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Shapefile to Illustrator Issue

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It seems to me that you're using Illustrator to do things better accomplished on the GIS side. Clip, for example. ArcMap is best used for the heavy lifting of geoprocessing. The pathfinder tools are the closest thing to GIS-like functions in Illustrator, but most cartographic data is more complex than the sort of thing Illustrator is designed for.
Paul Fyfield
Cartographer, Bureau of Land Management
Oregon State Office
Portland, Oregon

Martin Gamache

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I recently ran into these issues when trying to use pathfinder tools on very complex polygons that had been exported to PDF from MapInfo.

I found that running the simplify line option first was crucial for very large complex objects, otherwise it either crashed Illustrator or failed to complete the operations. Once I did this I had no problem combining objects into one. So it may just be that your state outlines are too complex. This is certainly not an issue with Illustrator rather with the data.

Another part of pathfinder functionality is that after the operation you need to expand the objects. Once you have expanded the objects if any compound objects were created you can release them using the object menu command and delete them. As has been alluded to this is usually the result of island type polygons. Nathaniel Kelso has created a useful script to find objects less than X points. I used this successfully to find and delete those types of artifacts. It runs fairly slow but is nevertheless useful.

In terms of your particular problem. I think a few solutions would be to union or merge all the polygons of equal values that are adjacent in the GIS before exporting. This would greatly reduce the number of squares that you have. You could also very easily crop your data to the state boundary for every map prior to export.

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