Tuesday, September 23, 2008

1 State, 2 State, Red State, Blue State

In historical presidential results, many of states that went Republican ("red states") are physically large, but in most cases, their populations are relatively small. So when presidential election results are color-coded on a map of the US, it looks like red states dominate, as in this map of 2004 presidential results by state:
Even though our crazy electoral college system is "winner takes all" by state (except for Maine and Nebraska), you can get a more accurate view of how voters are distributed if you code the map by county and use red, blue, and purple colors to indicate percentages of voters:
That still looks pretty red. But if you also systematically distort the map so the drawn size of each state is proportional to its population, you get a more balanced view:
These maps are from an article by Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman of the University of Michigan. Read the article for other map variations and better explanations.


Unknown said...

nice post title!

i just mailed in my absentee ballot request. too bad i couldnt change my registration to ohio in time for the election!

whats the likelihood of the electoral vote crap-process ever being removed, you think? what are other feasible options?

FlyingSinger said...

Changing the electoral college system itself would (I believe) require a constitutional amendment, pretty tough. Last year there was talk here in MA of changing MA law to pledge the MA electoral delegates to the winner of the national popular vote. http://www.boston.com/news/politics/2008/articles/2008/07/09/house_to_consider_bill_to_eliminate_electoral_college/
If every state did this, it would make it effectively "popular vote." ME and NE pledge their electoral votes proportionally to the state results, so I guess states have the right to change how their own electors are assigned. There are various other possibilities but I don't really know much about them, e.g., http://www.fairvote.org/e_college/reform.htm