Monday, August 27, 2012

Allegheny tops Cook County

The thing that gets me about this whole voter id debate here in Pennsylvania is that there are so many other political process things the folks in Harrisburg could be spending time on to make an improvement. Long before the voter id debate popped up I noted the demographic evidence does not say much is amiss in terms of who shows up at the polls. What else could use a fraction of the attention voter id is getting? Lots of things I guess, but if you wanted to improve the voting process itself?

I have brought up in the past the lack of interest the powers that be have in reform of voting districts in Allegheny County.  Do we really need 1,322 different voting districts in the county? When you count up the poll workers needed at each including election judges, clerks, etc and doubled for both majority and minority parties you wind up with a veritable army of folks needed each election day. Some districts typically have only a handful of voters show up, while others have thousands. The inefficiency that gets me is that it is not a geography driven thing any longer.  I once voted at a location which had 4 different polls located in the same room.  That makes sense how?  We redistrict and muck with the boundary of every other legislative district in the nation every decade, but there is virtually no change in Allegheny county voting districts going back decades.

Anyway, I was wondering if given our large number of districts does Allegheny County have the smallest average voting district size?  At least among urban counties since there are a lot of really small counties out there.  The answer is no actually.  I have obsessed on the benchmarking and calculated the number of voting districts in every county in the nation and matched it to county populations in 2010.  So we just take an abitrary cutoff of counties with greater than 500,000 folks in 2010 what does that look like? I count 127 such counties large enough and I put that full list into Google Docs

When ranked according to which of the 127 counties have the smallest average populations per district I get this.   Allegheny County is actually ranked #7, so 6 counties have smaller average voting district populations, but 120 have larger average districts.  I am not sure the average is the issue actually since in Allegheny County the difference in sizes across districts is huge.  I once found a voting district with a single vote cast in an election. I still wonder a bit how that is possible.  Does that mean the actual poll workers at that voting location were not residents of that particular district?  Or they just didn't bother to vote while they were there all day?  Has there ever been a voting district with no recorded vote in a called election? 

Anyway, here is my calculation of the the top 15 list of counties in the US with the smallest voting district size in population.  Remember that total population is a lot larger than the actual ballots ever cast.  Some are too young, some unregistered, some just don't participate.  In the end... Go St. Louis!

Smallest Average Voting District Population by County (2010)
Counties > 500,000 in 2010

County State Voting Districts (2010) Population (2010) Population/district
St. Louis County Missouri 1,583 998,954 631.1
King County Washington 2,573 1,931,249 750.6
Cuyahoga County Ohio 1,420 1,280,122 901.5
Philadelphia County Pennsylvania 1,687 1,526,006 904.6
Kern County California 924 839,631 908.7
Snohomish County Washington 772 713,335 924.0
Allegheny County Pennsylvania 1,322 1,223,348 925.4
Hamilton County Ohio 859 802,374 934.1
Monroe County New York 793 744,344 938.6
Montgomery County Ohio 548 535,153 976.6
Jackson County Missouri 663 674,158 1,016.8
Cook County Illinois 4,873 5,194,675 1,066.0
Fresno County California 864 930,450 1,076.9
Westchester County New York 881 949,113 1,077.3
Summit County Ohio 474 541,781 1,143.0


Blogger Amy joe said...

Pretty insightful post.Never thought that it was this simple after all.I had spent a good deal of my time looking for someone to explain this
subject clearly and you’re the only one that ever did that.Kudos to you!
Keep it up


Tuesday, August 28, 2012 6:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have lived and voted in 3 of the counties on the list - Allegheny (current), King, and Snohomish (when I started reading here). Probably unique circumstances among readers here. My comment is not directly related to voting district size. However related to the issue with maintaining all the districts. Washington state voted entirely by absentee ballot when I moved, which was much more cost effective and much easier. So no need to staff polling places, etc. I think it is kind of silly that we have to have a reason to vote absentee here. Even before they changed to exclusively postal voting in WA, it was easy to vote absentee - you just submitted the request and then got your mailed ballot.

Friday, August 31, 2012 5:18:00 PM  

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