17 July 2017

The Origins of the Term Gerrymander

Recently I have started discussing the topic of gerrymandering in my Constitutional Law courses. The term itself must sound funny to a non-native speaker. What on earth is a "gerrymander?" I suspect most native speakers also do not know the origin of this term and simply throw it around without ever wondering about this. A recent post by the National Constitutional Center explains that the "gerry" part of the term is linked to founding father and former Governor of Massachusetts Elbridge Gerry. Gov. Gerry notoriously pushed a plan to redraw the lines of the political districts within the state. Critics of the plan were quick to point out that one of the districts looked like a salamander, and a political cartoon (see above) coined his plan as "gerrymandering." The term has stuck ever since.