The Paths to 270

There is one day to go until the presidential of 2012. But despite what many say and a fewer number want, the United States is not a democracy. It was never meant to be. Instead it is a democratic republic. We elect people who make decisions for us. Perhaps one of the most misunderstood ways in which this happens is through the election for the president.

The popular vote does not matter. If the popular vote did matter, Al Gore would have been elected president in 2000, not George Bush. Instead, your state’s electors matter because they belong to something called the electoral college. Different states have different numbers of electors (loosely based on their political representation in Congress). Given which states are certain to vote for President Obama (Illinois) and Governor Romney (Georgia), there are only a few states that are available for either to win (Ohio).

Different combinations of states can be had to reach 270 electoral college votes, which is the number necessary to become president. While Governor Romney might be able to make 50.1% of the national vote, as this interactive piece from the New York Times shows, his path to 270 votes is very narrow and he cannot stray too far and still hope to win. And it is because of this fact (generally speaking) that many, e.g. Nate Silver of the New York Times, are saying that a re-election of President Obama is far more likely than a Governor Romney victory.

There are two ways to really play with it. First, select different states and see how many different routes are left open to Governor Romney. The second is to leave the selections blank and then follow the flow chart given by the New York Times.

Play with the Toggles Until You Get a Winner
Play with the Toggles Until You Get a Winner
Follow the Red Road for Romney
Follow the Red Road for Romney

Credit for the piece goes to Mike Bostock and Shan Carter.

Author: Brendan Barry

I am a graphic designer who focuses on information design. My day job? I am the data visualisation manager for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. (This blog is my something I do on my own time and does not represent the views of the Fed, blah blah blah legal stuff.) And with my main interest in information design—be it in the shape of clear charts, maps, diagrams, or wayfinding systems—I am fortunate that my day job focuses on data visualisation. Outside of work, I try to stay busy with personal design work. Away from the world of design, I enjoy cooking and reading and am interested in various subjects from history and geography to politics to science to the arts. And I allow all of them to influence my work.

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