Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

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Ursula’s optimization problem

October 15th, 2018, 11:04am by Sam Wang

Ursula Kwong-Brown, a composer and multimedia artist, had an optimization problem. She’s spent over 10 years in higher education and often had to move several times a year, and sometimes spent time at home with her parents. She’s registered to vote in more districts than she can count! Where to vote?

Thankfully, it’s legal to be registered to vote in many places as long as you only actually vote once. SHe teamed up with Jason T. Roff and his team at to generate a cool tool: Make My Vote Matter.

This tool takes your hometown address and your school address, then tells you where your vote is more powerful. Do you go to college in Virginia, but your hometown is in Maryland? If you consider Virginia your domicile, depending on where you live you might want to vote there. It’s a great application of some of the same ideas that I show in the Congressional District Finder in the right sidebar.

Try it out!

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Supreme Court partisanship comes into full view

October 9th, 2018, 12:07pm by Sam Wang

Kavanaugh’s successful confirmation vote was the closest ever. It’s the culmination of a two-decade trend in all-out partisan warfare, the seeds of which were planted when Gingrich and McConnell swept into power in 1994. It’s now reached a seeming pinnacle with the confirmation of a party insider who was a player in the Starr investigation, the Bush v. Gore 2000 battle, and the theft of Senate Judiciary Committee files.

In other news: Students, you should figure out where to vote! This very cool new site, Make My Vote Matter, helps you do that. Do it soon – registration deadlines are closing fast!

→ 3 CommentsTags: 2018 Election · Senate · Supreme Court

Three Ways To Maximize Your Power

October 6th, 2018, 3:52pm by Sam Wang

It’s exactly one month to the election. Here are three ways to maximize your power.

1) Students: Figure out the place where your vote matters the most. This site, Make My Vote Matter, figures it out for you. It’s developed by a scientist, Ursula Wong-Brown, and shows you which address has more competitive House/Senate/governor races. Here’s Ursula’s list of voter registration information for all 50 states.

2) Get Out The Vote: Get out the vote near you, in places where each vote counts the most. We have two tools for that at PEC: Lucas Manning’s finder using all races (House/Senate/governor/ballot) and Sharon Machlis’s finder, focused on House races. Whichever side you’re on, contact your local Democratic or Republican candidate or party committee.

3) Give money. Give strategically. Donations can extend your reach across the country. You might be passionate about a particular race – but it’s better to triage, and pick races where your money makes the most difference. I write about key Senate and governor’s races here. For Democrats, they are collected at this ActBlue site. For Republicans, the National Republican Senate Committee is a clearinghouse.

→ Post a commentTags: 2018 Election · House · Politics · Senate

Post-Labor Day movement: for Republicans, a Kavanaugh effect?

October 5th, 2018, 9:24am by Sam Wang

We’re off to a late start this year; more balls in the air, especially gerrymandering, and a busy term.

The House and Senate calculations are running for 2018, though we’re still polishing the display. The calculations are designed to pick up movement quickly. Here’s something notable: since Labor Day, both indicators show distinct movement, about 2 percentage points, toward Republicans.

Now a word about the calculations, and a preview of the Senate snapshot.
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→ 8 CommentsTags: 2018 Election · House · Senate · Supreme Court

Local talk: Sam Wang on the road ahead for gerrymandering reform

October 3rd, 2018, 8:30am by Sam Wang

As part of the Center for Information Technology Policy’s lecture series, next Monday, October 8th at 4:30pm, I will speak on “Fixing Bugs in Democracy: The Road Ahead for Gerrymandering Reform.” If you’re in the Princeton area, come hear about how data science can help empower activists and reformers – and terminate gerrymandering.

Seminar announcement here. Come on out!

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Princeton Gerrymandering Project wins a prize for state-by-state gerrymandering standards

September 25th, 2018, 2:12pm by Sam Wang

I’m pleased to announce that Brian Remlinger, Ben Williams, and I have won first prize in Common Cause’s contest for new tools to combat partisan gerrymandering! Common Cause’s press release is here.

