Princeton Election Consortium

Innovations in democracy since 2004

Outcome: Biden 306 EV (D+1.2% from toss-up), Senate 50 D (D+1.0%)
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

In Wisconsin, hidden flaws in new proposal for electoral votes

January 12th, 2021, 1:56pm by Zachariah Sippy


State Representative Gary Tauchen (R) has introduced a bill in the Wisconsin General Assembly to change the way electoral votes are allocated. Instead of a winner-take-all system, his proposal would dole them out by congressional districts. At first, this plan looks like it would help Republicans. But the real long-term beneficiaries might be Democrats— and take Wisconsin off the national stage for Presidential elections. [Read more →]

→ 6 CommentsTags: President · Redistricting

Is Georgia 2020 the new Virginia 2008?

January 5th, 2021, 2:08pm by Sam Wang


Final results: Warnock (D) and Ossoff (D) win, giving Democrats 50 seats in the Senate and control of the chamber. (NYT)

In Georgia, first Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump. Now we have two competitive Senate races. Polls show the Democratic candidates, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, leading their opponents by a few points. If they pull off wins (and even if they only come close) they can thank early voting – and trends that may make 2020 for Georgia what 2008 was for Virginia.

First, let’s look at the data. Unlike the rest of the country, general-election polls in Georgia did pretty well. [Read more →]

→ 8 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · Senate

Last-minute donations

December 31st, 2020, 7:17pm by Sam Wang


I want to thank everyone who’s been a loyal reader of PEC. This year we went beyond poll aggregation to focus on optimizing your efforts, up and down the ticket. Our particular emphasis is the long game: actions that enhance the responsiveness of U.S. democracy to voters, whether for a decade (redistricting) or longer (voting reforms). You gave $1.4 million in key races and to nonpartisan organizations. Thank you!

One last appeal. This one’s tax-deductible. The Princeton Gerrymandering Project has a lot of work ahead for 2021. We’ll be working overtime across the nation to give people the tools they need to get fair districts. Our many projects, including OpenPrecincts.org and Representable.org, as well as our own legal and policy work. will make a difference in Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, and a dozen other states.

You can give at this link. If you do it by credit card, it will count as a 2020 donation.

Happy New Year!

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Postdoctoral positions at our new Electoral Innovation Lab!

December 3rd, 2020, 8:33am by Sam Wang


Want to apply your intellectual skills to real-life reform? The Electoral Innovation Lab (an expansion of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project) is searching for postdocs! Our mission is to apply law, science, and math to strengthening U.S. democracy. Example topics include redistricting, ranked-choice voting, and open primaries.

We see our work as relating to political science in the same way that technology and engineering relate to the basic sciences. Our goal is to serve as a pipeline from fundamental research to practical application. To read about some of our priorities, see this Research Agenda. And here’s a slideshow of our story. (Side note for friends and supporters: invite me to talk about the Lab – it’s more fun to talk about it!)

Many disciplines are welcome! We welcome applicants from all the natural sciences, as well as social and behavioral sciences. We expect that these positions will be of particular interest to people in the fields of political science and law.

Your work will seed important research with significant implications for the years ahead. Please apply!

→ 1 CommentTags: Princeton · Redistricting · U.S. Institutions

North Carolina’s legislative gerrymander held in 2020

November 22nd, 2020, 9:33pm by Sam Wang


Last year’s redraw of the legislative maps left in a fair bit of the partisanship, especially the state House map. Despite Democrats winning 53% of the statewide vote, Republicans retained control. Facing South reports.

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Georgia: send money and letters – but not postcards

November 21st, 2020, 1:31pm by Sam Wang


From the mailbag:

Noted the thread from Lara Putnam about the Georgia runoffs. I think​ I understand her point that sending 50 or so postcards to random voters in a state with 5 million voters is pointless and serves only to make the postcarder feel useful. That if you want to do something to actually help, donate to Fair Fight or a similar group instead. Do you think postcards are ever effective? Or is it like choosing a Christmas gift for college-aged cousins–just send money?

