Diversity in the 115th Congress

Well, we have arrived at 2017. We all know the big political story in the executive branch. But we also saw elections in the legislative branch. But how different will the 115th Congress look from the 114th? The Wall Street Journal took a look at that in an article.

Congressional diversity
Congressional diversity

The article’s graphic does a nice job showing the two different compositions. But if we are truly interested in the growth, we could use a line chart to better showcase the data. So what did I do last night? I made that chart. But as I was playing with the data I saw some numbers that stood out for me. So I compared the proportion of minorities in the original graphic to their proportion of the US national population, per Census Bureau data.

Redesigning the original graphic
Redesigning the original graphic

The line charts, broken out into the House vs. the Senate and then into the two parties, do a really good job of showing how the growth is not equally distributed between the two parties. And the reverse of that is that it shows how one party has failed to diversify between the two congresses.

The 115th Congress might be more diverse than ever. But it has a long way to go.

Credit for the original piece goes to the Wall Street Journal graphics department.

The Trump Organisation Organisation Chart

Well Christmas is over so now for some of us, it’s time to go back to work. Those of you enjoying your time off through the new year, well…enjoy it.

Today’s piece is from the New York Times and explores the structure of Donald Trump’s organisation. A second graphic within the piece then details just what the various parts of the organisation actually do. I found the whole article to be a nice insight into an organisation that will likely be ever more in the news spotlight.

Who runs what
Who runs what

Credit for the piece goes to Troy Griggs and Karen Yourish.

The Electoral College

Well today we elect the president of the United States. Wait! you say, did we not just do that a few weeks ago?

Not really, no.

In the run up to the election, I and others saw the possibility that this election could result in a gap between the national popular vote and the electoral college vote. And people think that unfair. Consequently I decided to start working on a series of graphics to help explain the system. But before I could finish, the Washington Post published this piece that I think does a strong job. So, I am going to point you there instead.

The United States is not a democracy, but a federal, democratic republic. Though that may smack of wordsmithery, it is an important distinction. We are a democratic republic in that we elect people to represent us, we do not directly vote on matters of government. And then that federal bit. The United States was formed by sovereign states, i.e. the colonies and other independent republics like Texas and (sort of) California. Others were territories belong to sovereign states that we acquired through negotiation, e.g. the Louisiana territory and Florida. In short, the United States is not a unitary state ruled by an all-powerful central government. The central government only has the authority granted to it by the states and territories entering the union.

States are intended to be equal, but the democratic republic bit means the people need to have their say. So the federal House of Representatives gets a set number of seats divided proportionally by population (as determined by the US Census) while the Senate represents all states equally with senators. The House is elected by the people every two years and thus is more in tune with national public sentiment. The Senate serves as the more deliberative body tempering perhaps overly reactionary House legislation. It also serves to represent the interests of the state governments. Initially, you did not even vote for senators. Those were chosen by your state governments, often the state legislature. (I will save that topic for another day.)

The electoral college of 538 members comes from each state’s House delegation and its two senators. And because this is a federal, i.e. state-led, republic, each state determines how to divvy up their votes. Most states do winner-take-all. Two, Maine and Nebraska, allocate them based on who wins the House districts and then an additional two (from the number of senators) to the overall state winner.

That very complicated system was designed to ensure that states with smaller populations are not summarily outvoted and overruled by the largest of states. This initially helped the smaller states in the Northeast like Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Delaware, but also the slave states like Georgia. In 2016, this means that the states of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains receive overrepresentation at the expense of the larger states like California, Texas, New York, and even my Pennsylvania.

The graphics from the Washington Post do a great job of showing not just how states today are over- or under-represented, but how that has changed since 1960. That is an important date given the Voting Rights Act that attempted to break down systemic injustices against minorities, particular blacks, in elections.

This small multiple map of the United States shows representation changes over time. Really well done.
This small multiple map of the United States shows representation changes over time. Really well done.

Is the electoral college “fair”? If this was a unitary republic, no. I doubt anyone would or could argue that point. But the United States is not and was not meant to be a unitary republic. We are a collection of sovereign states that grant power to a federal government. So in that sense, the electoral college is a fair, albeit not perfect, system that seeks to reallocate electoral power from high population states to low population states.

Credit for the piece goes to Denise Lu.

The David Petraeus Clusterfuck

This is sort of an early Friday post that follows up from my post on David Petraeus yesterday. Today’s comes from Hilary Sargent, once of the Boston Globe. It diagrams the network that ultimately resulted in the conviction I mentioned yesterday.

For President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign to run so heavily against Secretary Clinton for mishandling classified information, his potential choice for Secretary of State did worse. He was actually convicted of mishandling classified information.

A network diagram
A network diagram

Credit for the piece goes to Hilary Sargent.

David Petraeus for Secretary of State—No

I am very closely following the transition of power from President Obama to President-elect Trump. And one of the very surprising news stories has been that Trump is considering David Petraeus for Secretary of State.

Given the controversy and campaign rhetoric against and surrounding Hillary Clinton for alleged mishandling of classified information as Secretary of State, I wanted to set the record straight with this one dataset comparing Petraeus to Clinton on their reckless handling of classified information.

Comparing the convictions
Comparing the convictions

Going by the data, if your claim was that Hillary Clinton could not be trusted with national secrets, neither can David Petraeus. Move along, Mr. Trump.

Credit for the piece goes to me.

Trump’s Potential Conflicts of Interest

President-elect Donald Trump was correct when he stated that the president is often exempt from conflicts of interest while in office. However, he is not exempt from the emolument clause of the Constitution. Put simply, the president cannot receive money or gifts from foreign governments. The whole not being beholden to a foreign power thing.

