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On WUNC’s The State Of Things

September 18th, 2019, 1:31pm by Sam Wang


Yesterday I was on WUNC-FM’s The State Of Things to talk about the remaining unfairness in the maps passed by the North Carolina House and Senate. Take a listen! I come on around the 4:15 mark.

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The Princeton Gerrymandering Project is hiring – Senior Developer *and* Frontend Part-Time Job

September 16th, 2019, 2:34pm by Hope Johnson


American democracy is changing in ways that we have not seen before in our lifetimes. If you’d like help stop some of the worst offenses, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project has two opportunities for you!

1. We’re hiring an experienced full-stack engineer (job posting here) to help our team build tools to fight gerrymandering.  [Read more →]

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Suggestions for a fair redistricting process (contains no partisan data)

September 16th, 2019, 9:41am by Sam Wang


Map by Blake Esselstyn (@districks)Carolina legislators have an unusual task: they are instructed by the Superior Court to undo a partisan gerrymander, but they are not allowed to use partisan voting data. Here are some suggestions for carrying out this task successfully. [Read more →]

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The North Carolina Senate remedial map shows reduced bias but is weak for minority representation

September 15th, 2019, 11:45am by Sam Wang


This post has been modified to remove reference to the Voting Rights Act.

(click the map above for greater detail)

The Senate remedial map, as passed by the entire chamber (“Consensus v3”), is reminiscent of the House map in its character. It has less partisan skew – but some still remains.

PlanScore [2018 map] [Remedial] [Consensus v3] is currently using a 2016/2018 model in which the statewide vote is 52% Republican, 48% Democratic. As I did for the House calculations, I have adjusted PlanScore’s estimated Total D/R seats to reflect a split vote of 50% R/50% D.

If the statewide vote were perfectly divided, it would elect 23 Democrats and 27 Republicans. So there’s still some partisan advantage to Republicans in the plan.

I can think of two reasons why the Senate was relatively successful in removing bias. One is bipartisan cooperation, since this map had input from members of both parties. Another reason is technical: with fewer boundaries, there are fewer opportunities to commit gerrymandering offenses.

In several places the remedial map has rearranged minority voters to give them more opportunities to elect members of their choice. However, there is one notable exception.

[Read more →]

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North Carolina’s new House plan still has at least half the partisan skew of the gerrymandered map

September 14th, 2019, 3:31pm by Sam Wang


NC House remedial map as amended 13 Sep 2019(Links: shapefiles, PlanScore, spreadsheet of analytics, and DRA)

A three-judge state court in North Carolina has ordered that both House and Senate legislative maps, which it identified as a partisan gerrymander, must be redrawn by next Wednesday. Last night the House took a step toward meeting that deadline – but the handiwork so far (shown above) still contains enough partisanship to raise an eyebrow.

On Friday night, the state House voted on a remedial legislative map to oversee its own members’ districts. To become law, it also has to pass the Senate. (Under North Carolina law, the governor has no say in the plan, making the state unusually vulnerable to single-party manipulation of the redistricting process.) If passed, the plan will go to a court-appointed special master for evaluation – and possible redrawing, if he finds that the General Assembly’s map is insufficient.

Here at the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, we have noticed algorithmic biases in the process used to generate the remedial map. Using the PlanScore.org engine and additional analysis, we furthermore find that the map still contains between one-half and two-thirds of the partisan advantage that was present in the illegal gerrymander. [Read more →]

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“Jump ball” in North Carolina redistricting

September 11th, 2019, 7:17am by Sam Wang


Redistricting requires tradeoffs, judgments, and compromises. Yesterday in starting their court-ordered remedial map, the North Carolina Senate released its “jump ball.”

In basketball, a jump ball is the moment when play begins. In this case, the jump ball was spun in the Republicans’ favor. But there’s a lot that can still happen ahead.

The North Carolina legislative committees for redistricting are using expert witness Jowei Chen’s randomly generated maps as a starting point for drawing their remedial maps. Yesterday, the Senate committee drew seven of these to create a single starting point.

