You could swing the presidential election by moving a single county between states

Let's take a look at what you could have won. Image: Getty.

There's a fascinating Washington Post article doing the rounds at the moment, which shows that – by two US state boundaries were in very slightly different places, moves so tiny that you’d barely spot them on the map – then Hillary Clinton would be president elect right now.

Thanks to the vagaries of the electoral college system, not a single vote would have had to change hands. Move four counties between states, and Clinton would have won Florida and Wisconsin, giving her 271 electoral votes, to Donald Trump's 269. The world right now would feel like a very different place.

This got me wondering, though – could we go further than this? Could we swing the election by moving just one county?

This is Los Angeles county, California. It's home to over 10m people, making it larger than 40 individual US states.

It's also – being urban, coastal and Californian – not very friendly to Donald Trump. He won just 23.4 per cent of the vote there – around 620,000 votes. Clinton won 71.4 per cent, or 1.9m votes, giving her an edge of just under 1.3m votes.

The state-wide result was closer, but not much closer. Clinton got 7.4m votes, or 61.6 per cent; Trump got 3.9m votes, or 32.8 per cent. All of which means you can remove Los Angeles county from California, and Clinton would still win the state.

So the question is – is there a state where the margin was less than 1.3m votes, and which has enough electoral college votes to flip the election?

In Texas, Donald Trump beat Clinton by 52.6 per cent to 43.4 per cent, handing him the state's 38 electoral college votes. This wasn't a surprise – no Democrat has won Texas since Jimmy Carter in 1976. The surprise, if anything, was that the margin was under 10 per cent.

But to get that result, Trump only needed to win around 814,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton: 4.7m to 3.9m. That, you’ll notice, is a smaller margin than the one by which Clinton won LA.

And so, if Los Angeles county was a part of Texas, Hillary would have won the state's electoral college votes. In that alternative reality, of course, Texas would carry more than its current 38 electoral college votes, and California less than its 55. But the exact distribution doesn't matter: the point is, Clinton would have won all those votes.

She'd have hit the magic number of 270 and won the election.


Okay, so this is silly on a number of levels. It's silly because Los Angeles very obviously isn't in Texas: it’s three states and 700 miles away, and about as different a culture as one can imagine within a single country. It's silly, too, because in this parallel universe I've just invented, the campaigns would have made different choices about how they fought the election. A Republican party that couldn’t win Texas would be a very different Republican party. The whole election would have played out differently.

But it goes to show quite how silly the entire electoral college system itself is, too. Move two state boundaries slightly – even shift a single county from one state to another – and without a single voter changing their mind you get the exact opposite result. In an election that wasn’t even that close.

We've often noted that the exact location of political boundaries can have weird effects on our cities. But it's rare those effects are quite as significant as this.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @jonnelledge.

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Here’s how Henry Ford and IKEA could provide the key to solving the housing crisis

A flatpack house designed by architectural firm Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, on display at the Royal Academy, London, in 2013. Image: Getty.

For many people, the housing market is not a welcoming place. The rungs of the property ladder seem to get further and further out of reach. There are loud calls to build hundreds of thousands of new homes (and equally loud demands that they’re not built in anyone’s back yard).

If there was ever a time to introduce mass-produced affordable housing, surely that time is now.

The benefits of mass production have been well known since Henry Ford’s car factories made the Model T back in 1908. It was only made in one colour, black, for economic reasons. Not because it was the cheapest colour of paint, but because it was the colour that dried the quickest.

This allowed the production line to operate at faster, more cost effective, speeds. And ultimately, it meant the product could be sold at a more attractive cost to the customer.

This approach, where processes are tested to achieve increasingly efficient production costs, is yet to filter properly into the construction of houses. This makes sense in a way, as not everybody wants exactly the same type of house.

Historically, affordable mass-produced housing removed a large amount of customisations, to ensure final costs were controlled. But there is another way. Builders and architects have the ability to create housing that allows a level of flexibility and customisation, yet also achieves the goal of affordability.


Back in 2006, the “BoKlok” approach to affordable housing was launched to great acclaim in the UK. Literally translated from Swedish, the term means “live smart”. Originally created from a collaboration between flat-pack favourite IKEA and Swedish construction giant Skanska, the BoKlok housing approach was to allow for selected customisation to maximise individuality and choice for the customers. But at the same time, it ensured that larger house building components were duplicated or mass-produced, to bring down the overall costs.

Standard elements – wall panels, doors, windows – were made in large numbers to bring the elemental costs down. This approach ensured the costs were controlled from the initial sketch ideas through to the final design choices offered to the customers. The kitchens and bathrooms were designed to be flexible in terms of adding additional units. Draw and cupboard fronts interchangeable. Small options that provided flexibility, but did not impact on overall affordability.

It’s a simple approach that has worked very well. More than 10,000 BoKlok houses have now been built, mainly in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, with a small number in the UK.

But it is only part of the architectural equation. The affordable housing market is vital, but the cost of making these homes more adaptable is rarely considered.

Flexibility is key. The needs of a house’s inhabitants change. Families can grow (and shrink) and require more room, so the costs of moving house reappear. One clever response to this, in BoKlok homes, has been to allow “built in” flexibility.

Loft living

This flexibility could include a loft space that already has flooring and a built in cupboard on a lower floor which can be simply dismantled and replaced with a “flat-pack style” staircase that can be purchased and installed with minimal disruption to the existing fabric.

Weeks of builders removing walls, plastering and upheaval are replaced by a trip to the IKEA store to purchase the staircase and the booking of a subcontractor to fit it. The original design accounted for this “future option” and is built into the core of the house.

The best approach to new affordable housing should consider combinations of factors that look at design, materials and processes that have yet to be widely used in the affordable housing market.

And the construction sector needs to look over its shoulder at other market places – especially the one that Henry Ford dominated over a century ago. Today’s car manufacturers offer customised options in everything from colour to wheel size, interior gadgets to different kinds of headlamp. These options have all been accounted for in the construction and costing of each model.

The ConversationThey share a similar design “platform”, and by doing so, considerably reduce the overall cost of the base model. The benefit is quicker production with the added benefit of a cost model that allows for customisation to be included. It is a method the construction sector should adopt to produce housing where quality and affordability live happily together.

David Morton, Associate Professor in Architecture and Built Environment, Northumbria University, Newcastle.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.