Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

Support our gerrymandering work!

October 11th, 2017, 7:19am by Sam Wang


We are engaged in nonpartisan analysis to help understand the causes of partisan gerrymandering, and develop tools to fix it through court action and through citizen-led reform efforts in states. For example, our amicus brief in last week’s Supreme Court case may be useful to them as they write their decision – and, depending on that ruling, to lower courts as the decision is implemented.

To learn more about our analysis, which meets legal constraints set in place by the Court (and even addresses objections by conservatives such as Justice Samuel Alito), read our amicus brief or watch our great explainer video. For a deep dive into why partisan gerrymandering has soared, see our piece in The American Prospect.

If you are interested in supporting the project, there are two ways to contribute:

  • Visit our Benefunder page to learn about what we plan to do next, and to donate; or
  • Contact Princeton University Development officer Thomas Roddenbery, who can help you.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Princeton · Redistricting

Making Every Vote Count: Election reform and the National Popular Vote Compact

October 7th, 2017, 11:02am by Sam Wang


This morning I was on CNN (watch it here) with Mike Smerconish to talk about replacing the Electoral College with a national popular vote. There’s a practical strategy for doing so: state-level legislation, in the form of the National Popular Vote Compact.

Some of the reasons for implementing a national popular vote may surprise you. One big reason is security. Today’s Electoral College opens a giant security hole. Hackers can target as few as five states to swing an election.

Another reason has to do with the fact that many communities are not represented in the swing states. To name a few: Mormons, Southern Baptists, and Americans of Puerto Rican descent all get left in the cold. Also, despite what you may believe, small states are mostly left out of influence.

Read more at Making Every Vote Count. Washington-area people, the national rollout occurs this Thursday morning at the National Press Club.

→ 7 CommentsTags: President · U.S. Institutions

What the Supreme Court didn’t say…yet

October 3rd, 2017, 8:51pm by Sam Wang


This bingo card turns out to be a fairly apt explanation for what did, and did not, happen during oral arguments today.
First, a bit of color: I sat behind Bill Whitford, and to his right was former California Governor Arnold Schwarznegger. In front of them was Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin. That was cool.

Anyway, note the failure to make bingo above – and what is missing. [Read more →]

→ 13 CommentsTags: Redistricting

Tom Petty

October 3rd, 2017, 6:36am by Sam Wang


This was the first Tom Petty song I loved.
So much bad news in the world. The biggest mass shooting in U.S. history. The rapid erosion of norms in our government’s institutions. Climate change-induced intensification of hurricanes, and the ensuing disaster in Puerto Rico. The post-apocalyptic imagery in the video above seems fitting.

However, there is a bright spot: U.S. science. Rosbash, Hall, and Young richly deserve their Nobel Prize for working out the genetics and molecular mechanisms of circadian rhythms. Surely every one of you has an opinion about whether you got enough sleep last night. Circadian rhythms are a central feature of our lives, and are critical for health. Their work was done in a small fly, Drosophila melanogaster, and the basic principles all apply to us. This prize, for molecular neuroscience, is a pinnacle of basic research, one that was made possible by the greatness of American scientific establishment.

Today, the Nobel Prize in Physics goes to Weiss, Thorne, and Barish, for the discovery of gravitational waves. Again, a milestone in basic research.

Off to the Supreme Court, to see whether (statistical) science cuts any ice with them.

→ 1 CommentTags: 2014 Election

Gill v. Whitford

October 1st, 2017, 12:08pm by Sam Wang


On Tuesday at 10:00am, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Gill vs. Whitford, which concerns extreme partisan gerrymandering. Justice Ginsburg has suggested, with some justification I think, that this could be the most important case of the Court’s term. The tone and content of oral arguments are often predictive of the outcome. I will attend in person. And of course I will be watching the leaderboard at FantasySCOTUS.

