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Optimal Donations, 2018 (Runoff Edition)

November 24th, 2018, 8:42am by Sam Wang


Election season’s not quite over. We have two high-profile runoffs, one for Georgia Secretary of State and one for Mississippi U.S. Senate. In both cases, no candidate reached 50%, as required by state law there. Both races are highly consequential. Therefore the thermometer at left has been updated.

The Georgia Secretary of State race goes to a runoff on December 4th. This year’s general election in Georgia was filled with controversy, consequent to Secretary of State (and now Governor-elect) Brian Kemp’s aggressive voter-purge tactics. If even a small fraction of the 400,000 challenged and postcard-purged registrations were legitimate, that might have been enough to affect the gubernatorial election. The candidates are John Barrow (D) and Brad Raffensperger (R). The general election was Raffensperger 49.1%, Barrow 48.6%, Duval (L) 2.2%. 1.0%=39,000 votes.

This election is highly consequential for 2020 and 2022. The winner will administer elections – and voting rights – for 2020 and 2022. Georgia is a partisan trifecta – the governor’s mansion and legislature are under single-party control, in time for redistricting (sound familiar?). If the Republican, Raffensperger, wins as Secretary of State, that makes it a…quadrifecta, I guess…for individual and aggregate voting rights.

The Mississippi Senate race is very much in the news, with the election coming up this Tuesday, November 27. Like the Alabama special election in 2017 between Roy Moore (R) and Doug Jones (D), this race is a battle between the old South and the new South. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) said she’d “attend a public hanging” if a friend invited her; this is a phrase that was last used in the age of lynchings. Today it emerges that Hyde-Smith attended a “segregation academy,” one of many that were set up to help whites evade school desegregation. The Mississippi Legislature even handed out vouchers to whites to attend them. More recently, Hyde-Smith sent her daughter to attend one of these academies. The November election was Hyde-Smith 41.5%, Espy 40.6%, with most remaining votes going to another Republican. Turnout may matter on Tuesday.

The ActBlue thermometer at left has been updated to focus on Barrow and Espy. If you want to donate to Republicans, here are links to Hyde-Smith and to Raffensperger.

Comments Off on Optimal Donations, 2018 (Runoff Edition)Tags: 2018 Election · 2020 Election · Senate

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22nd, 2018, 12:42pm by Sam Wang


Dear readers, pardon the slowed rate of posting. We’re not going back into hibernation – we’re just resting. More is coming soon!

Traffic was substantially down this year compared with 2016 – by more than a factor of 10. That’s understandable for a variety of reasons, including our lighter posting regimen and the consequences of PEC’s general election calculations. But I will note that the most committed PEC readers stuck around. One measure is the comments, still solid. Another is the donation sites at left for ActBlue (D) and NRSC (R). The amount in the ActBlue is almost exactly equal* to the total in 2016, which was itself a record $362,590. In an off-year, that’s really incredible. The NRSC doesn’t have tracking – that would be interesting to see. I am thankful for your continued readership!

I am also thankful for the expanded interest in state-level action. State elections and ballot initiatives are a major part of U.S. democracy going forward. Witness the fact that we just saw redistricting reform pass in all four states where it was on the ballot (Utah just passed a few days ago), increases in the minimum wage in Missouri and Arkansas, and Medicaid expansion in half a dozen states around the country. It’s a remarkable flowering of the New Federalism.

All of this shows that we’re at some kind of pivot point in U.S. history. The current era started in the mid-1990s with Gingrich, and reached an extreme with the election of Trump. And now, the 2018 election gave a preview of what might happen next. Are we reliving the 1974 Watergate election? Are we reliving the end of the Gilded Age? The United States is going someplace new. I wonder where that is.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

*As of November 24, the 2018 total has now exceeded the 2016 total. One important note: in 2016 there were 1,600 donors. This year’s total has come from 1,137 donors so far.

→ 9 CommentsTags: Redistricting

Just Lines – a podcast about redistricting!

November 10th, 2018, 1:32am by Sam Wang


Nancy Palus, a freelance journalist with an impressive record covering democracy in developing countries, has decided to focus on elections in the United States. The result is Just Lines, a podcast with some pretty good guests so far – Katie Fahey of Voters Not Politicians, and redistricting guru Justin Levitt.

I joined her before Proposal 2 passed in her home state, Michigan. We got into many topics, including my thoughts about our second Gilded Age. It was a good episode – take a listen.

Transcript is here. A good excerpt after the jump: [Read more →]

→ 2 CommentsTags: Redistricting

Politics & Polls #114 – Valerie Jarrett

November 8th, 2018, 11:42pm by Sam Wang


Julian Zelizer and I talked with Valerie Jarrett the day after the election. Jarrett was President Barack Obama’s longest-serving policy adviser. She gave her take on political races in Texas, Georgia, and Florida. She also talked about what it was like to do a cameo on The Good Wife, and what it takes to succeed as a woman in a male-dominated office environment. It was a good interview! Listen to the new Politics & Polls.

