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.
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.