I have previously noted that Common Cause was unhappy with a few of the General Assembly districts created in the wake of Common Cause v. Lewis. There is someone else so unhappy with those districts that he not only wants the court to throw out those districts, he wants the court to toss out part of its own ruling.
Sam Wang, head of the Princeton Redistricting Project, submitted an amicus brief to the court handling Common Cause v. Lewis asking the court to give it’s appointed special master wide latitude to draw more districts favorable to Democrats.
Wang’s biggest objection appears to be with the use of the random maps created by Jowei Chen for the Democrats in Common Cause v. Lewis as a starting point for drawing the remedial maps. Wang claimed that “when an algorithm ranks criteria such as compactness and municipality splits above representation of communities, partisan skew can result” (page 7). However, the “partisan skew” in Chen’s maps is due to geography, not bias; Republicans tend to be more evenly spread across the state than Democrats. Wang knows enough that he has to admit that fact in the very next sentence of his brief.
In addition, he uses statistics, such as the efficiency gap, in a way that fails to distinguish between gerrymandering and geography. His choice runs contrary to best practices and the statistical work done by Chen in Common Cause v Lewis.
Further complicating things for Wang is the fact that compactness and avoiding municipality splits were part of the criteria the court laid out for the General Assembly to follow when drawing remedial maps, meaning that the court would have to contravene its own order to please Wang. You simply can’t get what Wang wants without intentionally manipulating districts to advantage one political party.
Wang then proceeds down the “lies, damned lies, and statistics” road:
In the past cases, winning vote shares were decreased by the redrawing of the map by an average of 9 to 16 percentage points. See id. In contrast, the Remedial Maps submitted by the General Assembly would lead to an estimated reduction of winning vote share of only 2.3 percentage points in the Senate and 2.8 percentage points in the House. See id
The implication is that members of the General Assembly were being laggards in adjusting their maps. However, a look at a chart on the same page (19) of Wang’s brief tells a different story:
Wang wants the judges to focus on the “change” column and how relatively small the 2.3 and 2.8 percentage point change is compared to those in other redistricting cases. However, he neglects to mention the difference in winning vote share in the maps before court-ordered redistricting (the “before column”). The districts under remediation in Common Cause v. Lewis already had much smaller winning vote shares than those of other cases. Despite the relatively small changes in the proposed remedial maps the General Assembly submitted, the winning vote share in those maps (the “after column) is still smaller than those in the other cases. In fact, the original House maps struck down in Common Cause v. Lewis had a smaller winning vote share than half the remedial maps from the other cases and the original Senate maps had a smaller winning vote share than all of the remedial maps from the other cases. The relatively small change in winning vote share was not due to the General Assembly not doing its job; it was due to the fact that the winning vote share in the old maps was already low compared to those other cases.
For all the numbers in Wang’s brief, the only thing it clearly demonstrates is his desire to help Democrats win more seats.