Mapping the election as you like it

In my next iteration as a journalist, I really wish to learn how to do multimedia work like this fantastic New York Times interactive presidential map that easily was my favorite political Web toy on election night. Upon first glance this map looks strikingly familiar to many others that popped up on television and computer screens last night . . .


. . . but as you roll over onto states and even down to the county level you get the updated election returns figures and the corresponding red (John McCain) and blue (Barack Obama) designations in virtual real time, not that much different than what the cable news map divas (John King of CNN and Chuck Todd of MSNBC) were showing us at virtually the same time. The Associated Press compiled a similar map, but it didn’t have quite the ease of use that I found on the NYT site.

picture-31 The key for Obama winning Florida was to carry or do better than John Kerry in 2004 in the so-called I-4 corridor of central Florida. As some TV commentators were marveling at Obama’s ability to take not only Orlando but counties in the Daytona Beach and Tampa-St. Pete regions, map users could see the numbers and colors for themselves in real time.

And after Conn. Rep. Chris Shays, the only House Republican in New England, went down to defeat, I was curious to see just how blue that bluest of regions looked after election night. picture-1 It was particularly revealing to see that only two counties in the entire region — two rural counties in Maine — voted for McCain. Maine now is the home to the only two New England Republicans remaining in Congress, Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who was re-elected easily on Tuesday.

After Obama’s victory speech I tuned out the pundits and couldn’t stop scrolling over nearly every state on the map, which shows that while Obama made significant changes to the political geography, there is still plenty that remains untouched, such as all-red Oklahoma:

picture-4But while none of this is profound — maps like these have become staples of political Web and news sites for some time — it’s fun as a citizen and a voter to have the tools at your fingertips to dig deeper into what you’re hearing on TV or go discover parts of the electoral map that interest you.

Though the presidential race is no longer in doubt, a few states are still up for grabs and thus are shaded in neutral colors. As a Southerner I’m particularly interested in North Carolina, where Obama leads by 12,000 votes. That leads to just one pressing question that basketball fans argue about all the time: Is it going to be Tar Heel Blue or Blue Devil Blue?


If simple red and blue hues aren’t enough for you, then click on to the “county leaders” tab to get more nuanced shades. These are especially useful in analyzing swing states, such as Ohio, which went for Obama after being in the Bush column in 2004:

Ohio county-by-county, 2008 presidential race.
2008 Ohio
Ohio county-by-county, 2004 presidential.
2004 Ohio

You can compare and contrast results dating back to the 1992 elections, around the advent of the World Wide Web. While political junkies will be studying these races and maps like these for years, I thought it was a nice touch to include this very fun bubble map that you can also customize as you like it:



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