GERRYMANDERING is the deliberate manipulation of legislative district boundaries to advantage or benefit a particular party or group, or to cause disadvantage or harm to an opposing party or group. It distorts the electoral process, undermines our republic, and renders legislative elections a foregone conclusion. It’s a conflict of interest for the legislature to draw its own district lines.
In Virginia, state legislators redraw district lines for the U.S. Congress, the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia after every 10-year census. Under the current system, the party in power in the House and the party in power in the Senate can draw the lines to serve their own interests, not those of our communities.
Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry may get the credit for being the first to use political maps as a tool to influence elections, but “gerrymandering” as the method has been coined, is believed to have originated in our Commonwealth much earlier. Scholars point to Gov. Patrick Henry as the first example of political redistricting in the United States. In the 1780s he attempted to fix an election by creating a district to force Federalist James Madison to face Anti-Federalist James Monroe. The practice of gerrymandering has not changed much in the past 228 years…what has changed is the technology used to draw the lines more ruthlessly and effectively, and the large amounts of money behind this subtle practice.