Mapping the Canadian Election Results: Technical Details

Bothered by the widespread use of Web Mercator by Canadian news outlets to show last week’s election results, Kenneth Field has posted an article that aims to address the problem. Static maps of Canada tend to use a conic projection like the Albers or the Lambert, and that’s the case for print election maps as well. Online interactive maps, on the other hand, use off-the-shelf tools that use Web Mercator, which results in the sparsely populated territories looking even more enormous. But that doesn’t have to be the case, says Ken, who shows us, with a few examples, how use ArcGIS Pro to create interactive maps using a conical projection.

Meanwhile, Mark Gargul writes in response to Ken’s critique of his cartogram of the election results. Mark describes himself as an amateur and readily admits that other cartograms are “clearly more aesthetically pleasing. On the other hand, I was going for something different with my cartogram—specifically, to try to preserve riding-adjacency as much as possible.”

The other thing Mark was going for in his cartogram was to indicate the urban-rural split: metropolitan areas are given a black border: it’s easy to see which ridings are in Montreal or Toronto; seats that are partially urban and partially rural straddle those borders.

So it’s doing several things at once that may not be immediately apparent.

Previously: A Cartogram of Canada’s Election Results; More Canadian Election Maps.

More Canadian Election Maps

I hit “Publish” too soon last night. Kenneth Field and Craig Williams put together a series of maps showing the Canadian election results in a number of different ways: we have a value-by-alpha map, a proportional symbol map, and two kinds of dot density maps: one showing the winners, one showing all votes per constituency. (One dot equals 100 votes; the dots are spread evenly across constituencies, even when people aren’t. You can’t have everything.) And it’s on the Lambert, not the Mercator.

Speaking of the Mercator. Maps Mania’s roundup of Canadian election results maps notes that the Canadian media’s interactive maps (e.g. CBC, Global, Globe and Mail) invariably resorted to Web Mercator, largely because of the mapping platform used. (In-house infographics team? Don’t be ridiculous.) Web Mercator is singularly bad for Canadian election maps, because Nunavut: it’s the largest electoral district by area (1.9 million km2) and the smallest by population (31,906). It’s enough of a distortion on the Lambert: Mercator makes it worse.

As for cartograms, Ken hated the one I posted last night; Keir points to Luke Andrews’s Electoral Cartogram of Canada, which is a bit nicer, and uses only one hexagon per riding instead of seven. Keir also points to this animation that shifts between a geographical map and a cartogram. It’s hard to recognize Canada in cartograms, because it’s difficult for us to grasp just how many people live in southern Ontario.

Previously: A Cartogram of Canada’s Election Results.

A Cartogram of Canada’s Election Results

This cartogram shows the seat-by-seat results of the federal election held last Monday in Canada. It was uploaded to Wikipedia by user Mark Gargul to illustrate the 2019 Canadian federal election article, and it’s a welcome departure from the usual election results maps in this country.

(An example of the usual results map is Elections Canada’s official map of the unofficial results, in PDF format.)

Canadian election results maps generally use geographic maps, usually the Lambert conformal conic projection that most maps of Canada use (though sometimes it’s the Mercator!) rather than cartograms. Which means that Canadian maps suffer from the same “empty land doesn’t vote” problem that U.S. maps have, though it’s mitigated by the fact that vast rural and northern seats are often won by different parties: you don’t have the same sea of one colour that you get in the States.

That said, Canada is overwhelmingly urban, and so are its electoral districts. Most election results maps resort to using multiple inset maps to show the urban results. (Elections Canada’s map has 29 of them.) Gargul’s cartogram sidesteps both problems neatly; on the other hand, it’s next to impossible to find your own damn constituency (it’s hidden in the mouseover text). If the disadvantage of empty-land election results maps is that the colours aren’t representative, their advantage is that you can tell what regions voted for whom, at least if you know your geography.

Trump, Maps and Manipulation

“Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States, has become a master of the use of the map to assert his agenda.” From election maps to hurricane forecastsKenneth Field looks at the ways that Donald Trump uses maps to assert power, dominate the narrative and, well, lie.