Comments Off on Politics & Polls #114 – Valerie JarrettTags: 2018 Election

Electoral maps based on 2018 results

November 7th, 2018, 12:28pm by Sam Wang


(revised Friday November 9th to correct an error in Maine Senate)

The election turned out approximately as expected from advance information, a narrowly-Democratic House and a Republican Senate. I thought it might be good to look at the results from the perspective of 2020. [Read more →]

→ 13 CommentsTags: 2018 Election · House · Senate

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project is hiring!

November 7th, 2018, 8:25am by Sam Wang


I think there are lots of data/politics people who might have a little more free time as of today. So…

Do you love democracy? Are you a data person? Hate gerrymandering? Want to help level the playing field for all citizens? The Princeton Gerrymandering Project needs you!

We are planning OpenPrecincts, a project to provide open precinct geography, voting data, and redistricting software to all citizens. We aim to provide the first-ever free, comprehensive resource for state and local redistricting. Our project, in conjunction with quantitative efforts by several groups around the country, will level the playing field for the post-2020 redistricting cycle.

We’re looking for two people: a Product Developer for OpenPrecincts, and a National Coordinator to take the effort to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. [Read more →]

Comments Off on The Princeton Gerrymandering Project is hiring!Tags: Princeton · Redistricting

Following the returns, 2018

November 6th, 2018, 7:53pm by Sam Wang


Tonight’s liveblogging:

1:52am: The gubernatorial races in Wisconsin and Georgia are unresolved. However, I am done for the evening. Good night, all! [Read more →]

→ 12 CommentsTags: 2018 Election · House

What you’re voting for today

November 6th, 2018, 8:22am by Sam Wang



You’re voting, right? Check your poll location and closing time. And you donated [PEC’s high-leverage picks] [NRSC]. And now, on Election Day, three cheers to those of you who are getting out the vote. Good luck – your country needs you!

In addition to the House (final snapshot here) and Senate (final snapshot here, post-Kavanaugh bounce), you’re voting for a ton of other races and questions, including:

Taniel has a full rundown – also click above for Lucas’s interactive map.

To quote a letter-writer to the NYT:

What sets democracy apart from every other form of government is the input of ordinary citizens into their country’s future. While the period in between elections remains owned, perhaps, by the rich or otherwise powerful, it is on Election Day that the largely powerless have their say.

Now go say something!

→ 1 CommentTags: 2018 Election · House · Senate · U.S. Institutions

In late Senate polls, a small signal – or noise?

November 5th, 2018, 8:56pm by Sam Wang


I assume you’ve all been getting out the vote. And donating to one of the organizations in the left sidebar. Maybe you’ve even voted already! OK, now let us take stock of late-breaking developments, which are a little unexpected.

All season I’ve thought that Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) wouldn’t come close to unseating Senator Ted Cruz (R). But the last week of surveys (end dates 10/29 or later, median of n=4 pollsters) show Cruz ahead by only 3.5 +/- 3.1%. That gives me pause.

The 3.1% uncertainty includes 3 points of systematic error by pollsters, based on past midterm elections. That’s a 3.5/3.1 = 1.1 sigma lead, which converts to odds of about 4-1 for Cruz. This is not a slam dunk. I think reports of Beto’s electoral demise are premature. I don’t know who will win, but it could be close.

And the other races? Here’s the last week of surveys (end dates 10/29 or later). Except for Tester, there’s a small but noticeable movement toward Team Blue. It looks like the Kavanaugh bounce has mostly ended.

There are five races within 1 sigma: Indiana, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, and Missouri. All except for Missouri show a slight lead for the Democratic candidate…but with individual win probabilities in the 0.2-0.8 range for either party.

The Meta-Margin is R+4.2%, i.e. overperformance by that much make control a perfect toss-up. Lucas Manning (PEC webmaster) and I will use this data to make a final update to the history tracker.

The systematic (i.e. correlated) error will be known after the election. In the Senate, it usually falls in the direction of Presidential (un)popularity. Democrats could well win all five races, including Missouri (or they could lose all five). If the former happens, that gets Democrats+Independents to 50 seats. In the other direction, an error favoring the President’s party is less likely but would lead to 45 D+I seats.

Of course, Democrats could also fall short. Easy to see that happening, especially in Montana, Missouri, and maybe Indiana. Now we know what Senate races to watch most closely!

And, to state the obvious: if all the close races were to fall the Democrats’ way, the Texas race would become very important indeed.

→ 6 CommentsTags: 2018 Election · Senate

House Outlook: Streams Converge

November 5th, 2018, 2:00pm by Sam Wang


As has been the case for months, Democrats are still favored to win the House. But measured in terms of national popular vote, they are only 2 or 3 percentage points above threshold to do so. That’s pretty close…and all of them touch the threshold for control by either side.

What makes everyone think the House will go Democratic? Let me list three streams of evidence. They all point the same way, but none are definitive. The streams are based on (1) polls, (2) real results from special elections, and (3) district-by-district analysis. [Read more →]

→ 6 CommentsTags: 2018 Election · House