Gerrymandering is a practice intended to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries. The term is named after Elbridge Gerry, who, as Governor of Massachusetts in 1812, signed a bill that created a partisan district in the Boston area that was compared to the shape of a mythological salamander. In addition to its use achieving desired electoral results for a particular party, gerrymandering may be used to help or hinder a particular demographic, such as a political, ethnic, racial, linguistic, religious, or class group, such as in Northern Ireland where boundaries were constructed to guarantee Protestant Unionist majorities. The U.S. federal voting district boundaries that produce a majority of constituents representative of African-American or other racial minorities, known as "majority-minority districts". Gerrymandering can also be used to protect incumbents. The term gerrymandering has negative connotations. Two principal tactics are used in gerrymandering: "cracking" (i.e. diluting the voting power of the opposing party's supporters across many districts) and "packing" (concentrating the opposing party's voting power in one district to reduce their voting power in other districts). A third tactic, shown in the top-left diagram in the graphic to the right, is homogenization of all districts (essentially a form of cracking where the majority party uses its superior numbers to guarantee the minority party never attains a majority in any district). The resulting district is known as a gerrymander (/ˈdʒɛriˌmændər, ˈɡɛri-/); however, that word is also a verb for the process.


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