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Samuel Wang, a professor at Princeton University and the director of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project. (Photo: Princeton University).

GOP asks Wallace to release Wang congressional redistricting data

Democrats held Thursday night meeting to discuss Princeton University investigation

By David Wildstein, April 29 2022 12:19 pm

Republicans have asked the court-selected tiebreaker for New Jersey congressional redistricting to publicly release all data provided by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project following reports that Princeton University has launched an internal investigation into allegations that one of their professors, Sam Wang, may have manipulated numbers to improperly influence the selection of a Democratic map.

“If the data turns out to have been falsified, you should join us in petitioning the Supreme Court to invalidate the current congressional map, said former GOP State Chairman Doug Steinhardt, the Republican redistricting chairman, in an email to John E. Wallace, Jr., the independent tiebreaker.

Steinhardt has asked for a meeting of the full Congressional Redistricting Commission “to discuss Mr. Wang and the PGP’s misconduct and its implications on the process and the unethically and immorally derived current, congressional redistricting map.”

The Democratic redistricting chair, Janice Fuller, summoned her commissioners to a special meeting on Thursday evening to discuss the accusations against Wang, and Steinhardt’s request.

Democrats are hesitant to allow the full panel to reconvene, out of concern that the congressional map could become more susceptible to a court challenge if they meet, according to individual familiar with the private gathering who spoke on the condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to speak.

Ballots for the June 7 New Jersey primaries began going out on April 23 and some votes have already been cast.  To be clear, neither party believes the courts would consider invalidating the map before the November 2022 election.

But a meek response from Wallace, a former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice who was selected to serve as tiebreaker, only inflamed an already contentious relationship with the GOP commissioners.

“Thank you for the update,” Wallace wrote in an email to Steinhardt.  “I look forward to receiving the final report from the investigation.”

Wallace said in his reasons for picking the Democratic map that he relied on Wang’s data and his “evaluation of partisan fairness.”

Steinhardt fired off a scathing response to Wallace for his apparent lack of curiosity or concern that Wang could have duped him.

“It’s difficult to express in words how deeply disappointed I am in your response to this situation,” Steinhardt said. “The ‘investigation’ being conducted of Sam Wang and the Princeton Gerrymander Project is not a public investigation. It is not being conducted independently. There is no right to public disclosure of the investigation, its process, discovery, or result.”

Steinhardt suggested that Democrats, Republicans and Wallace come together to mount a joint investigation of Wang’s role and allegations of research misconduct at Princeton.

“To suggest, as you do, that you will await the results of Princeton University’s investigation, rather than convene the Commission and discuss at the very least the propriety of a Commission sanctioned, public investigation, creates a further lack of transparency and trust between the public and the process that produced the map you selected,” Steinhardt said.

The Republican leader pointed to Wallace’s own admission that he “relied on the data, opinions, and findings of Wang and the PGP in conducting the redistricting process, directing both sides’ disclosure and map writing, picking the Democrat map.”

Wallace told the New Jersey Globe that he was unaware of any investigations involving Wang.

The retired jurist currently works at a politically influential South Jersey law firm with strong ties to Democrats.  He was the choice of Democrats on the congressional redistricting commission.

When both parties couldn’t agree on a tiebreaker, two names were submitted to the New Jersey Supreme Court: Wallace and the GOP recommendation, former Superior Court Judge Marina Corodemus. The Supreme Court picked Wallace.

Since last summer, the Court has steadfastly refused requests to publicly release the vote tally of a private vote on the tiebreaker.  A new request made on Thursday went unanswered.

The circumstances of Wallace’s hiring as a consultant to the congressional and legislative redistricting tiebreaker in New Jersey remain unclear.

The New Jersey Globe reported exclusively on Thursday that Wang, a prominent neuroscience researcher who has taken on a national role in congressional and state redistricting, is under investigation by Princeton University after allegations of research misconduct and creating a toxic workplace environment.

Princeton has confirmed the investigation but declined any substantive comment. Wang had also declined comment.

National and state Republicans have pounced on the Wang probe in a bid to question the credibility of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.

Alex Wilkes, a spokesperson for the New Jersey Republican State Committee, said that Princeton’s investigation into Wang’s research practices confirms “what the NJGOP has been saying for months.”

“Sam Wang and Princeton Gerrymandering Project deliberately cheated to engineer the Congressional redistricting process in Democrats’ favor, and unduly influenced Justice Wallace under false pretense,” Wilkes said.

North Carolina State Sen. Ralph Hise, a Republican, told Raleigh-based NBC affiliate WRAL-TV that the Princeton University probe taints the redistricting process in his state, where a court-appointed special master hired Wang as an advisor.

“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 to WRAL.  “After all, the court accepted a map drawn by the Special Masters’ team.”

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