The Term “Gerrymandering” Originated In Which U.S. State?

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Reply: Massachusetts

It’s such an odd sounding time period that we’ll forgive you in case you assumed “gerrymandering” had some obscure roots in an archaic and lengthy forgotten historic phrase. The actuality is, nevertheless, that gerrymander is a comparatively younger phrase that was coined within the state of Massachusetts a bit over two centuries in the past: by the Boston Gazette in March 1812.

The phrase use then, as now, refers back to the intentional means of setting electoral district boundaries in such a approach that one political occasion or candidate is closely favored within the redistribution of the voting inhabitants, with outcomes that don’t replicate the precise composition of the overall space. For these unfamiliar with the follow, a easy approach to visualize how such boundary alterations can change outcomes is to ascertain 1,000 folks standing on a soccer area, organized into teams lined up on every yard line primarily based on how a lot they like or dislike soccer, such that every one the folks close to the west finish zone actually love soccer and all of the folks close to the east finish zone actually hate soccer.

If you happen to divide the sector vertically, alongside every yard line, then ask the folks in every “district” to select anyone to signify them in a vote, you’ll find yourself with every little sideline-to-sideline district of the sector choosing a consultant that has roughly the identical view of soccer as they do. However in case you swap the “districts” to a horizontal design working not from sideline to sideline, however from finish zone to finish zone, all of the sudden it’s much less clear who would greatest signify every district, and in case you additional difficult issues by carving up the sector in a jigsaw sample, you can even find yourself with a sample the place the soccer haters and soccer lovers had been considerably under- or over-represented of their chunk of the sector. If you apply that very same “how will we divide voting districts to provide truthful illustration to the individuals who stay there” drawback to the true world, you’ll be able to see the way it rapidly will get very difficult.

The time period got here into well-liked use in the course of the election cycle of 1812, when the then-Governor of Massachusetts signed a invoice that altered the state senate districts closely in favor of his occasion (the Democrat-Republican Celebration) towards his opponents (the Federalist occasion). The ensuing remap, which created a meandering district that wrapped across the western and northern sides of the state, was stated to resemble the form of a mythological salamander and the time period “Gerry-mander”, a portmanteau of the governor’s title and salamander, was coined to explain the method of manipulating electoral boundaries for the advantage of one occasion over one other.

Whereas the time period has caught round, as a matter of historic curiosity it needs to be famous that we’re all saying the phrase improper. Regardless of the widespread pronunciation of the phrase with a tender g sound, as in “John”, the late Governor’s title was truly pronounced with a tough g and we needs to be saying it with a tough g like in “Gary” or “Man”.

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