This is basically correct. To mobilize one additional voter, it would take anywhere from 80 to 500 postcards*. To achieve even that, it assumes that the voters aren’t already being bombarded. That might be the case in a sleepy state house race. The situation is far worse in Georgia, where all eyes are on the two special Senate elections on January 5, 2021. These races will determine control of the U.S. Senate and the fate of President-elect Biden’s agenda.

It used to be that you had to vote in November first, but the law has changed. Anyone who is registered to vote by December 7th can vote in the runoff. If you will be 18 by then, register to vote!

Everyone outside Georgia: if you want to make a difference, give money to register voters by December 7 and to turn out voters. For Democrats, you can give to Stacey Abrams’s Fair Fight or other organizations listed in the ActBlue link in the left sidebar. Republicans can give at the WinRed link.

*Update: I’m told that letters are said to be 2 to 3 times more effective than postcards at mobilizing votes. It’s not known why that is, though note that opening a letter requires active engagement by the recipient. Anyway, that improvement might get the amount of necessary effort down to a few dozen letters per vote, which is an improvement.

Here’s a recent report on per-voter effects for other interventions: in-person canvassing (7 percentage points increase) is best, followed by text messages (4 points). There’s one final unknown: does it cost more to send a letter, or to make an in-person contact? If sending letters is a lot faster, then letters may still be a cost-effective approach. So if you really want to do something yourself (which is part of the social and emotional benefit), then write letters.

→ 23 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · Senate

Today at Princeton: Ambassador Samantha Power

November 19th, 2020, 3:49pm by Sam Wang


Today at 5:00pm Eastern, I’ll help host former UN Ambassador Samantha Power. It’s part of the University Public Lecture series. It will be a conversation between Amb. Power and Deb Amos, my colleague in Journalism and NPR News correspondent.

This lecture is free and open to the public, but reservations are required.
Or you can watch this event via Live Stream by clicking here.

For more information about this event, visit the Public Lectures website.

→ 1 CommentTags: Princeton

In the Washington Post

November 12th, 2020, 2:58pm by Sam Wang


In today’s Washington Post, my take on the sources of polling errors in Senate races – and the consequences for resource allocation when we don’t take those errors into account.

I have more to say to PEC readers on this, since it was a major feature of what we did. If we knew then what we know now, North Carolina and Georgia Senate races would have gotten more emphasis. I will dissect that soon.

→ 14 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · Senate

Senate poll error: GOP undecideds came home

November 9th, 2020, 12:14pm by Sam Wang


The polling errors for Senate candidates were quite large this year. In 13 races with final-ish results, the margin of the outcome was a median of 7.9 points more Republican than the last week of polling. That’s an amazingly large difference. In the past, the median error was no more than 3 points or so.

A big reason seems to be voters who were “undecided” about their Senate choice came home to their party. The other day I showed a graph that showed this effect (click to enlarge):

However, this didn’t show up for Democrats. [Read more →]

→ 10 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · Senate

North Carolina and Georgia, you’re not done yet!

November 7th, 2020, 10:10am by Sam Wang


The Presidential race is resolved:


…however, y’all are not done yet in the South!

The importance of the election for redistricting is still unfolding. There’s one more item: the Chief Justice of the North Carolina state Supreme Court. As of today, that race is within a margin of 3,500 votes – 0.06% of the over 5.3 million votes counted so far. There are an estimated 60,000-100,000 ballots still to be counted: mail-in ballots and provisional ballots to be verified, many of which must be “cured” between now and November 12th. Curing is a repair process that is done by phone or door-to-door contact. To help, volunteer here. (I welcome more suggestions for links.)

This is important because redistricting in North Carolina is now under single-party control. The state Supreme Court ordered a redrawing last year. If the General Assembly tries another gerrymander, they will face a court with at least 4 Democrats and 2 Republicans. The incoming Chief Justice will provide the 7th vote. Paul Newby (R) or Cheri Beasley (D) will have a lot of say!

And of course there are the Georgia Senate races, both of which are headed for a January 5 runoff. Those potentially determine control of the U.S. Senate. New voters can participate if they register by December 7th. Register online or by mail!

→ 28 CommentsTags: 2020 Election · Redistricting · Senate