Researchers looking on Election Day to see how Hurricane Sandy may impact voter turnout will have a new tool to do so. Citizens who are curious about whether President Barack Obama is under-performing in urban areas or whether Mitt Romney is over-performing in rural areas and coal country will have a detailed interactive atlas they can use to compare Tuesday's turnout to 2008's.
The Spatial Social Science Lab at Stanford University has released The Stanford Election Atlas, a new online interactive data visualization tool (seen below) that allows users to examine the "precinct-by-precinct results of the 2008 presidential election" and "enables users to examine individual polling places and the voting landscape of specific neighborhoods." Stanford created the Atlas in conjunction with Esri, a global leader in innovative mapping technologies.
Jonathan Rodden, a Stanford University political science professor and Hoover Institute fellow who oversaw the project, told Breitbart News that "by overlaying flood and wind data polygons, researchers will be able to calculate with great precision the impact of Sandy on turnout and voting behavior."
Rodden said the Atlas allows users to have a far more nuanced understanding of patterns of residential partisan segregation by entering an address and getting data at the precinct level. Users can also "superimpose the election results on income and racial data" to explore the "correlation between income, race, and voting behavior." Users can also see how rapidly some of the "electoral geography in neighborhoods" is changing with increasing Hispanic populations throughout the country.
"By looking at swings indicated by early returns in some hotly contested precincts, users might be able to get a good feel for where things are heading," Rodden said. He acknowledged that mainstream organizations like the New York Times will use the the tool on election night for some of their online graphics.
Rodden stated that while party operatives most likely have the same data (though not in this same visual format), the Election Atlas makes it easily accessible to everyone. He explained there could be creative uses for the data, such as real estate websites including the information in their neighborhood profiles or marketers who are interested in how "consumer choice and partisanship are deeply intertwined."
Rodden also mentioned officials involved in the most recent round of redistricting used this data, and the Stanford Election Atlas may allow the public to better understand how district lines are drawn and have more of a voice in the process going forward. Rodden and his team are hoping to create atlases that incorporate data from the 2010 and 2012 elections in the future.
Rodden is currently working on a project about redistricting and political geography and writing a book on the "distribution of votes for left and right parties around the world and the impact of electoral institutions on policy choices." He and his team hope to eventually generate interactive maps for other countries and to create another map of the United States using historical data to create animations that show changes over time.