U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Republican Appeal of New Pennsylvania Congressional Map

CNN: “The Supreme Court has denied a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to block new congressional maps that could tilt several key races in Democrats’ favor from being used in the midterm elections.” The new map was imposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after the state’s governor and legislature failed to come up with a replacement for the previous map, which the court had declared unconstitutional; see previous entry.

Meanwhile, last month Wired published a piece that looks at how experts used math and computer simulations to prove to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the congressional map exhibited partisan bias. It’s an interesting look at some interesting methodologies.

Kenneth Field’s Dot Density Election Map

Kenneth Field

Earlier this week, Kenneth Field posted a quick-and-dirty dasymetric dot density map of the 2016 U.S. presidential election results to Twitter. It quickly went viral. In a subsequent blog post, he goes into some detail about the process of making the map. “The screengrab was quick and dirty and while there have been many and varied comments on the ‘map’ it’s by no means the finished article. I want to create a hi-res version and also make a web map like the 2012 version. I don’t have time to do this in the next couple of weeks but it will happen. But I am aware of a number of issues and some have already spotted them as have many others.”

See also Field’s gallery of thematic maps of the 2016 U.S. presidential election results.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Imposes New Congressional Map

New congressional districts for Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania Supreme Court)

A major development yesterday in the case of Pennsylvania’s gerrymandered congressional electoral district map, which was thrown out as unconstitutional last month by the state’s supreme court. The legislature and governor having failed to submit a new electoral district map by the  court’s deadline, the court has imposed what it calls a remedial plan, drawing a new congressional electoral district boundaries for the state of Pennsylvania (court documents). These boundaries will take effect in the primary vote next May, but not next month’s special election.

The general consensus is that the map is more favourable to Democrats than the Democrats’ own proposals: under this map, for example, Clinton would have won the vote in eight seats to Trump’s ten; under the old map, she won the vote in six to Trump’s twelve. Republicans are already planning an appeal. The New York Times does a map-heavy deep dive into the new district boundaries: which areas they include and exclude, and their electoral implications.

Suddenly rendered moot, but still worth pointing to: Philly.com’s  interactive comparison of congressional map proposals. There were a lot of them, before the court put its foot down yesterday, and this website is a similarly deep dive, analyzing each rigorously.

Freedom in the World, Mapped

Freedom House

The 2018 edition of Freedom House’s annual report on political rights and civil liberties, Freedom in the World, is out, and it’s illustrated by maps that categorize countries into “free,” “partly free” or “not free” and assign them a score out of 100. (I can’t say 1 to 100, because Syria is -1. According to them, it’s been a bad year for global freedom.) The main map, above, shows the three categorizations. It’s a bit reductionist: “partly free” includes Morocco (score: 39) and Bolivia (score: 67), which obscures the fact that Morocco’s score is closer to nearby Algeria’s (35, “not free”) and Bolivia’s is closer to Peru’s (73, “free”) than they are to each other. But scores and categories don’t always map cleanly to one another. A second choropleth map of the scores themselves is more granular, and more revealing:

[Boing Boing]

The Gerrymanderers

When we talk about gerrymandering, about redrawing the political map to favour one’s own party at the expense of another, we talk a lot about the maps themselves. The mapmakers, not so much. Check out this New York Times article on the political consultants who do the redrawing; it focuses on the electoral map of Maryland, which like several other states’ maps is the focus of a court challenge. The process has become even more refined as more and more data becomes available to feed into the redistricting maw.

The Times article points to a similar, earlier article that appeared in the October 2012 issue of The Atlantic and goes into even more depth: “The League of Dangerous Mapmakers.” [Leventhal]

Redrawing Congressional Districts in Pennsylvania

The New York Times

In gerrymandering news, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the state’s congressional district map earlier this week, ordering the 18 districts—which have been called some of the most gerrymandered in the United States—to be redrawn in time for the 2018 elections. The New York Times explores how the Pennsylvania map could be redrawn in two ways: “One is a neutral map, the kind that might be drawn by a nonpartisan committee. The other is an adventure in extreme gerrymandering that aims to maximize the number of Republican-held seats.” (See above.) Meanwhile, if you live in the state, you might want to take a crack at remapping the districts yourself. Draw the Lines, a project by a nonpartisan watchdog group called the Committee of Seventy, will be holding a contest to redraw the state’s districts later this year.

An Online Atlas of Canadian Election Results

Election-atlas.ca is an online atlas of federal and provincial election results in Canada. At the federal level the maps go back as far as the 1925 general election; provincial election maps go back as far as the late 1960s or early 1970s. Poll-by-poll results are available for the most recent elections.

