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Elbridge Gerry

The term “gerrymandering” emerged in 1812 after Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry approved a redistricting plan heavily favoring his party.


The practice of gerrymandering goes back to the founding of the United States. Patrick Henry, a Founding Father who opposed the Constitution, drew a map that put James Madison, the document’s primary author, into a district with heavily opposition counties, hoping to deny him a seat in Congress. While historians often refer to this as the first instance of redistricting for political gain in the United States, the term “gerrymander” itself did not come about until the early 19th century. In 1812, Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry signed a redistricting plan that heavily benefited his party in the state senate. A political cartoonist criticized a bizarre, salamander-like district by drawing this now-infamous picture. The Boston Gazette published the cartoon and dubbed it the “Gerry-mander.”