The catch is that a significant bit of Trump’s portfolio involves dealings with state-run companies across the world. And state-run companies are state-run, that is to say, run by foreign governments. Should they pay rent, make an investment, offer him a gift, he would be receiving money or gifts from a foreign government. Unless Trump takes action between now and January to sell-off or otherwise divest himself of those investments and arrangements, on Inaugural Day, not only would he be swearing the oath of office, but he would be breaking it simultaneously.

The New York Times went through Trump’s own financial disclosure and found these locations around the world where his business operates.

Where Trump's businesses operate
Where Trump’s businesses operate

Credit for the piece goes to Richard C. Paddock, Eric Lipton, Ellen Barry, Rod Nordland, Danny Hakim, and Simon Romero.

Election Day

Well this is it. Well at least for you American readers of this blog. It’s Election Day. If you had told me that this is what it would come to almost a year and a half ago, I would have laughed. But it did. And now it comes down to all of us to vote, unless unlike me you live in a state with early voting. And then when the polls begin to close, nerds of the political and data persuasion will be following the results in state, counties, and congressional districts.

And we will be following it all because not all the people on the ballots are named Trump or Clinton. I lived eight years in Illinois. There, you guys are, among others, choosing between Kirk and Duckworth. Here in Pennsylvania, it’s between Toomey and McGinty. Here there is also a referendum on judicial retirement ages. Other districts, counties, and states will have other things upon which to vote.

And while local politics and governance impact us the most, let’s face it. We’re all here for the title fight. The heavyweight class: Trump v. Clinton. So today being Election Day, how is it going to turn out? Well I have my thoughts, check them out here, but who really knows? But who also doesn’t want to try and guess? Enter the New York Times. They have a great interactive decision tree that allows you to experiment. But even without selecting a thing you can see how much more likely a Clinton victory is. She simply has more paths to 270 electoral college votes.

Decide who wins by deciding who wins which state
Decide who wins by deciding who wins which state

But that all said, a Clinton victory is far from guaranteed. If the narrow polls are wrong in any one of her “firewall” states, Trump can win. And while it may seem forever ago, remember Bernie Sanders in Michigan? The polls had him down by at least five points to Clinton throughout the race. He won the state by two points. Now a seven point swing is a bit extreme, and I am not suggesting any state will be in that much error. But three to four points is very plausible. And Clinton’s leads? In many of these states, they are within that uncomfortable margin. So here is a plausible scenario that makes tiny New Hampshire and its four votes the deciding state.

Leaving it all to New Hampshire
Leaving it all to New Hampshire

So remember, if you haven’t already, go vote. And if I learned anything from Chicago, it’s vote once, vote often.

Credit for the piece goes to the New York Times graphics department.

The National Debt

One of the things discussed during the election season—though very minorly compared to other things—is the national debt. Debt itself is not scary. Look at student loans, home loans, auto loans, &c. Look at the credit cards in your wallet. But running a country is far more difficult and complex than a household budget. That said, our national debt is high, though of late it has been trending in a positive direction, i.e. flattening out its growth curve.

So what would electing either Clinton or Trump do to the debt? Well, nothing great. According to this piece from the Washington Post, we would be talking about increasing the debt because of plans that are not fully funded or revenue cuts that fail to match spending cuts. But as the graphic shows with a really nice piece of layout between text and image, one option is far worse than the other for the issue of the national debt.

The graphic is clear, and emphasised by the layout of the text
The graphic is clear, and emphasised by the layout of the text

The opening graphic above draws the reader into the overall piece, but the remainder of the piece breaks down policies and implications with additional graphics. If you want to understand the differences between the candidates and the impact of those differences, this is a good read.

Credit for the piece goes to Kevin Uhrmacher and Jim Tankersley.

Pennsylvania’s Polls

Again, the election is next week. And since I have moved from Chicago to Philadelphia, I now find myself in a contested state. This piece comes from the New York Times and explores the polling results across the blue-leaning-but-still-a-swing-state. I find it particularly interesting just how much red and purple there is in the suburban counties of Delaware, Chester, Montgomery, and Bucks all surrounding Philadelphia. But that will only make my vote matter more than it would have had were I still living in Chicago.

But you should also check out the piece for some updates on the Senate race we have going on here. The Republican Pat Toomey is running for re-election against the Democrat Katie McGinty. The race can be described as a tossup as the polls seem to be flipping back and forth. But there is some interesting polling data to be found in the article.

Pennsylvania's pre-election support
Pennsylvania’s pre-election support

In about a week we will see just how Pennsylvania goes for both the presidential election and the Senate election.

Credit for the piece goes to Nate Cohn.

Tracking Polls One Week Out

Well the election is next Tuesday, and last Friday and this past weekend was…interesting. So one(ish) week to go, and we are going to turn to a few posts that use data visualisation and graphics to explore topics related to the election.

Today we start with the latest tracking polls, released on Friday. The piece comes from the Washington Post and highlights the closing gap between Clinton and Trump with a sudden spike in Republican candidate support. But what I really like about the piece is the plot below. It displays the 0 axis vertically and plots time with the most recent date at the top. And then support for the various demographics can be filtered by selectable controls above the overall plot.

Saturday's polling numbers
Saturday’s polling numbers

Of course the really interesting bit is going to be how much this changes in the next seven days. And then what that means for the results when we all wake up on Wednesday morning.

Credit for the piece goes to Chris Alcantara, Kevin Uhrmacher, and Emily Guskin.