transitive verbger·ry·man·dered, ger·ry·man·der·ing, ger·ry·man·ders
To divide (a geographic area) into voting districts in a way that gives one party an unfair advantage in elections.
- The act, process, or an instance of gerrymandering.
- A district or configuration of districts whose boundaries are very irregular due to gerrymandering.
Origin of gerrymander
AfterElbridge Gerry (sala)mander
( from the shape of an election district created while Gerry was governor of Massachusetts
In 1812, as governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry signed a bill authorizing the revision of voting districts in his state. Members of Gerry's party redrew them in order to secure their representation in the state senate, and out of Gerry's home county, Essex County, they carved an unlikely-looking district with the shape of a salamander. According to one version of the coining of gerrymander,
the shape of the district attracted the eye of the painter Gilbert Stuart, who noticed it on a map in a newspaper editor's office. Stuart decorated the outline of the district with a head, wings, and claws and then said to the editor, “That will do for a salamander!” “Gerrymander!” came the reply. The image created by Stuart first appeared in the March 26, 1812, edition of the Boston Gazette,
where it was accompanied by the following title: The Gerrymander. A New Species of Monster, which appeared in the Essex South District in Jan. 1812.
The new word gerrymander
caught on instantly—within the same year gerrymander
is also recorded as a verb. (Gerry's name, incidentally, was pronounced with a hard (g) sound, although the word which has immortalized him is now commonly pronounced with a soft (j) sound.) Gerry ran for reelection in 1812, and popular outrage directed at the flagrant use of the technique we now call gerrymandering
doubtless played a role in his defeat.
(third-person singular simple present gerrymanders, present participle gerrymandering, simple past and past participle gerrymandered)
- (pejorative) To divide a geographic area into voting districts in such a way as to give an unfair advantage to one party in an election.
- (pejorative, by extension) To draw dividing lines for other types of districts in an unintuitive way to favor a particular group or for other perceived gain.
- The superintendent helped gerrymander the school district lines in order to keep the children of the wealthy gated community in the better school all the way across town.
- (pejorative) The act of gerrymandering.
- By this iniquitous practice, which is known as the gerrymander, the party in a minority in each State is allowed to get only about one-half or one-quarter of its proper share of representation.
- (pejorative) A voting district skewed by gerrymandering.
- Any citizen looking at a map of district 12 could immediately tell that it was a gerrymander because of the ridiculous way it cut across 4 counties while carving up neighborhoods in half.
From (Elbridge) Gerry + (sala)mander, from the similarity in shape to a salamander of an electoral district created when Gerry was the governor of Massachusetts