You’ve seen the maps. They were popular immediately after the election to show how the electoral votes were to be cast. They’re still popular on certain conservative web sites to advocate how “red” the country is, especially the maps that show the votes by county, instead of by state.

Unfortunately, these maps tend to obscure the election results. For example, Nevada, with its 27 red voters appears to outweigh the 27 gazillion blue voters in the geographically much smaller area of Los Angeles.

The true picture is much more complex. Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman of the University of Michigan attempt to show the 2004 presidential election results without distortion by intentionally distorting the map. Areas on the map represent similar numbers of voters with the color shading representing the ratio Republican and Democrat votes.

So, what’s the point, you may ask. It’s up for grabs — literally. The people that vote are sufficiently close in number that elections can go either way.

Update: I changed the title from “We’re not that divided”to “Unbalanced?” The original title contradicted the article. Re the question mark: with only 50% of qualified voters actually voting, it’s hard to treat elections as zero-sum games. Expanding the vote still seems to be a valid way for either major party to win.