Kentucky didn't vote for Trump – it voted for Nobody

Bruce Maples
Bruce Maples

Cartographer Philip Kearney has put together a map of the United States in which he has included non-votes: people who could have registered and voted, but chose to stay home. He then assigned every such non-vote to a candidate named “Nobody.” Finally, he marked each county with the winning candidate: Trump, Clinton, or Nobody.

Called “The United States of Apathy,” it shows that if you count the votes and non-votes of all eligible voters (not just registered), Donald Trump got 21 electoral votes, while Hillary Clinton got 72.

And Nobody, the choice of millions of Americans who chose not to vote or even register to vote? Nobody got 445 electoral votes and was the overwhelming winner.

Here’s that map:

Mr. Kearney was nice enough to generate a map just showing Kentucky. Here it is:

Custom map of Kentucky 2016 vote generated by <a href="">Philip Kearney</a> for Forward Kentucky. Used with permission.
Custom map of Kentucky 2016 vote generated by Philip Kearney for Forward Kentucky. Used with permission.

If you compare the map to turnout numbers, you may be confused at first (as I was). Jefferson County, for example, had a turnout of over 60%, so why is it gray?

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When I wrote Mr. Kearney, he explained that it’s not about turnout alone; it’s about if another candidate had taken the votes not cast for Trump or Clinton. From his email back (emphasis added):

The idea of the map is not to show simple voter turnout, but rather lost voting potential. You are correct that Jefferson County had turnout over 60%; however, in the scenario presented in this map, there is an imaginary candidate named “Nobody” who is running against Clinton and Trump. The way you vote for Nobody is to stay home. So, for Jefferson County, you have 557,485 eligible voters (US citizens age 18+, whether registered to vote or not), according to the US Census. Of those, 190,824 voted for Clinton, 143,758 voted for Trump, and 18,196 voted for other candidates. The total number of votes is 352,778.  Now, if you subtract the total number of votes from the number of eligible voters, you get 204,707 voters that stayed home. In this map, these 204,707 voted for “Nobody.” Because Nobody got more votes than the next highest candidate, Clinton with 190,824, “Nobody wins.”

In a follow-up email, he added:

I think the best way to look at this map is that the gray counties are the ones where the end result could have been different with increased voter turnout. In the Kentucky map, the red counties on this map are ones where Clinton had basically no chance.  But in the gray counties, the vast majority of which went for Trump, I believe, Clinton could have won if she’d taken a significant number of the “Nobody” voters.

As we head toward the election, let’s keep this map in mind. If at this point, most voters have made up their minds, the key to winning is not trying to convince active voters to switch their vote. The key is getting people to vote, period.


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Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. (Read the rest of his bio on the Bruce Maples Bio page in the bottom nav bar.)