Gerrymander Law and Legal Definition

Gerrymander means to create an artificial civil division within a particular locale for an improper purpose. It refers to the drawing of boundaries of legislative districts to benefit one party or group and handicap another. Gerrymandering seeks to violate the constitutional mandate of "one man-one vote" by created legislative districts of unequal populations. Gerrymandering seeks to draw legislative districts that isolate member of a particular political party so that a maximum number of elected representatives of that party will be elected.

The name is derived from Elbridge Gerry, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a nonsigning delegate to the Federal Convention of 1787, and a leader of the Jeffersonian Republican party.

In 1812, while Gerry was governor of Massachusetts, the Republican-dominated legislature redrew district lines to weight representation in favor of Republicans and against Federalists. The Federalists attacked the redistricting, specifically blaming Gerry although he had nothing to do with the project and, in private, opposed it. A Federalist newspaper published a political cartoon depicting the oddly shaped district covering Essex County as a salamander; the cartoonist dubbed his creation a "Gerry-mander."