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Gerrymandering

An etch-a-sketch and a bottle of gin.


Elbridge Gerry (pronounced with a hard G, like "gun") signed the Declaration of Independence and took a principled stand by refusing to sign the Constitution until it was amended to include the Bill of Rights. Sadly, for a man of such importance to the founding of our country, he is remembered only for the political maneuver that bears his name. While Gerry was governor of Massachusetts, his party radically changed the state's legislative districts to ensure future electoral success. A local artist remarked that one of the new districts resembled a salamander. The "Gerry-mander" (today usually pronounced with a soft G) was born. To this day, politicians constantly fiddle with the shape of districts-for reasons both noble (to consolidate the voting power of minorities) and selfish (to pack their district with supporters). Whatever the cause, new versions of the Salamander are rampant. We've compiled four of the strangest looking districts out there.THE "DANGLING MODIFIER"ARIZONA'S 2ndThe gerrymander to end all gerrymanders. Most of the district is huddled in the northwest corner of the state, but a narrow corridor connects it to a large block farther east. The corridor consists of the waters of the Colorado River, and nothing else- you must own a houseboat to live in this part of the 2nd. What accounts for this oddity? The eastern block includes a Hopi reservation, which objected to being represented by the same politician who represented a neighboring Navajo reservation. Apparently, this was the best solution anyone could come up with. THE "CLAM DIGGER"FLORIDA'S 22ndThe district is so mixed up with its neighbors that a two-mile drive will take you through parts of 4 different districts. The 22nd consists almost entirely of beachfront property, running 90 miles up the length of Florida's Gold Coast. The several forays it makes inland were added to get a few more Republicans in the district (it was formerly never more than 3 miles wide) because its Republican representative only eked out a victory in 2000. THE "TENNESSEE STRADDLER"TENNESSEE'S 7thWhat seems to have happened here is that, upon discovering that the white suburbs of Memphis did not contain enough people to constitute a congressional district, the gerrymanderers simply decided to also include the white Nashville suburbs. That Nashville is halfway across the state didn't seem to matter at all. And once you've gone that far, why not throw in Clarksville while you're at it? THE "LIGHTNING BOLT"NORTH CAROLINA'S 12thBy combining the African American enclaves of several cities (Charlotte, Winston-Salem, and Greensboro), the district has the second-highest minority population of any of the state's districts. However, it has far fewer minorities than when it was first created in 1992. The original district, called "political pornography" by the Wall Street Journal, was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1996, at which point it got wider and shorter, but still retained the essence of its ridiculous appearance.