As PEC readers know, my interest arises from my analysis which offers a standard that meets legal constraints set in place by the Court. Read our amicus brief or watch our great explainer video. For a deep dive into why partisan gerrymandering has soared, see our piece in The American Prospect.

The outcome is likely to hang on the vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy. To quote Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog:

…the state’s ability to muster the five votes that it needed to put the lower court’s order on hold could bode poorly for the challengers, because one factor that the justices had to consider in making their decision was whether the state is likely to succeed on the merits of its claim. On the other hand, the case appears to have been scheduled for oral argument earlier than it might normally have been: Although the justices did not announce until June 19 that they would review Gill v. Whitford, it leapfrogged over several other cases (including two granted in February, two granted in March and one granted in April) to take a spot on the October argument calendar. That could suggest that the justices intend to try to decide the case quickly, which would in turn allow new maps to be drawn sooner even if the district court’s order is not in effect.

Attendees are not allowed to speak in the courtroom. Otherwise the bingo card above could help while the time away!

→ 9 CommentsTags: Redistricting

Job opportunity – Computational Research Analyst, Gerrymandering and Redistricting

September 28th, 2017, 11:57pm by Sam Wang


The Gill v. Whitford oral argument gives new importance to this announcement. -Sam, 10/4/2017

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project is hiring! We’re looking for a computational research analyst to do geography-intensive calculations, test our simple statistical standards, and close loopholes in proposed reform efforts. It’s a full-time position, available immediately. Computational skills and an interest in U.S. election law are essential. The job ad is here.

→ 4 CommentsTags: Redistricting · Site News

New Dataset: State Legislative Elections, 1971-2016

September 26th, 2017, 12:00pm by brian


I’m pleased to say that the Princeton Gerrymandering Project has just published a new dataset of state legislative elections from 1972 to 2016. This database covers over 500 election/state/year combinations, and contains over 80,000 elections. The election results can be downloaded here, and the code can be viewed on github. The dataset is based on Carl Klarner’s candidate-level state legislative data, cleaned to remove multi-member elections and other issues, as well as Ballotpedia’s 2013 – 2016 election results.

For us, it’s a resource to analyze redistricting and gerrymandering. For you, it’s whatever you want to use it for.

We’ll eventually combine these with information about the district maps under which each election was held. Stay tuned!

→ 3 CommentsTags: Redistricting

The Very Hungry Gerrymandering Project

September 25th, 2017, 6:48pm by Sam Wang


Left: Eric Carle's caterpillar. Right: NC 12th District Gerrymandering comes to the forefront. See www.princeton.edu for a video about standards for extreme partisan gerrymandering that we are advocating, based on simple concepts of partisan symmetry and basic statistics. The explainer is pretty spiffy!

Want to know how gerrymandering has gotten so bad in the last few decades? Here’s a history (with numbers) in The American Prospect. A sidebar explains the math.

Finally, we have an interactive website for you to explore the offenses: gerrymander.princeton.edu. It documents Congressional and state-legislature gerrymanders, including Wisconsin Assembly, the topic of next week’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court in Gill v. Whitford.

We hope you enjoy these explorations!

→ 6 CommentsTags: Redistricting

When did partisan gerrymandering get worse, and why?

September 25th, 2017, 7:22am by Sam Wang


Partisan gerrymandering: when did it get worse, why, & what can courts & reformers do? New at The American Prospect, we trace the roots of an offense that has ballooned in recent decades.

Also, over at the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, we’ve added state legislative data. This includes data for the Wisconsin Assembly, which is important for next week’s Supreme Court case. Thanks to Rob Whitaker!

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A tutorial on partisan gerrymandering

September 7th, 2017, 8:45am by Sam Wang


Here’s a spiffy explainer video on how extreme partisan gerrymandering is committed, and how it can be detected by anyone who’s ever taken a basic statistics class.

Many thanks to the creatives behind this, Kyle McKernan and Danielle Alio of the Princeton University communications office. If you like their work, share it and “like” it!

→ 9 CommentsTags: Redistricting