Maps That Infuriate Me: AK and HI Shafted Every Four Years

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Every four years, Americans look at more maps during one night than they probably do for months at a time (not including maps on a smartphone). Most of these maps show the fifty states, plus the District of Columbia (because DC does count in presidential elections, in contrast to its usual status of having no say in the federal government). Most of them also fill in the states with red and blue, standard colors for Republicans and Democrats since the year 2000.

I'll tell you one thing that every single one of those maps does, though, without fail: They give Alaska and Hawai'i the shaft by continuing to perpetuate the ridiculous misplacement and mis-sizing of those states.

(At right: In this case, neither Alaska or Hawai'i is a part of Jesusland or Canada, which is probably as it should be.)

As you may know, I am a vigorous advocate for just cartography. It sickens me that Alaska and Hawai'i are so abused in the common cartographic representations of the United States - often left out entirely, and when that isn't the case, treated like junk thrown in next to everything else with no regard for real geography. I'm not going to talk at length about this: Just read my post Alaska's Revenge, or if you prefer a condensed argument, Alaska's Revenge in a Nutshell.

The screenshot at left is the result from an image search I made of the words "election map" showing the top 24 hits. As you can see, three of the 21 maps that purport to show the nation leave out Alaska and Hawai'i entirely, an unconscionable act. The other 18 all put AK and HI in the same place, without fail - beneath the southwestern portion of the Lower 48, where in reality you find the Mexican states of Sinaloa and Baja California. This habit, while ubiquitous, is ridiculous.

Now, criticism is just talk if you don't present an alternative. This is the sort of template that I've used many times now to make my own maps (just check my geography/cartography label), and I decided to make another one. This map is a pretty atypical representation of the presidential election results, since it shows the percentage of votes from each state that went to any of the third party candidates - Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and all others who registered at least 0.1% of the vote in any given state. I was pretty tired of the red and the blue, obviously.


Quick analysis of this map shows that the West (except Hawai'i) dominates the country in terms of third party voting. New Mexico takes the prize, with a full 4% of its votes not going to Romney or Obama, most of them for Gary Johnson, the state's former governor. Maine is runner-up, with West Virginia the only other state east of the Mississippi to give over 2% of its votes to alternative candidates. DC was the only place where Jill Stein beat Gary Johnson, and Obama also received 91.4% of the vote there. No wondering I enjoy living here so much! - and no wonder Republicans always talk so badly about the capital!

Note that in this representation of the United States, Alaska and Hawai'i are portrayed to scale, and in more or less their proper geographic locations. I suspect that Hawai'i may not be quite as far south and west as it should be, but I'm not a professional cartographer. I'm just a guy who recognizes stupid maps when I see them, and is willing to write about the maps that infuriate me. Be sure to check out my three previous posts in this series here, here, and here.

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