How the New York Times simplified complex delegate math with interactive data

Perhaps more than any other, this year’s U.S. presidential primary race has made a few heads spin. Phrases such as “contested convention” and “delegate math” – previously found in the vocabulary of journalists and political junkies – have entered the mainstream circuit. And when you throw into the mix a controversial candidate like Donald Trump, the primary race becomes all the more complicated for voters.

The New York Times (and a few other publishers) are on a mission to simplify. The Republican race to the finish has captured the attention of scores of Americans. But words just don’t seem to cut it. How many delegates does Trump need to win? What about in my state?

All valid questions. And instead of writing a lengthy piece of political analysis, the New York Times is answering those questions with interactive charts.

Predicting the nominees

The first graph shows the remaining states holding a primary and how many delegates each contains. By sliding the bars representing each candidate below, the viewer can predict the outcome of the rest of the race by approximating the percent of total delegate counts. According to my sliding, Trump would need to win more than 40% of the total delegates left to secure an uncontested nomination at the Republican National Convention. However, adjusting Cruz’s chances starts to make things interesting. I tried sliding the Kasich bar, but none of the other lines really moved (sorry Team Kasich).

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 12.18.20 PM
Click on the image to test the interactive chart on

The second chart allows users to see the end delegate amount for Trump given certain voting scenarios in each state. Indiana is the most telling example: if Trump wins the 54 expected delegates and all goes well in the following states, he wins the nomination uncontested. But selecting the “Wins none” button tells a different scenario, one that leads to a few toss-ups in a other states and an eventual contested convention at the RNC.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 12.18.34 PM
Click the image to try the chart on

What the voters want to know

The Times is combining the power of data and digital interactivity to tell the story of a dramatic presidential primary. It’s simple, clean and intuitive. It makes predicting a race outcome less math-y and easier to comprehend. Most importantly, it puts the audience in the drivers seat.

They get to choose what data they want to see. They get to weigh different outcomes and test the results. It brings a new depth of meaning to each primary poll. And hopefully, encourages more people to get out and vote. Perhaps tools like these will be the final push to encourage #NotTrumpTho supporters to actually do something about it and go to the polls; or, with a Trump nomination increasingly imminent, it could do the opposite.


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