Tag Archives: Princeton Election Consortium

Just tell it so they get it: gerrymandering

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As Sam Wang talked this morning on how to countermand the evils of gerrymandering —  legislative districts structured to favor one party — I kept thinking “he’s the perfect person for this.” Wang spoke this morning at the Princeton Regional Chamber breakfast. 

The battle to redistrict Congress will be fought in the courts, probably leading to the Supreme Court, which has turned down several cases for lack of a manageable standard.  As Wang said, lawyers don’t go to law school because they like math. (Nodded agreement from the 80+ attendees, with more than the usual number of lawyers.) Lawyers might be good in math but it’s probably not their forte.

So if you want to use algorithms to uproot gerrymandering, you’d better figure out how to make that math accessible to the lawyers’ brains, especially the SCOTUS brains.

If any one can do that, Wang can. He is an eminent neuroscientist with an unusual facility to state complicated concepts in simple ways, as in his first book “Welcome to Your Brain.”

Though Wang is still doing neuroscience he is also consulting on political statistics via the Princeton Election Consortium. During the question page he talked about testifying in various court cases and presented various “manageable standards.”

His webpage even has an option to do the math yourself – pick a data set and work out whether those districts are configured fairly.

On that page, Wang says he wants to do more than use math and polls to explain politics. He wants to stimulate people to act. Not just Democrats, but “all Americans who want to save institutions – whether they are liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican.” He recommends that we all

  • joining our U.S. Representative’s party (even though that may be hard to do)
  • work to keep the media ‘on task’

Are you looking for ways to make change? Read his  action items for democracy’s survival here.

Says Wang: “Voters should choose their representatives, not the other way round.”

 

Mix cricket with honey – or eat crow

Alternate 11-9 Cover & Front (1-8).indd

“In Trump’s America, don’t look for lurid conspiracies in the shadows. Beware of the dull ones that are right out in the open.” 

So says Diccon Hyatt in a column about conspiracy theories in a November 16 column in U.S. 1 Newspaper one of the more rational of the florid post-election conversations. “The Podesta e-mails revealed a truth that was much more frightening than a conspiracy. Most of the e-mails were routine campaign strategizing, and it is in these e-mails that a picture emerges. The campaign had no idea how to beat Donald Trump.”

Richard K. Rein also commented on the national politics on November 9 and November 16. 

Politics?? I tell people I meet,  at the chamber and elsewhere, that U.S. 1 “doesn’t do politics” and then I have to add “except when it does.” Back in the day we did a cover story on Rush Holt. And though the issue went to press on the DAY of the election Tuesday, Rein put prognosticators Sam Wong and David Daley on the cover.wang_pic

Wang has always been one of my favorite researchers to listen to and write about. As a Princeton University neuroscientist, and the author of books with broad appeal like “Welcome to Your Brain,” he doesn’t put on airs. One of his several passions is his effort to expose the bad effects of gerrymandering. “So no matter what the outcome of the national election, Rein wrote, “expect Wang to continue his work on the gerrymandering issue, which he shares with the public at gerrymander.princeton.edu.

The cobbled-together story in U.S. 1 combined excerpts from Wong’s blog at Princeton Election Consortium with quotes on Wong from David Daley’s book on gerrymandering plus bits from Wong’s lectures to alumni. But it was a way to cover national politics from a Princeton perspective,  so it worked.

Wrote Rein: “So if Wang is wrong in this tumultuous year, he will not only eat a bug (as he promised to do in 2012 if Romney had upset Obama), but he will surely go back to the statistical drawing board, to figure out where and what he and the collective public opinion polls had missed.”

Here is the New York Times column today where he explains why he had to eat the bug. Here is the CNN video of Wang eating the bug. It was a cricket, mixed with honey, as Wang noted, in the style of John the Baptist. Would it be unkind to suggest that his sources, the pollsters, eat crow?