5 U.S. maps to help you make sense of things before Election Day

Not all maps are created equal. Here are 5 interesting ones.

On election night, maps are the go-to visual for TV stations covering the results. But what can they tell us before the election?

GoMN has scoured the internet to find some maps that show Minnesota's and America's voting histories, as well as a possible indication of what's to come on Nov. 8.

2012 election results

The last time we voted for a president, Barack Obama won by an electoral vote count of 332-206. Which looks at first glance like a convincing win.

What the map doesn't show is that Obama got 3.9 percent more of the popular vote than Mitt Romney.

Looking at the vast swath of red covering central America and parts of the east and south makes it look as though Romney and Obama were neck-and-neck however – and this highlights an oft-repeated complaint about this widely-used style of election map.

Which brings us to ...

2012 election results map based on electoral votes

This map changes the sizes of states depending on the number of electoral college votes they have. (It's one of the alternative maps in this Vox.com video.)

As these votes are based on population rather than area, you can see the more populous blue areas of the northeast are bigger, signifying their larger role in the election. Meanwhile the red states with fewer electoral votes – such as Wyoming – have shrunk.

Another look at an electoral votes map

To become president, a candidate needs 270 electoral college votes. California, with the largest population, has the biggest number of electoral votes at 55.

The above map is another alternative to the traditional, geographically-based electoral map, which again gives states weight depending on their number of electoral votes (of which Minnesota has 10).

2016 poll-based forecast

This is the 2016 election forecast as of Oct. 27 as compiled by FiveThirtyEight, which uses national and regional polling data to designate the probabilities of candidates winning specific states (and the country as a whole).

At the moment, Hillary Clinton is ahead in the key states of Florida, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire; and she could potentially turn North Carolina and Arizona (which went for Romney in 2012) blue this time around too.

Right now, the website has Clinton winning 333 electoral college votes, more than Obama achieved four years ago. In Minnesota, FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton an 88.6 percent chance of winning.

Donald Trump seems to have the Republican heartland in southern and central U.S. sewn up, but some states are closer than usual, with FiveThirtyEight giving Clinton a 14.1 percent chance of turning Texas Democrat (which is unusually high – Texas hasn't gone blue since Jimmy Carter in 1976).

The last time Minnesota voted Republican

The last time Minnesota voted for a Republican President was in 1972, when Richard Nixon won every state except for Massachusetts and Washington D.C. in his landslide victory over George McGovern. (Nixon resigned less than two years later over the Watergate scandal).

Minnesota has the second longest streak of voting Democrat, behind only Washington D.C., and along with D.C. was the only state to vote for the Democrat in 1984 – when Ronald Reagan destroyed Minnesota native Walter Mondale.

Even so, the map above from the 1972 election showed that Minnesota had more counties voting Democrat than most other states, with west-central and northeastern areas opting for McGovern.

To find news, commentary, and local events leading up to the 2016 election, head to GoVote MN.

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