So Trump is a serial map-abuser. These three examples clearly show how he uses the map for dominance and to assert his apparent power and possession. This is Trump’s America. He’s simply the latest in a very long line of leaders, politicians, dictators and many others to use maps to try and illustrate a version of the truth that has been cartographically mediated to suit a partisan purpose. Like I said, it’s not wrong to use maps to tell a certain story (apart from when the facts are clearly manipulated which is stretching truth to the realms of plain lies) but it is a case of “reader, beware.”

Previously: ‘A Defilement of a Sacred Trust’; How to Lie with Maps, Third Edition.

The L. A. Times Also Maps Democratic Donors

Last week I pointed to the New York Times map of Democratic donors, which had some methodological limitations to it (it simply ranked the candidates by most donors on a per-county basis). On the other side of the country, the Los Angeles Times has dug even deeper, with detailed maps of donations to the various Democratic presidential candidates—but only for Los Angeles County. They also have maps of national donations to the candidates, of a similar scope to those of the New York Times: they both got access to the same data at the same time. [Maps Mania]

The New York Times Maps Democratic Donors

The New York Times

In a series of maps, the New York Times explores where the donors to the various Democratic candidates for U.S. president live. The maps are based on data to June 30, and include donations of $200 or more. Bernie Sanders has by far the most donors so far, and they’re distributed broadly, so the second map on the page excludes Sanders donors to tease out where other candidates’ donors are concentrated regionally.

Mapping India’s Elections

If you’re interested in election results maps from around the world, you really ought to be following Maps Mania, where Keir provides first-rate coverage. Case in point, his post about maps of the recent elections to India’s Lok Sabha, its lower house of parliament, which points to interactive maps from The Indian Express and Reuters (also The Financial Times, but that’s behind a paywall).

Die Zeit Maps European Voting Patterns

Map of European voting patterns
Die Zeit (screenshot)

Die Zeit looks at European voting patterns in the runup to this weekend’s European elections: the interactive map categorizes each national political party on a spectrum from extreme left to extreme right and maps which political category received the most votes on a regional basis. “What immediately becomes clear: Europe is a colorful place. From leftist-socialist to far right-nationalist, the Continent is home to an extremely broad political spectrum—and every political creed is in the majority somewhere.” The map is also available in the original German.

The Geography of Partisan Prejudice

The Atlantic maps political polarization in America. “The result was surprising in several ways. First, while virtually all Americans have been exposed to hyper-partisan politicians, social-media echo chambers, and clickbait headlines, we found significant variations in Americans’ political ill will from place to place, regardless of party.” Includes an interactive map with county-level data based on polling and analytics.

The Washington Post Maps the U.S.-Mexico Border

The print edition of today’s Washington Post maps the fences and walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. The online version, which I seem to have missed when it was posted in October, offers a much more detailed look: it’s an interactive, scrollable map that offers a flyover view of the border, fenced and unfenced, as it passes through farms, ranches, towns and impossibly rugged terrain between the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.

United States of Apathy

United States of Apathy (Philip Kearney)

In April amateur cartographer Philip Kearney created “United States of Apathy,” a map that imagined the 2016 U.S. presidential election results if nonvoters were counted as a vote for “nobody,” in which case “nobody” would have won the electoral college by a landslide. Esri cartographer Jim Herries recently collaborated with Kearney on an interactive version that explores the phenomenon of apathetic voters in more depth. [CityLab]

xkcd’s 2018 Midterm Challengers Map

The web comic xkcd has done maps before (and I’ve covered most of them) but Friday’s iteration was a departure all the same: an interactive map of the challengers in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections: the larger the candidate’s name, the more significant the office and the better their odds of winning. Remember, these are only the challengers: no incumbents are listed.

Electing the House of Representatives, 1840-2016

There’s a lot of stuff relevant to our interests on the website of the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, and it’s hard to know what to begin with. One of the more recent projects, which CityLab saw fit to link to yesterday, is an interactive map showing elections to the U.S. House of Representatives from 1840 to 2016. It’s the kind of project that the user can get very, very lost in. In addition to the usual map of U.S. congressional districts, the site can also visualize the districts as a dot map to minimize the empty-land-doesn’t-vote problem (they call it a cartogram: it isn’t). There’s also a timeline showing the overall results over time at a glance; selecting a district gives shows how the district voted in past contests as a line graph. In other words: quite a lot of data, economically presented.