The Bloomberg 2020 Presidential Election Results graphic was a live-updating election results tracker that gave viewers unique and invaluable data insights to better navigate a tense and frought election night.
In a crowded field of election graphics, Bloomberg’s results tracker stood out to readers and peers (including write-ups in Flowing Data and Fast Company) because of its fresh approach to the visuals of election data. The Electoral College and House cartograms were recognized for advancing the art of cartograms through a design that adhered to readers’ mental maps of the US while showing a view proportional to representation and not land. To provide better transparency to our readers, we worked with an election modeler to determine how many votes each county and state should expect to receive in a normal/high/historic year. This work was wrapped into state-by-state county maps that displayed where expected votes were still outstanding using bubbles instead of the typical shaded choropleth. The graphic also provided key insights into the data, such as tracking the Biden/Trump margin by state over time, that became widely shared by viewers and other journalists as margins in key swing states shrunk.
The graphic was built on js frameworks Svelte and Sapper, with additional help from D3 to provide graphic helpers and Google Docs, which fed most of the text. Svelte and Sapper allowed us to scaffold out the different pages for the application while providing reactive functionality. We also worked with statistician Andrew Therriault who built a voter turnout model that was used throughout the graphic. You can read more about his work in the methodology linked in the graphic.
What was the hardest part of this project?
Live data graphics always present much more uncertainty into the creation and publishing of a graphic. This election in particular required everyone on the team to be thoughtful about how the graphics might be taken out of context through a screenshot, or used to score political points. We designed and iterated with these ideas in mind. The other challenge of doing election graphics is one of differentiation. Many teams receive identical data, and so it’s imperative to present something new and insightful to the audience in a field of graphics full of conventions and tradition. The Bloomberg election results graphic met this challenge with new forms and looks into the data while still working within viewer expectations for familiar touchstones like blue/red colors for Democrats and Republicans, and the ubiquitous election map.
What can others learn from this project?
Other journalists can learn that even the most common graphic events and forms can be reinvented and iterated on. Although in the technical aspects most elections are like any other, the particual challenges of this election guided us to create new layouts, designs and components in order to address the circumstances