April 12, 2011
The United States counts its citizens every ten years, and the result of that census is used to allocate the 435 congressional seats in the House of Representatives to the 50 States. Since 1940, that allocation has been done using a method devised by Edward Huntington and Joseph Hill that minimizes percentage differences in the sizes of the congressional districts.
The Huntington-Hill method begins by assigning one representative to each State. Then each of the remaining representatives is assigned to a State in a succession of rounds by computing for each State, where n is the current number of representatives (initially 1), p is the population of the State, and g(n, p) is the State’s population divided by the geometric mean of the current number of representatives and the number of representatives that the State would have if it was assigned the next representative. The geometric mean g(n, p) is calculated for each State at each round and the representative assigned to the State with the highest geometric mean g(n, p).
For instance, once each State has been assigned one representative, the geometric mean g(n, p) for each State is its population divided by the square root of 2. Since California has the biggest population, it gets the 51st representative. Then its geometric mean is recalculated as its population divided by the square root of 2 × 3 = 6, and in the second round the 52nd representative is assigned to Texas, which has the second-highest population, since it now has the largest geometric mean g(n, p). This continues for 435 − 50 = 385 rounds until all the representatives have been assigned.
Your task is to compute the apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives; the population data is given on the next page. When you are finished, you are welcome to read or run a suggested solution, or to post your own solution or discuss the exercise in the comments below.