WSW: How The Brain - And Redistricting - Work

Feb 24, 2019

Credit WMUK

The founder of Princeton University’s Gerrymandering Project says it’s easy to mock the shapes of districts, but he says sometimes odd looking districts are necessary to meet other criteria. Sam Wang says the amendment to Michigan’s Constitution approved by voters last year says districts should be compact and contiguous. But it also says communities of interest should be protected and parties should be treated fairly.

Graduate students at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson Schools of International and Public Affairs recently completed a report on the new redistricting commission that will determine how Michigan’s next set of maps for Congressional and state Legislative districts will be drawn. Wang says Michigan has a great opportunity, but also faces serious challenges to ensure a fair process.


Michigan’s Commission will be made up of 13 members. It is to include eight Republicans, eight Democrats and five independents. Wang says there will likely be scrutiny on the independent members of the commission. He says that has happened in other states which have established independent commissions. But Wang says the plan is designed to build consensus.

WestSouthwest Brief with Sam Wang

Wang is a professor Neurology and Molecular Biology. He studies how the brain works. So how did he end up founding the Princeton Gerrymandering project?

“In both cases it’s taking large data sets and trying to come with some kind of order come up with some kind of story that emerges from the data.” He says “The kinds of big data tools that I apply to make sense out of the brain also turn out to kind of useful when trying to understand something as complicated as drawing a fair map.”