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project has obtained the shapefiles from reporter Melissa Boughton. They can be found here. (D1 and D2, for Bladen-Brunswick-New Hanover-Pender Counties, are the same.)

One set of counties comes from each map. We still have to combine those shapefiles into a single base map. In the meantime, thanks to Michal Migurski at PlanScore, we can tell you how each of these statewide maps performs, using past state Senate results: [Read more →]

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“Digital sunshine” for fair districting in North Carolina

September 6th, 2019, 6:51pm by Sam Wang


Today I filed a letter in North Carolina Superior Court regarding the landmark partisan-gerrymandering case that was decided this week. In it, I advocated for “digital sunshine” as a way to make the remedial maps as fair as possible. The letter is here.

The Court held that the General Assembly-drawn House and Senate legislative maps are forbidden partisan gerrymanders under Article I of North Carolina’s state constitution, and can’t be used for the 2020 election. They also ordered that the General Assembly redraw the maps in a public manner, with every change made visible. That’s a great first step toward transparency – but it’s only part of the solution.

I pointed out that to be fully transparent, the work product has to be posted in a digitally-downloadable format. That means shapefiles and/or Census block-equivalency files. These are downloadable formats that allow plans to be evaluated in redistricting software such as Dave’s Redistricting App or PlanScore.org. In conjunction with data that we are gathering at OpenPrecincts.org, such data can empower citizens who want to watch over the process.

If you live in North Carolina, make sure to weigh in with your legislator in favor of Digital Sunshine for redistricting!

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Discussing Electoral College bugs at APSA

August 28th, 2019, 6:31am by Sam Wang


Tomorrow at the American Political Science Association meeting, I’ll be on a panel organized by Rick Hasen and Bruce Cain on the Electoral College. My topic: A Bug in Democracy: Mythical and True Flaws in the Electoral College. My draft working paper is here, and slides are here. Co-panelists: Amel Ahmed, Michael Morley, and Ed Foley. It should be a good discussion.

This year, APSA takes place in Washington DC. Our exact coordinates: the Marriott Wardman Park, in the Taft Room, 10:00am Thursday. If you’re attending the meeting, come by!

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The Princeton Gerrymandering Project is hiring – National Relationship Manager and Policy Analyst

August 7th, 2019, 7:01pm by Sam Wang


Gerrymandering is worse than ever in our lifetimes. We’re working on a strategy to undo this offense (see this recent article of mine and watch this video). And we want you! We have two positions, National Relationship Manager and National Policy Analyst.

The Policy Analyst (job posting here) will expand our law and policy analysis to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. In the last year we’ve worked to apply our data and knowledge to best practices in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, and other states. The ideal candidate will have a Master’s in Public Policy or a J.D., and be comfortable working at the intersection of data, maps, and law.

The Relationship Manager (job posting herewill disseminate our mathematical, legal, and computational tools nationwide in time for the 2021 redistricting cycle.  The ideal candidate should have excellent networking skills and a startup mindset. You’re great at building relationships, extracting people’s motivations, and getting people to take action together. You will build skills and experience that will be transferable to many domains. By the time you’re done, you’ll be ready for leadership in any sector. 

Both positions are full-time for a year, renewable for a second year. We prefer candidates to relocate to the Princeton area, a great place to live.

Pass it on!

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Miami-Dade County to the rescue on Florida voting rights

July 24th, 2019, 11:50am by Sam Wang


Thanks to citizen initiatives, 2018 was a surprisingly good year for voting rights. Florida’s Amendment 4, approved by a wide margin in November, would restore voting rights to 1.4 million people who have served their time for felony convictions. (In Florida, an example of a felony conviction is selling beer to a minor.) But a law passed by the legislature would have made rights restoration contingent on first paying fines and court costs. That would have effectively gutted the voter-approved measure.

Now, from Miami-Dade County, comes a deal between the prosecutor and public defender, as well as the state attorney. According to the deal, only fines and costs in the original sentencing document are counted – but not later costs. This will affect tens of thousands – and if it spreads throughout the whole state, hundreds of thousands – of Floridians.

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