Maps & GIS

MAP: Neighborhood by Neighborhood, Racial Polarization in the 2012 Presidential Election in Virginia

UPDATE! I have 3 24″x36″ prints left of the map below for sale for $39 each plus shipping. They’re full color, union printed, and ready to grace your wall. Use the secure PayPal link below to order.

It’s well-known by now that Barack Obama’s strong support among a growing set of people of color propelled him to victory over Mitt Romney’s white-dependent coalition. Few states have shown this more than Virginia, where exit polls show Obama won the state carrying only 37% of the white vote. I have prepared the map below which overlays polling place-level election results on top of Census non-white percentage.

Areas are shaded by their total non-white percentage and also whether those areas were more ▰ Black (orange), ▰ Hispanic (purple), or ▰ Asian (green). ● Blue dots showing Democratic precincts cluster in diverse areas, growing more intense as nonwhite population increases, while ● red dots showing Republican precincts correlate tightly to white areas.

Racial divisons are especially profound in Hampton Roads and Richmond, where racial politics are still largely a two-dimensional Black and White game. Notice city pairs such as black Petersburg and white Colonial Heights, which are separated by a river and are at polar opposites in politics. In Northern Virginia, Black voters are eclipsed in population by Hispanic and Asian voters, which voted heavily Democratic, but not at the near-unanimous level of Black voters. In the western part of the state, where voters are often overwhelmingly white, red dots are dominant outside of college towns. Outside of well-discussed urban cores were rural areas in Southside Virginia that have a significant Black population.

This map was heavily inspired by Bill Rankin’s dot-density maps of regional race and the New York Times’ size-dot precinct map of New York City. Trying to show race and political data at the same time can be a difficult task, but I find that the pointillist view of using individual dots for precincts on top of a colored race layer is a good way to show its complexity.

The full size version is after the jump.
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Interactive Map: South Korea Elects First Female President

On December 19, 2012, South Korean voters elected Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri party to a five-year term as president, defeating Democratic United Party nominee Moon Jae-In. Park defeated Moon by a narrow 51.6% to 48.0%. Moon Jae-in won the southwestern Jeolla region by over 70 percentage points and a smaller margin in the capital city of Seoul, but these crushing margins were not enough to overcome Saenuri margins in the rest of the country.

Below is an interactive map I prepared showing province-level returns and margins. Mouseover a province on the map to highlight its position in the chart, or click a row in the data table to select its corresponding province on the map. The data table is also sortable.

Louisiana CD03 Geographic Primer

For inveterate political junkies watching tonight’s all-Republican runoff in Louisiana’s 3rd District, the last member-member race of the year, I’ve prepared this quick map showing the old CD03 (Rep. Jeff Landry) and CD07 (Rep. Charles Boustany) laid over new CD03 results from November. As you can see, the largest parishes of the new district are in Boustany’s old district (Lafayette and Calcasieu Parishes), and that every county voted for their incumbent. Similarly strong geographic splits were mapped in Pennsylvania’s member-member races earlier this year.


P.S. – I take custom commissions for county & precinct election maps. Want one hanging on your wall? Click here.

Custom Election Maps: The Perfect Holiday Gift

Are you looking for the perfect gift for the political hack that has everything? (Or for yourself.) Why don’t you celebrate their glorious victories by giving them a custom wall map of any state, county, or district in the nation? I’m taking custom commissions, and will print any message you’d like on it. E-mail me at to get started today! Rates vary by size of map, data layers, and what area of the country I need data from.

They’ll be printed full color on high-quality paper, and it comes with a free tube! Email me your details at to get started today! Don’t delay if you want your map in time for the holidays!

Infographic: The Electoral College is a Little Bit Racist

♫ Everyone’s a little bit racist sometimes.
Doesn’t mean we go around committing hate crimes.
Look around and you will find
No one’s really color blind. ♫
Avenue Q

It’s well known by now that the Electoral College drastically overweights the voters of small states, to the point where 1 Wyoming resident casts the equivalent of 3.05 votes, and 1 California resident casts only 0.85 votes. Less talked about is how Hispanics and Asians are heavily clustered in large states that are hurt by the Electoral College the most such as California, Texas, and New York. 1 Hispanic voter, therefore, casts the equivalent of 0.94 votes, and 1 Asian voter casts the equivalent of 0.96 votes. This means that the Electoral College is (a little bit) racist.

The Mack-Mack Line: South Florida Father vs. North Florida Son

The Chinese often say that “富不过三代” – wealth is not passed down for more than three generations. My parents had a Chinese proverb for everything, and the fortunes of the fourth generation of the Mack family are no exception.

2012 was not a good year for the descendants of Cornelius McGillicuddy, Senior (1862-1952), better known as Connie Mack. The ghost of the longest-serving manager in Major League Baseball saw his beloved Athletics, in their adopted city of Oakland, lose the ALDS to Detroit in Game 5. What a tragedy!

Of course, that’s not why you’re reading this, there was also an election. Connie Mack’s grandson (the third generation), Republican politician Connie Mack III, was elected Florida’s Class I Senator in 1988 in a 50-50 squeaker, but did not seek a third term in 2000. That year, the seat was taken over by Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, who this year in 2012 gave wayward scion Connie Mack IV a 55%-42% beatdown. Oh, and Connie Mack IV’s wife, Mary Bono Mack, lost her Congressional seat in California.

In the 24 years since Connie Mack III was first elected Senator, and Connie Mack IV lost his bid to win the seat back, the regional party landscape in Florida has changed dramatically. Here, I present to you the Mack-Mack Line that divides North and South Florida. North of the line, Connie Mack IV in 2012 outperformed Connie Mack III in 1988. South of the line, the opposite occurred.


