Votes that won the presidency

Voter turnout this election was higher than it’s been in a long time, but the winner margins were still small. Alyssa Fowers, Atthar Mirza and Armand Emamdjomeh for The Washington Post showed the margins with dots. Each circle represents 3,000 votes, and the blue and red circles represent by how much the candidate won by in a given state.

The dots showing absolute counts are useful to see the scale of each win, which percentages don’t capture.

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Student surveillance and online proctoring

To combat cheating during online exams, many schools have utilized services that try to detect unusual behavior through webcam video. As with most automated surveillance systems, there are some issues. For The Washington Post, Drew Harwell looks into the social implications of student surveillance:

Fear of setting off the systems’ alarms has led students to contort themselves in unsettling ways. Students with dark skin have shined bright lights at their face, worrying the systems wouldn’t recognize them. Other students have resorted to throwing up in trash cans.

Some law students who took New York’s first online bar exam last month, a 90-minute test proctored by the company ExamSoft, said they had urinated in their chairs because they weren’t allowed to leave their computers, according to a survey by two New York state lawmakers pushing to change the rules for licensing new attorneys during the pandemic.


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Swings in the battleground states

For The Washington Post, Ashlyn Still and Ted Mellnik show the shifts in the 2020 election compared against the 2012 and 2016 elections. Good use of swooping arrows.

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Wind map to show change in vote shares and participation

The Washington Post goes with a wind metaphor to show the change in voting activity between 2016 and 2020. The up and down direction represents change in turnout, and the left and right direction represents change in vote margin.

A fun riff on the classic Viégas and Wattenberg wind map and the Bostock and Carter election map from 2012.

The Post map is based on this and this code.

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Electoral coloring page

If you want to color in your own electoral map at home, The Washington Post provides this blank, printable page. I hear coloring is soothing or something like that. [via @SethBlanchard]

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Fires in the west and climate change

This is some advanced mapping and scrollytelling from the Washington Post. The piece examines climate change in the context of the fires in the western United States.

Starting in the beginning of August, the piece takes you through the timeline of events as your scroll. Maps of temperature, wind, lightning, and fire serve as the backdrop. Berry Creek, California, a mountain town that burned to the ground, provides an anchor to show how large climate shifts can affect the individual.

Well done.

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Reconstructing protests in Minneapolis using hundreds of livestreams

From a distance, it’s difficult to build an understanding of the scale and nature of protests. A soundbite here. A video clip there. So, to show the Minneapolis protests more completely, The Washington Post and The Pudding stitched together 149 livestreams with timestamps and location:

Videos were collected by searching Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Twitch and other sources and then limited to live streams to ensure accuracy of time, location and remove reposted clips. Each video was reviewed and tagged to a location by hand to remove any videos that were replays as live streams. Thumbnails were then extracted using FFMPEG and links to the original videos were provided. Interesting quotes and context setting annotations were called out to provide a deep experience while allowing for quick scanning. Finally links and inline play of the original videos is provided for those wishing to see the videos as streamed.

With so much footage, it’s easy to imagine any sense of narrative getting lost in a bunch of moving pictures. But the layout and structure of this story, organized as a timeline and categorized by area, really help you see what happened over a week.

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Breaking down the $4 trillion bailout

Using a straightforward treemap, The Washington Post looks at where the $4 trillion bailout went. As you scroll, different categories highlight with accompanying text.

This is probably the old man in me, and I know the scrollytelling format works better for mobile and provides more focus, but I find myself missing the large, featured-filled interactives. Those were the days.

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Covid-19 in your neighborhood

With recorded U.S. Covid-19 deaths passing the 200k mark, somehow the number still feels distant for many. The Washington Post, in collaboration with Lupa and the Google News Initiative, brings the tally to your neighborhood to help you relate more closely.

The story starts at your location. Based on population counts and density, you zoom out to see an approximation of how far a death radius would expand from where you are. You’re also taken to a county that would be wiped out.

Obviously we’re looking at hypotheticals here, but the interactive provides a granular sense of scale. The point is that 200,000 people dead is… a lot.

The Post’s version is based on Lupa’s original, which they made with Brazil numbers and location. Alberto Cairo provides background on the project here.

Small note for those who make these location-based interactives. Some people (me) who don’t want to share location or are outside the range of your dataset, it’s useful to provide links to well-known locations, so that they can still see the data.

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Election night might take weeks

For The Washington Post, Ashlyn Still and Kevin Schaul charted how long it took for primary ballots to be counted in each state. The times might give a hint of what we’re in for on election night:

Before the pandemic struck, mail-in states like California were already counting slowly. Then the coronavirus forced dozens of states to quickly expand absentee voting, and the slowdowns got more dramatic. These two trends — more absentee voting, not much time to prepare for it — could lead to some snail’s-paced race calls in November.

There are some nice details to note in this piece.

The inverted vertical axis and area fills focus on ballots left to count over time instead of ballots already in. The limited contrast keeps attention away from the white space under the lines.

The states move up to the top, and as the lines roll out (in the scrollytelling format), the speed is fixed, so that states that took more time count finish moving later.

And finally, the scrollytelling format helps highlight individual states at a time, and the small multiples at the end probably help satiate those who want to just see it all at once.

It’s a relatively straightforward dataset with multiple time series lines, but the choices make the patterns obvious.

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