Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

A Contest: Hack the Gerrymandering Standards!

May 20th, 2017, 5:28pm by Sam Wang


Today I did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit Politics. In conjunction with the AMA, we have a contest! The deadline is Wednesday, May 31st.

I have developed multiple statistical tests (Stanford Law Review) to detect partisan gerrymandering. These tests are focused on the principle of partisan symmetry, a phrase that appears in Supreme Court writings. In the past, a majority of justices of the Court has expressed interest in partisan symmetry as a standard, but there was not agreement on how to identify it. This year two cases, one in Wisconsin and one in North Carolina, give them an opportunity to address this task.

We need your help to see if the simple standards can be hacked. Many standards look reasonable on paper, but a clever person may be able to come up with ways to “game” the standards to benefit their side. In this contest, we are looking for talented hackers who can evade the rules and find ways to slip through the net. If you can do that, you can help us either rule out standards that are too loose or that need to be combined with other standards to close the net. Think of it as helping us build a spam filter for gerrymandering!

The contest is here. Use this worksheet [UPDATED 5/25 10:30am] to construct your entry, and then mail it to brem@princeton.edu.

If there are problems with the contest, please let us know in the comments section here.

→ 18 CommentsTags: Redistricting

Politics & Polls: Falling Toward Pavement

May 18th, 2017, 1:31pm by Sam Wang


Washington has been hit with a trifecta of catastrophic events in the past week: Trump fires FBI director Comey for investigating Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, then Trump tells secrets to the Russians in the Oval Office, then it emerges that Comey writes memos about all his conversations, including Trump trying to obstruct the FBI investigation.

What’s next in the ongoing saga of the Trump presidency? Listen to this time capsule, in which Julian and I speak to you from the distant past of…yesterday at 1:15pm.

Listen now: http://bit.ly/PoliticsPolls44

→ 2 CommentsTags: Politics · President · U.S. Institutions

Gerrymanders, Part 3: Redistricting Nerds, Geographic Compactness Does Not Solve Your Problems

May 14th, 2017, 4:27pm by Sam Wang


For general audiences, I have written quite a bit about gerrymandering in the New York Times (in 2013 and in 2015) and recently, in the Los Angeles Times. In addition, I have drilled into the technical details in the Stanford Law Review and here at the Princeton Election Consortium (part 1 and part 2). Today I want to discuss map-based reforms, such as the belief that requiring geographic “compactness” will solve the problem. Today I will explain why such an approach is flawed, potentially fatally. [Read more →]

→ 10 CommentsTags: Redistricting

Authoritarian Government Watch – Update

May 11th, 2017, 7:53pm by Sam Wang



On January 28th, I came up with 10 events that, if they happened, would constitute evidence of an authoritarian government. Now it’s the fourth month. As the Administration becomes engulfed by the growing Russia scandal and possible obstruction of justice by Trump himself, how are they coming along on the authoritarian front?

Actually…not that bad. [Read more →]

→ 12 CommentsTags: President

What Makes A Presidential Transition Successful?

May 6th, 2017, 8:33am by Sam Wang


On Politics & Polls, Julian and I talk with Chris Lu, director of Barack Obama’s presidential transition team in 2008, and Deputy Secretary of Labor. We talk about both subjects. We got into depth about what makes a transition succeed (Obama) or flounder (Clinton, Trump). Listen to Politics & Polls #42.

→ 2 CommentsTags: President

How much difference does partisan gerrymandering make?

May 5th, 2017, 2:58pm by Sam Wang


Today in the Los Angeles Times, Brian Remlinger and I explain partisan gerrymandering, and how many seats it may be worth. Based on our analysis, more seats are affected by partisan gerrymandering now than at any point in the last five cycles of redistricting. In 2017, over 70 seats are made uncompetitive, favoring both parties. The net effect is a change in the margin of about 15 Congressional seats, in a direction favoring Republicans. Considering that the outcome of Affordable Care Act repeal yesterday in the House was decided by 4 votes, the advantage from gerrymandering is highly consequential.

We also review what the Supreme Court could do in the coming term to limit partisan gerrymandering. Two cases are coming before them, from Wisconsin and from North Carolina. Here at Princeton we are developing standards and a framework for the Court’s use. Read about in the Stanford Law Review and check out our website, gerrymander.princeton.edu. If you’re interested, perhaps join the effort!

→ 14 CommentsTags: Princeton · Redistricting

Politics & Polls: The First 100 Days

April 28th, 2017, 4:08pm by Sam Wang


Historian Meg Jacobs, Julian, and I chew over how Trump’s first 100 days. Listen to my reaction to Jacobs’s assertion that Trump is off to a strong start. If spit-up coffee could get through speakers, you would be well coated.

In seriousness, my own view is that Trump has weakened the presidency through ineffectiveness at pushing policy goals with Congress, getting multiple executive orders turned back by the judiciary, and making utterances that are increasingly seen as being without force. Kind of like Franklin D. Roosevelt in reverse.

Link: Politics And Polls #41

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Politics & Polls w/Congressman Leonard Lance

April 24th, 2017, 5:54am by Sam Wang


Representative Leonard Lance has been in the crosshairs of activists. His Congressional district went narrowly for Clinton over Trump, and before going to Washington he had a reputation as a moderate. I interviewed Congressman Lance solo (Julian’s overseas). In our far-ranging conversation, we talked about many topics: the Affordable Care Act (he’s in favor of continuing payments to insurers; this is a fairly big deal in my opinion), Russian interference, legislation to sell your browsing habits to your ISP, and Lance’s own transition from NJ to DC.

Link: Politics And Polls #40

→ 11 CommentsTags: House · Princeton

General Petraeus: “This is fine”?

April 13th, 2017, 4:15pm by Sam Wang


For Politics & Polls #39, we were joined by Woodrow Wilson alumnus General David Petraeus. Is the “deep state” a sinister conspiracy, or an institution that prevents insane policies? As Trump brings Syria, North Korea, and Afghanistan to a boil, is it good or bad to have ex-military serve at the highest levels of government? According to Petraeus, maybe…

Link: Politics And Polls #39

→ 7 CommentsTags: President · U.S. Institutions

Politics & Polls #38: Sarah Kendzior on Trump/Russia

April 9th, 2017, 1:52pm by Sam Wang


Sarah Kendzior was among the first writers to point out Trump’s likely rise, and to trace it to white anger in “flyover country,” a term she gets to use because she lives in Missouri. She writes for the Toronto Globe & Mail, and has a lot to say about the Trump/Russia connection. It was a particularly lively interview.

Link: Politics And Polls #38

→ 5 CommentsTags: President