The Gerrymander: The politics of redistricting

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

Gerrymandering is as old as Congress itself. Patrick Henry, the anti-federalist governor of Virginia, drew a Congressional district from five counties -- Orange, Albemarle, Spotsylvania, Louisa, and Culpeper -- to try to dilute federalist support for James Madison in 1788, the first Congressional election.

The term gerrymander comes from an 1812 cartoon depicting a legislative district in Massachusetts devised by governor Elbridge Gerry that snaked through several counties inland from Salisbury. One newspaperman said it looked like a salamander, while a cartoonist called it “a Gerrymander,” and drew the cartoon that is the featured image of the exhibit.

In an era of partisan polarization, the specter of the gerrymander looms over American politics, at multiple levels. Redistricting is a legal process of reshaping geographical districts to keep up with a changing and moving population, but gerrymandering draws district boundaries to favor one party. This exhibit, by students in the graduate course in Digital History, uses spatial research techniques and digital media with historical research to explore some of the issues of federal and local gerrymandering.

2019/04/15 - 2019/07/08