This year’s contest asked for legal theories for fighting partisan gerrymandering. In response, Brian Remlinger, Ben Williams, and I proposed that statistical tests of opportunity and outcome can be applied under state constitutions to bring lawsuits. There are multiple tests, and we put them together into a single framework. Like a Swiss Army knife, we hope that our approach can be used all over the nation – in North Carolina, in Maryland, and elsewhere. Our contest entry is available as a preprint, and is accepted for publication at the Election Law Journal.

In addition to our entry, second prize goes to Michael D. McDonald’s team at SUNY Binghamton. Third prize goes to John Curiel and Tyler Steelman at University of North Carolina. Congratulations to all!

This is a win for the Princeton Gerrymandering Project. We’ve been hard at work on two fronts: (a) establishing a state-by-state approach to fair representation, and (b) building an open datahub and linking it to software for all Americans to participate in redistricting. Today’s win contributes to the state-by-state approach.

For the datahub, we have made considerable progress as well – that’s going to be huge. More to say on that topic another day…

→ 2 CommentsTags: Redistricting

North Carolina’s Second Route to Redistricting Reform

September 4th, 2018, 10:47am by Sam Wang

The path to redistricting reform in North Carolina has gone through federal courts – but looks shaky at the moment. New in the Washington Post, Rick Ober and I point out a second path, through state courts. This second path does not require a federal standard!

Also in the Post, here’s a beautiful visualization of the causes and consequences of the Tar Heel Gerrymander.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Redistricting

We drew a fairer map for the Virginia legislature – and so can you!

August 30th, 2018, 12:40am by Sam Wang

A federal court has ordered the Virginia legislature to redraw 33 districts in the eastern part of the state, in order to undo a racial gerrymander. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project is pleased to announce its first open-data project. Ben Williams and Will Adler drew a proposed map for them. Explore it through our interactive above (bigger view here). Also, we are giving out the data needed for people to create their own maps! [Read more →]

→ 6 CommentsTags: Redistricting

Optimal Donations 2018: Senate and Governor’s races

August 26th, 2018, 4:40pm by Sam Wang

In 2016, I promised to get away from giving you probabilities. Here I show that under current conditions, you can optimize your donations without such calculations.

As has been the case in past elections, I’d like to point out key races where supporters of either Democrats or Republicans will get the maximum impact for their donation. (I’m assuming that control of either chamber of Congress has comparable value – see reader James McDonald’s point.)

This year, I don’t recommend giving to House races for two reasons.

  • There are just too many of them. Over 80 districts are less Republican-leaning than Ohio’s 12th district, whose margin was razor-thin in the recent special election. Compared with the six key Senate races I’ve listed at left, your donations would be diluted by more than a factor of 13. This is the big reason.
  • Under current conditions, we are closer to threshold for switching Senate control than for switching House control. Therefore Senate control is closer to the knife’s edge.

Taken together, these two reasons dilute the impact of your donation by a factor of 30-100*. This can change, depending on how the overall odds of House or Senate control change over the next two months.

Instead of giving you probabilities, which leads to possible complacency, I will simply ask: how far are Democrats/Republicans from threshold for House or Senate control? [Read more →]

→ 28 CommentsTags: 2018 Election · governors · House · Redistricting · Senate

Thomas Hofeller, 1943-2018

August 19th, 2018, 9:59am by Sam Wang

Despite the near-certainty that Democrats will win the national popular vote for House races in November, I still estimate a 10% probability (and other forecasters, up to 25%) that Republicans will retain control. Why? Gerrymandering.

More than anyone else, Tom Hofeller was responsible for the modern age of aggressive redistricting. He carried out this program to an extent that nobody in either party had ever done before. To get an idea of how his work altered and eroded American democracy, see this Atlantic profile of his work. Reid Wilson writes about his life in The Hill.

Comments Off on Thomas Hofeller, 1943-2018Tags: House · Politics · Redistricting