Democratic Underground

"The Map" Gets a Second Look
August 27, 2001
by Jonathan Lilienkamp

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We've all seen one. Sometimes by counties, sometimes by state breakdown. Of course I refer to the famous Red vs. Blue map. Many on the right use it as a fallacy-filled example of how much support Bush had in 2000. Evidently, by looking at geographical size, the amount of red somehow is supposed to legitimize Bush's election. Perhaps we have become too much a world of graphs - at a glance we are used to seeing depicted volume on a piece of paper or computer screen as a meaningful representation of something. Of course, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the difference in a homogeneous pie chart and a heterogeneous map - but it makes for great spin.

Of course, besides the population/area problem, the map implies an all-or-nothing logic. If a state is red, it implies it is 100% so. It implies the same about blue states. As anyone who ever followed politics knows, there is nothing that cut and dried. So let's eliminate some of the fallacies and take a closer look at the popular vote totals of the red and the blue states. Through multiplication of the percentage of votes per state, both blue and red, we can develop a more informational map - one with shades of purple. (I have added the Democratic and Green votes together and the Republican, Reform, and "Other" before dividing by total votes cast):

Where did all of the red go? It appears by this closer look that Democrats have a fairly decent nation-wide representation. Looking at this map, it is not hard to realize that the South isn't quite as locked-up as we have been led to believe. As seen above, in some cases it is very hard to discern what state went for whom in the last election. Is there much of a difference between MO and IA? There is on the top map, to be sure!

Based on election 2000, and based on the decline popularity of G.W. Bush, it is reasonable to assume he will lose an overall percentage of his votes in 2004. For fun, lets utilize the same illogic as the right. The map of the U.S electorate can be redrawn in Republican fashion with only pure red and pure blue, while excluding all parties besides the Republicans and Democrats. Noting what a few votes can do in some of the purple swing states, we can point out a few telling signs of just how tenuous the Republican "grip" on the Unites States really is. In each of these "redraws" we will determine how many votes would be required to turn some of the darker-purple red states into darker-purple blue states.

This study looks at what would happen if a percentage of Bush voters voted instead for the Democratic candidate in the next election with all other points being equal. This of course could also represent two Bush voters not voting, or voting third party, two new Democratic voters, or any combination thereof. For ease, we will take it in 0.5% increments of the per-state vote totals.

If less that 0.5% of (269) Florida voters changed their votes from Bush to the Democratic opponent in 2004 (again, assuming all things being equal) Florida would turn Blue on the map. To clarify, as stated above, this could also be achieved by 536 Bush voters not voting, voting third party, 536 third party voters, 536 non-voters (or uncounted voters) in 2000 or any combination thereof to achieve a Democratic win.

With less than 1% of the Bush voters in New Hampshire changed their vote to Democratic, that state too would turn blue. This represents a mere 3,606 Bush voters, voting Democratic or 7,212 fewer Republican ballots or 7,212 additional Democratic ballots.

At just under the 2% mark, four states convert to Democratic control. These are Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, and Tennessee. This represents 39,394, 10,799, 83,368, and 40,115 converted Bush voters respectively.

Bill Clinton's home state of Arkansas requires just fewer than 3% of the Bush supporters to cast their vote for the Democratic candidate instead. Just 25,087 converted voters, or a combined 50,173 new Democratic or non-voting Bush voters make the difference.

Arizona and West Virginia join the Democratic column with a mere switch of 3.5% of Republican voters. The represents 48,156 Bush voters in Arizona and 20489 West Virginia and Republicans required to wake up.

4% of Louisiana's voters switching from Republican to Democrat "change the map" once again. This represents 67,764 people who voted for Bush realizing their mistake in this Deep South State.

An additional half percent (4.5% total) in Colorado and Virginia "flip" these states. That is 72761 changed voters in Colorado, and 110,101 switches in Virginia.

At the 6% mark, or 151,746 Bush voters getting a clue in 2004, Georgia would turn towards the future. Once again, this doesn't represent a lot of voters in a fairly large state.

With 6.5% of North Carolina thinking more like John Edwards and less like Jesse Helms, that state is brought into the fold. Once again, just a handful of 186,736 Bush supporters straying from their election 2000 vote makes the difference.

7.5% of Alabama's election participants, or 124,282 Bush voters choosing a Democrat in 2004, converts this traditional Republican state. It's possible that at least that many will be angered by Bush's tax cut realities alone, not to mention his other current and future debacles.

The states of Indiana, Kentucky and South Carolina need an 8% change in votes. That means 171,929 reformed Indiana Republicans, 116,799 enlightened Kentucky citizens, and 110,428 annoyed South Carolinians, adding another "chunk" of blue real estate to the map.

Finally, to round out all states east of the river named after it, the state of Mississippi falls to the Democrats with a mere 84,116 Bush voters changing their minds in 2004. That represents a total of 7.5% of the 2000 Bush voters.

Adding all of the numbers together, this means that the combined number needed to substantially change the red and blue map equates to 1,467,932 former Bush supporters voting more sensibly, 2,935,863 election 2000 Bush supporters not voting, 2,935,863 new democratic voters, or any combination thereof. That represents just 1.38% of Bush voters nation-wide changing their votes, or 2.79% additional Democrats or fewer Republican votes allocated in proper proportions among the above states.

Suddenly, the infamous Red vs. Blue map looks like this:

For those keeping score, the 2004 electoral votes of this map would break down accordingly:

Democrats: 462
Republicans: 76

If you live in one of these new-blue, true-blue states, the time is now to make a difference. This means convincing friends, educating people, enrolling voters, and making sure Democrats get to the polls. We have much work ahead of us, but the task is not insurmountable. We can, we must, and we will take our country back.