Notice how in 1988, both regions performed nearly identically, giving Connie Mack III an small lead. Fast forward to 2012, and the two regions have diverged wildly. Connie Mack IV improved on his father’s standing in North Florida, but got walloped south of the line where 4 out of 5 Floridians live. Even more amusing is that Nelson, a North Florida native, mopped the floor with former Fort Lauderdale Congressman Mack IV in South Florida.

Gwinnett County, Georgia: The Next Stop on the Demographics Express

Newton Leroy Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and failed 2012 presidential candidate, pretended to be “shocked” at the outcome of last week’s presidential election. He shouldn’t be, and he’s certainly smart enough to know that the outcome of this year’s titanic head-on collision on the train tracks of American elections wasn’t exactly hard to forecast. On one side, a lumbering steam locomotive hauling an ever-shrinking proportion of angry whites, and on the other side a bullet train of demographic change.

One of the best examples of this clash is right in Newt’s backyard: Gwinnett County, Georgia, which may in 2016 be the next Republican bastion to fall. Gwinnett, portions of which were in Newt’s Congressional District as he designed the 1994 Republican Revolution, was a viciously conservative white-flight suburb that voted for Ronald Reagan over Georgia’s own Jimmy Carter in 1980 and hasn’t voted for a Democrat since. In 1984, when Reagan was re-elected over Walter Mondale by 18 points nationwide, Gwinnett voted for Reagan by an astonishing 60 points.

But this year? As the vast majority of counties in the United States shifted more Republican compared to 2008, Gwinnett County went the opposite way. McCain carried Gwinnett in 2008 by 10 points, and Mitt Romney? Only 9. When compared to the national average, the slow collapse of the Republican margin in Gwinnett County is stunning:


A county that in the 1980s gave Republicans a margin over 40 points more than the national average is now only 12 points more Republican than average. So why the tortured train metaphor at the top of this post? To understand how astonishing this transformation in Gwinnett is, one must first understand MARTA.

MARTA, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, is Atlanta’s subway system: a valuable asset in a city so choked with traffic it is compared to the legendary congestion misery of Los Angeles and Washington, DC. MARTA is not nearly as effective as it could be, though, because it stops right at the Gwinnett County line. Why?


In 1971, Gwinnett County voters voted in a referendum to reject Gwinnett’s participation in MARTA. Car-owning suburbanites who had just left Atlanta itself feared trainloads of blacks pouring into their neighborhoods. The racially-charged nature of MARTA is still evident today: Urban Dictionary defines MARTA as “Moving Africans Rapidly Through Atlanta.” It has been called the “Mother of All Mistakes” by frustrated Atlanta residents of today stuck in traffic. As this Atlanta Magazine piece explains:

The 1965 and 1971 votes against MARTA by residents of Cobb, Clayton, and Gwinnett weren’t votes about transportation. They were referendums on race. Specifically, they were believed to be about keeping the races apart. Consider the suburbanites voting back then. The formerly rural, outlying counties had exploded with an astonishing exodus of white people fleeing the city as the black population swelled during the civil rights era. This mass migration came at a time when Atlanta was known through its public relations bluster as “The City Too Busy to Hate.”

Unfortunately for the angry whites, stopping MARTA didn’t keep the minorities out at all. A county that rejected rapid transit because it would have given blacks easy access to the suburbs is now, after the 2010 Census, majority-minority. In the last 10 years, the white-flight that gave rise to Gwinnett has come to Gwinnett: the white voting-age population actually fell. All of the population growth in Gwinnett County in the last 10 years? People of color.


In this year’s 2012 presidential election, there simply were’t enough angry whites to toss President Barack Obama out of office. The flood of Hispanics and Asians swelling the ranks of suburban counties in Virginia and North Carolina delivered huge margins for President Obama. These votes, joined with an immovable black base, went head-to-head with the white voters of the Old Confederacy. In Virginia, exit polls showed Obama won while carrying only 39% of the white vote. In North Carolina, Obama carried only 31% of the white vote, and came just short of winning: but as the share of minorities increases, underperformance among whites becomes less and less damaging.

In Gwinnett, the stagnant and shrinking white population is evident in the raw number of votes cast for Republican candidates. After decades of explosive growth, the Republicans have reached a ceiling of 160,000 votes. The explosive growth of the minority population paid big dividends for Democrats in 2008, and held steady in 2012.


What’s even more amazing is that it didn’t have to be this way for the Republicans at all. Even if the black base is impenetrable, the growth in the Asian and Latino populations should not have been so devastating for them. The Asian and Latino populations were enticed by the Republican policies on social issues and taxation, and for some groups Cold War era resentments of being soft on Communism sent them into Republican arms. I would know. As a Chinese-American, I spent a few years of my childhood living in Norcoss in Gwinnett. At the time in the late 90s, the Asian population was starting to explode, and the Chinese filled the pews at the Chinese Bible Church of Greater Atlanta, and filled the farmer’s market every weekend. Nationwide, Asians voted for Bob Dole in 1996. No Republican has carried the Asian vote since, and Barack Obama won Asians with a crushing 73% of the vote.

As the white population of Gwinnett shrinks, and as the Black, Latino, and Asian population grows, the self-inflicted wounds that Republicans gave themselves have turned Democratic-trending minorities into a Democratic base. The simple black and white racial politics that delivered Newt Gingrich-style Southern Whites victories have been scrambled by yellow and brown. It won’t be long now before the county that rejected a train because whites drove cars becomes a diverse, Democratic bastion. The states of the Old South are falling one by one, roughly in order of the growth of their minority populations: first Florida, then Virginia, then North Carolina. It would warm my heart to see Georgia next.

Election data from the indispensable US Elections Atlas.