Are swing states disappearing?

In January, computer scientist Randy Olson published a piece called “The Shrinking Battleground.” In it, Olson argues that the number of presidential swing states has declined in recent decades, that this decline has adverse consequences (fewer states in play leads to lower turnout in those states and presidential candidates only spending time and money on a few swing states), and concludes that the president should be elected by national popular vote rather than by the Electoral College.

Olson is not the only one who believes the Electoral College should be abolished – a lot of smart people agree with him. Doing so, however, would be exceedingly legally and politically difficult – so for the foreseeable future we’re stuck with this political relic.

But if we take a slightly different perspective on this data, we can assuage some of the national popular vote advocates’ worries. Specifically, the presidential battleground may shift, so more states may become swing states in the future. Moreover, the success of state level candidates from the minority party in partisan “strongholds” shows that Republicans in blue states and Democrats in red states do not always end up wasting their votes on pre-decided elections.