothetical state would send 4 D’s and 4 R’s to Congress. The R from the “packed” district would get 0.8 votes, and the R’s from the other three districts would get 0.4 votes each. The entire state delegation would therefore have 0.8 + 0.4 + 0.4 + 0.4 = 2 Republican votes, and 0.2 + 0.6 + 0.6 + 0.6 = 2 Democratic votes, accurately reflecting the overall population of the state.
Gerrymandering is nearly impossible in this system. Packing voters into one district would simply increase the voting power of the majority member for that district, while reducing the voting power of other members of the same party by a corresponding amount.
Of course, this would make counting votes in the House a bit more complicated. The majority and minority whips wouldn’t be able to simply count integers; instead, they’d have to add up the fractional votes of their 435 members. But why should we limit ourselves to a voting system that only uses first grade math? In the U.S., fractions and decimals are covered by the fourth grade. I think Congress can handle that.
[via Mr. Goodstein]