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.Posted — Updated
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.
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.
Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.