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Nov 3 polls: Biden 342 EV (D+5.3%), Senate 50-55 D (D+3.9%), House control D+4.6%
Moneyball states: President AZ NE-2 NV, Senate MT ME AK, Legislatures KS TX NC

Redistricting in Virginia goes to special masters

November 22nd, 2021, 7:05am by Sam Wang


Despite negative news coverage of redistricting, there’s a lot of hope (see my recent Twitter thread), especially compared with a decade ago. In particular, Virginia is looking up. Although the commission deadlocked, the law now assigns the job to the Virginia state Supreme Court. The Court has appointed two Special Masters, Bernard Grofman and Sean Trende, to draw maps by December 19th. Here at the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, we’ve analyzed and graded draft maps, as well as the maps that are in force now.

According to Virginia law, as well as the Court’s orders and regulations, the Special Masters will have to follow the same criteria as the Commission, namely the federal requirements of population equality and Voting Rights Act mandates, followed by state constitution and statute.

The Special Masters have a variety of options. One is to stay close to the current maps, making adjustments to deal with population shifts and to ensure compliance with the standards laid out by the Court in their November 19th order. Another is to draw new maps, either from scratch or using the Commission’s drafts.

Here at the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, we have developed a panel of quantitative metrics of fairness and performance, which can be applied to a hypothetical or actual map. We have applied these standards to all of the commission’s drafts, as well as the actual maps in effect today. Our report cards – as well as the underlying scores – are available here. We summarized our assessments of the draft maps on October 4th in this open memo to the public, where we highlighted which maps were reasonable starting points, assessed Black and Hispanic populations, and flagged a northern region of the state where Asian-American representation could be improved.

On November 21 we made our standards completely transparent to the Virginia Supreme Court, in this letter. In it we described our scoring thresholds for what we consider an “A” grade. Of course, both Special Masters are fully capable of forming their own professional judgments about what is fair. But they might still be interested in our approach, which is standardized across states. Note that we failed Illinois, Texas, North Carolina, and Oregon, a bipartisan bouquet.

The Virginia Redistricting Commission produced several maps that scored highly on our fairness metrics. The following maps not only achieved high partisan fairness scores but also seem to heed calls for fair representation of minority communities. This includes the preservation of potential opportunities for Black Virginians to elect their candidates of choice as well as accounting for growing Asian American and Hispanic populations. In Northern Virginia especially, the following State Senate and House of Delegates maps could provide starting points from which to preserve those communities and create coalition districts. A complete list of our grades and minority composition metrics for the Virginia Commission’s maps can be found here.

Draft maps that may provide helpful starting points in the Court’s redistricting process:

Congressional Map B5

State Senate Map B3 , B5 (Note: Map B5 is not very competitive, but may provide a helpful starting point from which to consider minority coalition districts while trying to improve competitiveness.)

House of Delegates Maps B6, B7

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Data Showcases Weaknesses in Proposed Georgia Congressional Map

September 30th, 2021, 3:51pm by Sam Wang


First, Quick Observations

The draft Georgia Congressional map received a C overall in our Redistricting Report Card, a project of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project and RepresentUS.  

The map received a C in Partisan Fairness, with an advantage to Republicans, with an expected delegation of 9 Republicans and 5 Democrats. 

[Read more →]

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The NYC Board of Elections has doxxed at least 378 voters

September 21st, 2021, 2:13pm by Sam Wang


Here at the Electoral Innovation Lab, we’ve been analyzing New York City’s mayoral primary election. It uses a new system, ranked-choice voting, that is meant to resolve differences and reach consensus. It’s the largest such election in the United States to date, with close to 1 million votes cast.

Unfortunately, the management of this election has faced problems. Here, Jesse Clark, Lindsey Cormack (of Stevens Institute of Technology), and I found that it was possible to re-identify at least 378 cast-vote records, assigning them to the voter who cast them. This destroys the privacy of their vote, a serious violation of the New York State Voter’s Bill Of Rights. One of the votes revealed is that of Dante de Blasio, the Mayor’s son.

