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Some comical conservative misunderstandings over the population density of Virginia counties have yielded a positive result: a new spate of attention to cartograms, a type of map which, by deliberately deforming geographic features, can more accurately show the relative populations of each component jurisdiction. Analyst Mark Newman has produced some well-known examples for recent presidential elections, which combat the distorting effect of sparsely populated states that, at a glance, show a sea of red every four years.

Cartographers have now also created such maps for the recently concluded Virginia gubernatorial election, which help illustrate the growing influence of the state's blue-trending northern reaches and explain why Democrat Terry McAuliffe was able to keep Republican Ken Cuccinelli at bay. Here, for instance, is a very helpful cartogram from University of Mary Washington professors Stephen Farnsworth and Stephen Hanna:

Cartogram of Nov. 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election results
(click for larger)
In particular, Farnsworth and Hanna point out that while McAuliffe didn't do much better, percentage-wise, in key NoVA counties than the last Democrat to win a governor's race (Tim Kaine in 2005), this region's explosive growth means that Dems will keep winning more raw votes even if their share doesn't increase. At the same time, Republicans have only improved in the smallest counties, a phenomenon well-illustrated by this second cartogram comparing the 2005 results with 2013's.

Meanwhile, Larry Sabato and company took a somewhat different approach, but ultimately, their cartogram shows the same things as UMW's:

Cartogram of Nov. 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election results
(click for larger)
As you can see, this map preserves Virginia's outline, but in so doing, it shifts counties further from their actual locations, such that giant Fairfax appears to sit along the Shenandoah Valley. But that displacement once again shows how dominant the D.C. suburbs have become in Old Dominion politics, while Sarah Palin's "real Virginia" continues to fade.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 01:08 PM PST.

Also republished by Virginia Kos and Daily Kos.

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