What is Gerrymandering?

Gerry­man­der­ing is a polit­ical tactic in which voting bound­ar­ies are drawn with the inten­tion of influ­en­cing who gets elec­ted. Today’s intric­ate algorithms and detailed voter data allow map draw­ers to game redis­trict­ing on a massive scale with surgical preci­sion.

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The practice of gerrymandering is nearly as old as the United States. In 1788, while design­ing Virgini­a’s very first congres­sional map, Patrick Henry attempted to draw district bound­ar­ies that would block James Madison from winning a seat. But the term wasn’t coined until 1812 when Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry redrew the state senatorial districts to favor his party. The Boston Gazette published a cartoon which merged “Gerry” and “salamander” to describe the result, and the term gerrymandering stuck.