Boston, Maine? Skowhegan, New York? What our state would look like if borders were drawn by population numbers

Mainers already overwhelming root for all the Boston sports teams — the Pine Tree State is indisputably part of Red Sox Nation, for instance — so what if Boston actually became a part of Maine?

That’s what how at least one urban planner drew the states’ borders using populations as guidelines.

In a map that has made the rounds on media websites around the world, Neil Freeman marked up a new U.S. in which every state had approximately the same population. In order for the country’s 322 million people to be split equally among 50 states, each state would need to be expanded or constricted to have populations of between 6.4 million and 6.5 million.

Maine currently has about 1.3 million people, so it would have to grow.

electoral10-1100

As you can see, in Freeman’s map, upstate New York is stretched through Vermont and New Hampshire, all the way into western Maine, where it appears to absorb some quintessential Maine communities like Skowhegan, Lewiston and even the state capital of Augusta.

(So as to be fair to everybody’s home state, Freeman renames all the states, and that upstate New York-through-Maine state is called “Adirondack.”)

Downeast, northern Maine and Greater Portland are all kept together and doglegged down the coast to consume parts of southern New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts, in a new state somewhat appropriately called “Casco.”

Under that scenario, Portland would drop from being the state’s largest city to being something like its 11th or 12th largest city, as at least two current New Hampshire cities — Manchester and Nashua — as well as Boston and a number of its border towns leapfrog the Forest City on the list.

A famous sign located at the intersection of Routes 5 and 35 in Albany Township directs travels to the various "countries" that can be reached along Maine highways. (BDN photo by Brian Swartz)

A famous sign located at the intersection of Routes 5 and 35 in Albany Township directs travels to the various “countries” that can be reached along Maine highways. (BDN photo by Brian Swartz)

But Freeman’s map isn’t the only way to draw borders based on equal populations.

Slate’s Ben Blatt went about it differently in his version of such a map, pushing Maine’s borders west instead of south.

In Blatt’s map, Maine was grown to include most of New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as well as what appears to be just enough of northeastern Massachusetts to once again include Boston. He also throws in Cape Cod, for good measure, although it’s cut off from the rest of the state and drivers would need to cross through a state consisting of parts of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York to get there.

Click here to see how Blatt drew the boundaries.

In a third version of a United States map in which states are redrawn to divide populations equally, the cartographer stretched Maine’s borders even farther west, leaving Boston in a separate state and instead taking our state all the way out to Lake Ontario. In that drawing, the new state was titled “North New England.”

(Don’t worry, the new state doesn’t go quite far enough southwest so as to include Buffalo, so we wouldn’t have to become Bills or Sabres fans.)

Click here to see that map.

Why is this exercise worth doing?

Well, as Freeman pointed out, moving state borders so that each state has an equal population would largely eliminate the outsized influence some states have on national politics, as population numbers drive how many congressmen states can send to the U.S. House of Representatives and how many electoral college points each state is worth in a presidential election.

As Freeman told The Paris Review:

“The roots of the project go back to the early days of the 2004 presidential campaign. The 2000 election made the limitations of the electoral college painfully obvious. Not only does the system make the popular vote irrelevant, but the college gives different levels of influence and power to citizens of different states based on competitiveness and House apportionment.”

Blatt wrote:

“New Jersey has 15 times more people than Wyoming, despite being one-tenth its size. You can divide the island of Manhattan in two and the top half would be more populous than North Dakota, the bottom half more populous than South Dakota. …

Most state borders were drawn centuries ago, long before the country was fully settled, and often the lines were drawn somewhat arbitrarily, to coincide with topography or latitude and longitude lines that today have little to do with population numbers.”