[EM] Maps on which to draw rectangular districts

MIKE OSSIPOFF nkklrp at hotmail.com
Thu Jan 8 03:13:02 PST 2004

Lines of latitude & longitude are, as I was saying, the obvious &
natural  borders for the rectangular districts. Those lines appear as 
lines  on cylindrical projections. The Mercator, Miller, and Gall's are
cylindrical, but, for displaying the districts with latitude/longitude
grid  borders, the equirectangular, or cyllindirical equidistant, would be

Another cylindrical projection, the equal-area "Peters" projection  would
show the district areas in their correct proportions, though that may not be
important. Actuallly the Peters projection wasn't invented by Peters. It
goes back to Lambert, in the 18th century. Peters merely  named  it after 
himself. Regrettably, he recommends and sells it as a world  map. As  a 
world map, it grotesquely distorts the shapes of the continents. As  one 
cartographer pointed out, on the Peters world map, Africa & South America 
look like tattered long underwear hanging out to dry.

The Peters map distributors imply that Peters is the only equal-area 
projection, that equal-area is a Peters projection innovation. But equal 
area projections were in use at least back to the 15th or 16th century. In 
fact they go back to Ptolomy, if you allow for the fact that Ptolomy used an 
approximation for longitudes, very justifiable considering how poorly 
places' longitudes were known in Ptolomy's day.

Because it's equal area (like lots of other maps) the Peters people emphsize 
how their projection is the one that's fair to the 3rd world, pointing out 
that the Mercator magnifies the extreme North.

But it's no fairer in that regard than all the other equal area maps. And 
its ridiculous shape-distortion of tropical continents makes it really a 
joke to say that Peters is the map that's fair to the tropics.

Regrettably, reminiscent of success of the IRV promoters, the Peters 
projection people have managed to convince lots of people that theirs is the 
map that's fair to the people of the 3rd world, a powerful incentive that 
has caused many organizations to adopt that projection, and which results in 
it being the only equal area projection that you can find in a store.

How to recognize the Peters projection: Africa & South America are absurdly 
long and skinny.

Well, the topic of districting opens the topic of geography.

Another possibility would be to use a map that are officially used to
map  the state, on which to draw rectangular districts. So the borders are
then  straight lines on that official map, instead of being latitude & 
lines.  Official maps tend to be conformal, and, as a result, the right 
at the corners of the districts will result in right angles at the corners
of  the districts on the ground. That will be true of conformal projections
and  cylindrical projections, and of districts whose borders are latitude & 
longitude lines.

Maybe it would be desirable for the district borders to be straight
lines,  as reckoned along the ground--great circles, the shortest distance
between 2  points if the Earth is assumed spherical.
That can be achieved if the rectangular districts are drawn on a map
that uses  the gnomonic projection.

Earlier I said that that map radically distorts distances and areas, by
which I meant that scales can vary greatly on such a map. But actually,
for  an area the size of a state, that scale variation won't be a problem,
and so  the gnomonic would be a good choice for the map on which to draw the
rectangular districts, if it's desired that the district borders be
straight  lines along the ground. Such straight-line borders could be a 
great convenience for surveying the districts.

Another possibility: Surveyors in each state use a state co-ordinate system, 
based on rectangular co-ordinates on a particular map. If that same map is 
the one on which the rectangular districts are drawn, then the district 
boundaries will be lines along which one of the state co-ordinates is 
constant. I suggest that possibility because it might be convenient for 
surveying or official mapping.

These maps are conformal, and so the corners of the districts, on the 
ground, will be right angles.

There are obvious ways to write a simple rectangular mapping formula. If the 
state is L times as long north-south as east-west, and N is the number of 
districts, then, divide the state into sqr(NL) bands of east-west extent. 
Divide each band into rectangles containing population equal to the state's 
population divided by N. The band will end with a fractional-size district. 
Adjust the north-south dimension of the band to make an integer number of 
whole districts of the desired equal population.
Obviously, adjust to a larger north-south dimension, to add a district to 
the band, if the fractional district is more than half of the desired 
population. Adjust to a smaller north-south dimension, to subtract a 
district from the band, if the fractional district is less than half of the 
desired equal population.

As I said, simplicity is the most important consideration for the 
district-drawing formula. Rectangular districts, drawn on some specified 
map, by a simple formula such as I've described, are the way to draw the 

Mike Ossipoff

Mike Ossipoff

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