Land Doesn’t Vote, People Do: This Electoral Map Tells the Real Story

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2 mins read

The traditional electoral map tells an incredibly misleading story about the American electorate, depicting a sea of red states with a few blue splotches.

But this gives no sense of proportionality. Lightly-populated states with immense geographies give the impression of deeply red areas across the center of the country:

Image via M. E. J. Newman

Even county-by-county maps give an erroneous impression about the disposition of the American electorate, despite being somewhat more balanced:

2016 County-By-County Electoral Map, Via Wikipedia

These two maps don’t give any sense of population size. You might see a deeply red county in Nebraska, but what you don’t know is that there are only a few thousand people there.

Conversely, Los Angeles County may have a similar geographic size and a similarly deep shade (of blue), but this map does not indicate that millions of people are represented in the county, as opposed to the thousands represented in the similarly-sized Nebraska county.

That’s why the map created by data science firm Jetpack AI is so important. When you take into account the population size of counties across the country, the map starts to look very different. Those vast swaths of red look a lot more empty – which is actually representative of how the country votes, taking into account population size.

This gif from Jetpack AI (which you can download here – please amplify it profusely) shows just how tiny many of those red counties are, and just how many people are represented in those blue counties.

The following map from Jetpack AI goes a step further and shows the proportion of votes for each party in every county across the country. Here, you really get the sense of how evenly divided our nation is. This map can be downloaded here.

So when you’re confronting a right winger on social media who’s gloating about the deep-red electoral map, please share this article and/or the source graphics linked to above. The fact is – the central and western areas of the USA are very sparsely populated.

Traditional maps simply don’t convey the number of citizens casting ballots. Land doesn’t vote. People do.


DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.


DemWrite Press is edited and curated by Nick Knudsen - a political activist and freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest. Nick has worked in the non-profit sector for nearly 20 years as a technical writer, development officer and program director. He has a BA from Cornell and MA from Stanford.

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