Princeton redistricting expert who analyzed NC voting maps faces university investigation

Researcher Sam Wang was one of four assistants who helped a panel of judges evaluate the constitutionality of North Carolina's voting maps.

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Bryan Anderson
, WRAL state government reporter
RALEIGH, N.C. — A top redistricting expert who analyzed maps that North Carolina lawmakers were forced to redraw is being investigated and is facing allegations of manipulating data and mistreating colleagues while he was analyzing redistricting data in another state.
Sam Wang allegedly manipulated New Jersey congressional data to advance his preferred outcomes through independent reviews of voting maps, the New Jersey Globe news website reported.

Wang is the director of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project and Princeton University’s Electoral Innovation Lab, which provides nonpartisan analyses of state voting map plans, including North Carolina’s.

Princeton spokesman Michael Hotchkiss said the university has an ongoing investigation but declined to provide specifics on who or what is being investigated and when the review may conclude. “The university avoids commenting on pending investigations out of fairness to those involved,” Hotchkiss said in a statement.

Wang didn’t immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.

In February, Wang was chosen as one of four research assistants tasked with helping a panel of three North Carolina judges and three independent redistricting experts known as “special masters” evaluate Republican-drawn voting maps that were being challenged in court.

In a March 1 letter, a Princeton human resources manager informed Wang’s team of a freeze on future hirings during the investigation and said workers couldn’t “provide services to any external parties” without prior approval from Wang and another university official, the documents show. The Globe, which was the first to report on the investigation, also cited complaints accusing Wang of improperly evaluating a Pennsylvania map.

Wang was directed to communicate in writing to colleagues, documents obtained by the Globe and reviewed by WRAL show. The messages were shared with human resources so the university could maintain an ongoing record, the documents show.

State Sen. Ralph Hise, a Mitchell County Republican heavily involved in North Carolina’s redistricting process, said the report casts a shadow over the fairness of the state’s newly enacted maps.

“The allegations that he skewed data to favor Democrats during the New Jersey redistricting process should absolutely call into question his involvement in North Carolina,” Hise said in a statement. “After all, the court accepted a map drawn by the Special Masters' team.”

Wang has previously spoken critically of unfair lines crafted for pure partisan gain.

Early, in-person voting began on Thursday for the state’s May 17 primary.

Every 10 years, states are tasked with drawing new congressional lines to reflect population changes. The redistricting process influences the partisan makeup of the U.S. House and state legislatures. While some states have independent commissions that oversee the process, North Carolina’s redistricting battles in recent decades have become a brass-knuckles political fight, with the party in power controlling the process and drawing the maps.
Maps approved by the state’s GOP-controlled legislature in November 2021 were challenged in court by voter-rights groups that claimed the lines represented unconstitutional gerrymanders. The lawsuits ultimately led to a court-ordered redraw.
A panel of North Carolina judges enacted a new congressional map.
The state’s new congressional map is likely to give Republicans a 7-6 edge in the U.S. House, with an additional district outside Raleigh being a toss-up. Under the old map, Republicans could have won as many 11 of the 14 U.S. House seats up for grabs. Wang and his fellow researchers at Princeton gave many of North Carolina’s proposals last year an “F” rating.
GOP lawmakers in February unsuccessfully sought to remove Wang and another research assistant, Tyler Jarvis, from assisting the special masters. In their complaint, the lawmakers provided a thread of emails suggesting that Jarvis and Wang had improperly communicated with plaintiffs' experts.

The panel of North Carolina judges, which included two Republicans and one Democrat, decided to accept the legislature’s redraw for state House and state Senate. The court enacted a congressional map of its own to be used only for the 2022 elections. The state Supreme Court, which includes four Democrats and three Republicans, upheld the lower court’s decision.

Bob Orr, a former state Supreme Court justice who was one of the three special masters who helped craft the congressional map, said in an interview that Wang’s involvement as an assistant was with analyzing the legislature’s redrawn congressional and legislative boundaries.

Orr said Wang didn’t influence the drawing of the enacted congressional map. Rather, Orr said the crafting of the interim U.S. House map was done by Bernard Grofman, a political scientist at the University of California at Irvine.

“It was not Wang,” Orr said of the Princeton researcher’s involvement. “He had nothing to do with the final set of maps for the congressional districts.”

The Wake County Superior Court and state Supreme Court, which gave final approval to the congressional map, declined to comment on Princeton’s investigation.


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