Here’s coverage at the New York Times and Gothamist. Read our original Electoral Innovation Lab report here.

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Failure to vaccinate increases risk to others as much as drunk driving

September 15th, 2021, 9:47pm by Sam Wang


Today in the Washington Post, I join columnist Leana Wen in considering vaccination’s consequences (and here is a PDF) – for other people. We argue that from the point of view of endangering other people, going unvaccinated is on a par with drunk driving.

Because of deadline pressure, there were several calculations that didn’t make it into the piece.

The relative risk to others of going unvaccinated is remarkably similar to that of drunk driving. Some critics of vaccine requirements have compared going unvaccinated to secondhand smoke – an annoyance to others, but not a major threat. This is categorically false.

[Read more →]

→ 6 CommentsTags: Health

We need your help in North Carolina

August 11th, 2021, 1:48pm by Zachariah Sippy


This week, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project launched our Redistricting Report Card, in partnership with RepresentUS. This project scores proposed redistricting maps on their geographic features, competitiveness, and partisan fairness, while also providing an in-depth view of the estimated partisanship and minority composition of each district in the plan. 

Our tool runs on a robust algorithm that produces a million alternative maps (no joke), but at the same time we’ve worked hard to ensure that it’s also accessible for journalists and activists. 

But in order to combat gerrymandering tools alone will not be enough. We need to respond quickly to draft maps – and for that, we need your help. 

[Read more →]

→ 1 CommentTags: Politics · Redistricting

One more week to win an iPad and the Great American Map-Off!

June 7th, 2021, 6:01pm by Sam Wang


For more information about the competition, click here. All submissions are due by 11:59PM EDT on June 15, 2021.

[Read more →]

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What is differential privacy and could it affect redistricting?

June 2nd, 2021, 5:05pm by Zachariah Sippy


In March, Alabama sued the U.S. Department of Commerce. At the heart of their suit is the claim that the Census Bureau’s disclosure avoidance system— designed to protect the privacy of census respondents, inhibits the state from accurately redistricting.

Alabama, along with more than 15 other states, has argued that the Bureau’s privacy scheme is “arbitrary and capricious,” and may even violate the Voting Rights Act and/or Fifth Amendment.

[Read more →]

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In Monday’s new apportionment, who will lose, Alabama or New York?

April 24th, 2021, 12:34pm by Sam Wang


On Monday afternoon at 3 p.m., the Commerce Department is expected to release the new apportionment from the 2020 Census. It will be posted here, and there will be a press conference on Census Live. Generally, southwestern states will win Congressional seats; the northeast and California will lose. There’s some uncertainty as to whether Alabama will lose 0 or 1 seat, and whether New York will lose 1 or 2 seats. The Census Project has an explainer. Finally, check out this deep dive into historical trends from CUNY’s Redistricting and You.

Update: And the answer is…neither! There are seven seat changes, the smallest of any year going back to 1910 (leaving out the failed reapportionment of 1920). For an overview see my Tweetstorm. More soon…

→ 4 CommentsTags: Redistricting

Building Democracy Back Better With Larry Lessig

April 20th, 2021, 8:43pm by Sam Wang


I had a great conversation with Prof. Larry Lessig on his podcast, Another Way. We talked about the inequalities produced by gerrymandering and the Electoral College, and what Congress and the states can do to fight back. Please listen!

→ 1 CommentTags: Politics · President · Redistricting

Were There Really Reverse Coattails?

April 20th, 2021, 12:48am by Sam Wang


A positive development for the left in the last few years has been the renewed interest in running for downticket races. From Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to legislative candidates nationwide, such efforts are necessary for building a healthy political party.

Last week came a new claim that such efforts are not only directly useful, they can help the top of the ticket. However, this latest evidence for such “reverse coattails” needs some work before it’s ready for prime time. This is not to say that the claim is false. It’s more that the evidence is too preliminary to judge. In basic research, new claims get subjected to close scrutiny through the peer review process. I will offer some comments in that style. I hope they are constructive. [Read more →]

→ 1 CommentTags: 2020 Election · Moneyball