Gerrymander

Gerrymander is a verb that means manipulation of the boundaries of a political district. It’s done by the party in power, usually after a census, and is designed so that the results of an election will favor the political party doing the manipulating. Usually it means chopping up a district favorable to the other party and attaching pieces to districts favorable to your own party, so the other party’s voters are outvoted by your own. It’s a peculiarly American term, memorializing a politician in a very odd way. The politician was a governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry. In his state in 1812, a district was manipulated into so peculiar a shape that a newspaper editor thought it looked like a salamander, and in a moment of inspiration added the Governor’s name to make the word “Gerrymander.” Governor Gerry’s anti-Federalist manipulations of election districts in Massachusetts have long since become obscure history, but the term remains alive and well, as does the process of gerrymandering. There’s an outbreak of gerrymandering following every Census. The courts may someday hear cases on gerrymandering, but currently it is legal.

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