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Since the US election the other day, I've started seeing the usual spate of choropleth maps like the one below.

choropleth map of 2016 US election [source and discussion]

These are problematic for representing the results of political elections because what matters in those elections is (usually) the total number of votes cast by persons, while the maps are weighted instead by area. For instance, the map above is predominantly red, but it represents a result in which blue had a couple of percentage points of advantage. This is possible because many of the red areas are large but contain only a few people, while many of the blue areas are geographically small but have very dense populations.

I'm looking for a single word that describes a (hypothetical) system of government where equal areas on a map earned equal representation in the legislature. I would expect such a word to follow the same structure as "democracy," which has a Greek root (δημος/"people") plus the suffix -cracy from κρατος/"state." Other examples in this model are "aristocracy" (αριστος/best), "kleptocracy" (κλεπτον/thief), "kakistocracy" (κακος/worst). Branching out a bit would include "monarchy" (μονος/"single", αρχος/"ruler"), or similar models.

This word would fit in a space like

In a(n) ________, maps like the above would be distortion-free representations of an election result; there would be no difference between a(n) _______ and democracy if the population density were the same everywhere.

I have an idea for what this word should be, which I'll put in an answer, along with my reservations about it. If a better word already exists, I would love to know about it; if the word that I've coined is well-attested and I just can't find it, I'd like references to that as well.

Also, my Greek is super-rusty, so corrections to my etymology here are relevant and appreciated.

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  • I may be slow in understanding, "equal areas on a map earned equal representation in the legislature" New Jersey has 2.7% of the population of America, yet comprises only 0.5% of America's land area. Are you talking about a legislature that has 0.5% of representatives from New Jersey? Or something like that?
    – Zebrafish
    Nov 8, 2018 at 16:05
  • @Zebrafish Yes, just so.
    – rob
    Nov 8, 2018 at 16:06
  • Unless it was "proportional", how such a word exist? Dec 8, 2018 at 23:03
  • I've always said that "cows vote".
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 9, 2018 at 0:48
  • 1
    Obviously it's ageládocracy, since cows vote.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 7, 2019 at 23:20

1 Answer 1

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The word that I came up with is

chorocracy, from χωρος/place/area/region

This follows the rules outlined in the question. It's promising that it's the same etymology as the name of the mapping style, "choropleth", with -pleth from πληθος/many. Some searching finds that a small number of people have used this word in this sense, but it doesn't appear in any dictionary.

Here's a 2007 PhD thesis which uses the word with a slightly different meaning, which makes me wonder if the structure that I chose is on the wrong track for the meaning that I want.

This word doesn't feel idiomatic to me in the same sense that "kleptocracy" or "kakistocracy" were. Those words I knew the meaning of the first time I heard them, since "klepto" and "kaka" appear as roots in other English-adopted words. I don't immediately recognize "choro" as a root for building words about place.

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  • Isn't that a system where the choir votes?
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 7, 2019 at 23:21
  • In the words of the -cracy form, the first part of the word normally specifies who has the ultimate political power. In the hypothetical political system described in the question, it is not the places that have the power. Assuming that the representatives of each area are elected by its residents, it would be the people that have the power. The system would thus still be a form of democracy, albeit a rather peculiar one. If one wants to coin a single word for such a system, one should not use the -cracy form.
    – jsw29
    Nov 28, 2020 at 22:26
  • The only chor- word I know involves fermented sausage, and Otto Bismark has already noted the similarities between laws and sausages.
    – Phil Sweet
    Mar 28, 2021 at 11:19
  • ELU deals with established usage, not DIY expeditions. Jul 26, 2021 at 10:45

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