The Merriam-Webster “Word of the Day” is “gerrymander.” To gerrymander is to divide a state, school district, etc. into political units or election districts that give one group or political party an unfair advantage. We often hear about litigation in state and federal courts when one party asserts that the most recent redistricting efforts are unfair and a blatant case of gerrymandering. There are current cases concerning North Caroline, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Maryland and more. Do you know the origin of the word “gerrymander?”Elbridge Gerry was a respected politician in the late 1700s and early 1800s. He signed the Declaration of Independence, served as governor of Massachusetts (1810-1811), and was elected vice president under James Madison. While governor, he tried to change the shape of voting districts to help members of his political party get elected. His system resulted in some very oddly shaped districts, including one (Gerry’s home district) that looked a little like a newt. Upon seeing a map of the bizarre regional divisions, a member of the opposing party drew feet, wings, and a head on Gerry’s district and said “That will do for a salamander!” Another member called out “Gerrymander!” Thus gerrymander became a term for such political schemes.

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