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gerrymander (jĕrˈēmănˌdər, gĕr–), in politics, rearrangement of voting districts so as to favor the party in power. The objective is to create as many districts as possible in areas of known support and to concentrate the opposition's strength into as few districts as possible, and extremely irregular boundary lines are sometimes necessary to obtain the results desired. The term has also been used to describe the similar creation of voting districts to favor the election of a candidate from a specific racial or ethnic group. The U.S. Supreme Court has placed (1964) the vague limit of “compact districts of contiguous territory” on such apportionment schemes, and also has reversed redistricting where there is evidence of racially based gerrymandering. However, in 2019, the Court narrowly ruled that federal courts had no consitutional or legal authority or standards for intervening in cases of partisan gerrymandering. A number of state courts, however, have ruled that patently partisan gerrymandering violates the state constitution. The origin of the term, though by no means the origin of the practice, was in such an arrangement made by the Massachusetts Jeffersonians when Elbridge Gerry was governor.
See E. C. Griffith, The Rise and Development of the Gerrymander (1907, repr. 1974).
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political chicanery aimed at acquiring votes. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 199]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.