Demand more accurate and informative maps for visualizing election results

When national election results are reported to the American public, they are by default visualized in maps with each state filled in with an opaque color. That method, however, creates a deeply misleading perception of where most Americans live and vote — in densely populated urban areas rather than in spacious, mostly rural states. Thus an election results map that sets each state awash in one color, thereby failing to account for population, can lead to grossly distorted or false conclusions about the country’s views overall.

The good news is that there is no rule whatsoever stipulating that election result maps must fill in each state’s boundaries with a color. Why not instead just use a push-pin map, with pins of equal size summarizing and representing each state’s results? Here’s an example of a conventional map showing the Electoral College votes in the 2016 presidential election (on the left) and one that depicts the same results using pins (on the right):

 

Other types of more informative and accurate election results maps are available as well. For example, the Working Families Party produced the following map of the 2016 presidential election results:

More examples of alternative depictions of election results can be found here, courtesy of Princeton University historian Kevin Kruse. Many of those specialized maps are, of course, difficult to create without the aid of professional graphic artists and data analysts. In contrast, a simple push-pin map like the one at the top of this post, which avoids the spatial distortions of conventional election maps, can be easily created for free on platforms such as Google. Nonetheless, whichever type of map is used, the broader point is to demand alternatives to the misleading conventional format — for more accurately representing election outcomes as well as informing ongoing debates about the direction of the country.

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