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270 Needed to Win: A Close Look at the Election Map in Prez

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Maps reveal details about fictional worlds.  The maps provided in fantasy and science fiction stories – including fantasy and science fiction comics – help ground the story, giving readers a sense of the story’s setting and dynamics.  For example, an examination of the U.S. presidential election map presented in the first issue of the DC Comics series Prez offers details about the story’s political landscape. The map and the electoral votes won by the presidential candidates reveal that in the comic’s future setting, today’s “blue states” (that is, states that usually vote for Democratic candidates) have lost political power to today’s Republican “red states.” 

The Prez series is a sci-fi satire set in the year 2036.  The creative team – writer Mark Russell and artists Ben Caldwell, Mark Morales, and Jeremy Lawson – depicts an America where corporations and social media are out of control, politicians debase themselves on moronic media outlets, and an unassuming teenager named Beth Ross becomes an accidental Internet celebrity (“Corndog Girl”) and candidate for U.S. president.  Because the series is a satire, the comic does not need to pay close attention to political details, but its creators deserve credit for following the constraints of the U. S. Constitution and the attention they give to their election map.

Although the Prez creative team makes some humorous changes to the U. S. political system (for example, everyone – including kids – can run for office and vote for candidates on Twitter), the process for electing the president remains the same:  to be elected , a presidential candidate must receive a majority of votes in the Electoral College.  In the United States, presidents are not elected directly by the popular vote, but by electors.  Every state has a specific number of electors equal to the state’s representation in Congress, and the Constitution gives the District of Columbia three electoral votes. So the total number of electoral votes is 538 (100 Senators + 435 House members + 3 D.C. electors = 538).

To win the presidency, a candidate has to win a majority of electoral votes; a minimum of 270 electoral votes is needed to win.  In Prez, there are three presidential candidates: Tom Downey, Gary Farmer, and Beth Ross. Although the comic does not mention political parties, it is clear that Gary Farmer is a conservative candidate and presumably Republican, Sen. Tom Downey is likely a Democrat, and Beth Ross is politically uninterested, but has the unsolicited backing of a hacker collective.

The 2036 Election Map in PREZ #1 (click to enlarge)

The election map in Prez #1 shows that the Democratic Party in 2036 remains strong in today’s blue states, and has even picked up a few traditionally conservative states like North Dakota and Montana.  The Republicans are doing well in today’s red states in the Deep South and Midwest, and Beth “Corndog Girl” Ross has won Ohio.  While the number and geographic distribution of red and blue states in Prez is similar to today’s politics (see the 2012 presidential election map below), the allocation of  electors – and political power – seems to have shifted in favor of red states.

2012 Election Map – blue states and red states

On election night, Downey wins 261 electoral votes, and it appears that Farmer has won 259 electoral votes; “Corndog Girl” Ross has won an unspecified number of electoral votes in Ohio (mathematically, she should have won 18 electoral votes: 261 + 259 + 18 = 538).  None of the candidates have an electoral majority.

Note the electoral vote allocations for the candidates (click to enlarge)

But if these candidates were running in next year’s 2016 presidential race, Democrat Tom Downey – based on the current electoral votes in the states the 2036 map shows him winning – would be the clear winner.  Even if you exclude Alaska and Hawaii (the 2036 election map doesn’t show how those states voted), Downey would have a majority – 300 electoral votes.

The 2036 election results using 2016 electoral allocations – not counting Alaska and Hawaii

If you assume that in 2036 the Democrats have won Hawaii (a traditional blue state which currently has 4 electoral votes) and that Republicans have won Alaska (a traditional red state which currently has 3 electoral votes), then – using 2016 electoral numbers – Downey would have won 304 electoral votes and Farmer would have won 216 electoral votes.

The 2036 election results using 2016 electoral allocations – assuming Hawaii is “blue” and Alaska is “red”

Comparing the Prez election results to modern electoral allocations, the fact that Downey does worse in 2036 (he has 43 fewer electoral votes than he would have in 2016) and Farmer does better (he has 43 more electoral votes than he would have in 2016) indicates that in the future world of Prez  since the allocation of state electors is based on population – red states are more populated and therefore have more Congressional representation and electors than they do today. Republican presidential candidates can win office with a fewer number of states than Democrats, and there are presumably a higher number of conservative Congressmen in the House of Representatives.

It is possible that the Prez creative team was not considering the electoral allocations and their implications when designing the election map.  However, the candidates’ electoral allocations suggest that the electoral votes were carefully considered.  The loss of 43 electoral votes from today’s allocations by one candidate (Downey) is equal to the electoral gains of another candidate (Farmer).  Also, Ohio’s 18 electoral votes in 2036 for Beth Ross is equal to the current electoral votes in that state. The precision of the electoral math suggests that the creative team took current and future electoral allocations into consideration when designing the election map.

The first issue of Prez presents several satiric conservative characters (a homophobic cabal of conservative Senators trying to hold on to power, a dim presidential candidate, etc.) and ideas (replacing food stamps with corporate welfare), but does not provide details about how powerful these conservative forces are in the comic; however, with some analysis and comparison to current political maps, its election map suggests that in the future American political system depicted in Prez, the population and political power have shifted from Democratic blue states to Republican red states.