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Democracy

Yes, Biden won with only 16% of U.S. counties. No, that's not mathematically impossible.

Yes, Biden won with only 16% of U.S. counties. No, that's not mathematically impossible.

Along with fraud allegations that don't even have enough evidence to make it into a courtroom, much less win a single case, people who want the outcome of the election to be different keep sharing all kinds of statistics designed to make Biden's win look fishy.

The problem is that none of these purportedly suspicious numbers are actually suspicious at all.

Let's start by looking at county counts. Right now there are lots of posts going around comparing the vote counts and counties won between Obama, Trump, and Biden, making it seem like it's just not possible for Biden to have won the popular vote with the number of counties he won.



First of all, the numbers appear to be off. Biden, according to the most recent count from the Associated Press, won 527 counties, not 477. That's still far fewer than Trump won, but it doesn't matter.

According to the U.S. Census, more than half of U.S. residents live in just 143 counties (or 4.6% of total counties). Counties vary vastly in size and population, from fewer than 100 people to more than 10 million per county. In fact, Los Angeles County alone has more people than 41 whole states, and more than the 11 least populous states combined, which have a total of 416 counties between them.

So yeah, Biden could have won even fewer counties than the 500+ he carried and still have come out on top in the popular vote. Especially since urban areas tend to vote Democrat in higher numbers than Republican.

As far as the rally visuals go? One word—pandemic. Biden didn't want crowds because...pandemic. This one's really not hard.

And regarding the higher vote totals, well, yes. The U.S. has grown by more than 27 million since Obama was elected in 2008 and there was record turnout of voters in this election to boot. In fact, there were so many more voters this year, Biden could have lost the popular vote and still had more votes than Obama got when he won. Because that's just how numbers work.

And as in every election, a certain percentage of voters only showed up to vote for their presidential candidate of choice, ignoring the down-ballot candidates. Considering the fact that Trump never even reached a 50% approval rating and was one of the least popular presidents in the past 50 years, people turning out just to mark a ballot for Biden isn't a stretch in any way.

The numbers totally work out. This map breaks them down visually. Each dot represents 250,000 votes, distributed approximately where they came from. Breaking it down this way makes it easy to see where population centers are located in the country and how the areas with large cities tend to swing Democrat.

imgs.xkcd.com

That map looks a lot different than this one, which makes the U.S. look far redder than it is in reality. (To be clear, I'm not sure for which election this map was made—there were some of these going around in 2016 as well, so it may have been from that election —but the basic gist in the morphing map below is correct. Land doesn't vote. People do.)

(You have to push the play button if it's not changing for you automatically.)

Coloring each county one color or the other as if they were all equal in population paints a false picture. The blue and red dots that the map morphs to presents a more accurate (though of course not completely accurate) portrait of how Americans vote than coloring in the whole thing. Anyone who has driven across Nebraska or Montana or most of Nevada knows that there are vast expanses of land with virtually no people for hours.

Another interesting statistic: The counties that Biden carried account for 70% of the U.S. economy. According to the Wall Street Journal, the 84% of counties that Trump won accounts for just 30% of the U.S. GDP, while the 16% that Biden won make up 70% of it. Even when Trump won the election in 2016, the counties he won only accounted for 36% of the economy.

While we're here and looking at election math, let's go ahead and nix another misnomer that's floating around. Does "Simple Math" show that Biden claimed millions more votes than there were eligible voters who voted in the election?

Umm, no.

This meme looks pretty fancy with the colors and the numbers and the dramatic "AWAKE YET?" But there's a very basic error here.

That "2020 Election Turnout Rate" of 66.2% doesn't mean 66.2% of registered legal voters, it means 66.2% of eligible voters. Super appreciate that they gave the source, but if you actually look up that WaPo article, it very clearly says "As a share of the voting-eligible population," not "registered voters." All registered voters are eligible voters, but not all eligible voters are registered voters. The eligible voting population is approximately 239.2 million, so the math in this calculation falls apart right where the multiplication starts. If you replace the registered vote total with 239.2 million, you come out with the original 158.4 million votes that were certified.

But the funniest thing about this one is just...really? Do people really think that our multi-step, multi-check electoral processes wouldn't immediately catch 13 or 17 million illegitimate votes if they actually existed? Do people really think that this very basic counting epiphany more than a month after the election took place, and after it has been checked and verified, even makes sense?

These numbers are all out there for everyone to calculate for themselves, but if people aren't calculating with the right variables, then they're going to come up with shoddy conclusions like these ones. And they'll accept it because it backs up their belief that the election was fraudulent.

Please, if you see things like this, check the details. Read through the responses, as most misinformation usually get corrected by someone fairly quickly. Look at the information for yourself. Ask questions if it doesn't seem like it makes sense. Don't believe a meme just because it supports your belief, and if you see it and know it's wrong, correct it. Misinformation is rampant and literally tearing at the fabric of our nation. It's up to all of us to battle it when we see it.

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