This is a huge resource, all the more impressive given the scope of the data and the fact that it seems to have been done by just one person: J. P. Kirby, a self-described “regular guy interested in politics and elections. I’m also a map geek.” (Naturally.) What I like best is that the atlas shows the historical electoral district boundaries for each election, which is fascinating on its own but must have taken some digging on Kirby’s part. (Also kind of weird to see early 20th-century results overlaid on a modern, OSM-based map with airports and freeways and so on.)

Previously: 1895 Electoral Atlas of Canada.


Peter Kuper, “Trumpworld,” The New Yorker, 12 January 2018.

It’s been a while since we last saw a map of Donald Trump’s world view (previously), but now, inspired by the president’s reported comments about shithole countries, we have a new one from The New Yorker’s Peter Kuper. [Facebook/Twitter]

Previously: The Huffington Post Maps Trump’s World.

North Carolina’s Gerrymandered Congressional District Map Ruled Unconstitutional

North Carolina’s congressional district map has been ruled unconstitutional by a panel of federal judges, the New York Times reports. Significantly, it’s because the map represented a partisan gerrymander, engineered to ensure a Republican stranglehold on North Carolina’s congressional delegation, rather than a racial gerrymander. Partisan gerrymanders have not previously been considered illegal; it’ll be interesting to see what the eventual and inevitable Supreme Court ruling on this (and other gerrymandering cases) will be.

Route 338: A Giant Educational Map About Canada’s Political System

I’ve mentioned Canadian Geographic’s giant floor maps, which are loaned out to schools and come with additional teaching materials, before (namely, the Vimy Ridge map). Now CTV News takes a look at another one of their maps, this one focusing on Canada’s political system and improving students’ “democratic literacy.” It’s called Route 338, and it’s a 10.7×7.9m (35′×26′) floor map of Canada showing the boundaries of its 338 federal electoral districts. Route 338 is a collaboration between Canadian Geographic Education and CPAC (the Canadian equivalent of C-SPAN). [CAG]

xkcd’s 2016 Election Map

Randall Munroe

The maps that appear from time to time on xkcd are usually a lot more whimsical than the one Randall posted today: his somewhat belated “2016 Election Map” assigns one figure for every 250,000 votes for each of the 2016 presidential election candidates. As Randall says in the alt text,1 “I like the idea of cartograms (distorted population maps), but I feel like in practice they often end up being the worst of both worlds—not great for showing geography OR counting people. And on top of that, they have all the problems of a chloro… chorophl… chloropet… map with areas colored in.” This is an issue that election map cartographers regularly have to deal with, as many of my readers know well.

Mapping the Alabama Senate Election Results

MCI Maps (Matthew C. Isbell)

The results of last week’s special Alabama senate election have been crunched and mapped. Matthew Isbell looks at some of the factors that contributed to Doug Jones’s upset win: education, race and voter turnout. Lots of county-by-county choropleth maps to mull over here. Meanwhile, the Washington Post is not the only one to map a salient point: Jones won the state but lost six out of seven congressional districts, thanks to the way those districts were drawn—a function of race, majority-minority districting, and gerrymandering.

Mapping the Chance of an Upset in Alabama

The Washington Post assesses Democrat Doug Jones’s chances against Republican Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate election next month by mapping three factors: the extent to which Moore underperformed Mitt Romney in 2012 (Moore ran for chief justice of Alabama in 2012 at the same time Romney ran for president), the racial makeup of Alabama’s precincts and the 2016 precinct-level election results.

Mapping the Results of Australia’s Same-Sex Marriage Referendum

Sydney Morning Herald (screenshot)

When it comes to maps of the results of Australia’s same-sex marriage referendum (or, to be more precise, postal survey), it’s a mixed bag. At the official end, the Australian Bureau of Statistics provides infographics, but no maps. The Sydney Morning Herald provides a map of the results by district (see screenshot above), but it’s boolean (yes/no) rather than a choropleth or heat map. For that, you’ll want to look at The Australian’s interactive map (they also have a map showing yes/no by constituency, centred on Sydney, whose western districts voted against the most).

Finally, this map by “lunatic map maker” Matthew Isbell is making the rounds; I want to make sure he’s correctly attributed.

The New York Times Maps the Virginia Governor’s Race

The New York Times

The New York Times’s graphics department generally does very good election maps, and their work on yesterday’s gubernatorial election in Virginia is no exception. I particularly like how the interactive map toggles from a standard choropleth map to maps that better account for population density, show the size of each candidate’s lead and the shift in vote since the 2016 presidential election.