Thursday, February 8, 2018

LWVGH will be presenting an informative discussion, lead by Tufts University Professor Mira Bernstein about gerrymandering, a practice intended to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating district boundaries. According to Wikipedia, 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). This practice, which is used by both Republicans and Democrats is unfair to all voters, even those with questionable judgment.

Most of us have been painfully aware of this happening in the last election.

According to, “Gerrymandering, the politicians’ practice of drawing district lines to favor their party and expand their power, is nearly as old as the republic itself. Today, we see it in Ohio’sLake Erie Monsterand Pennsylvania’sGoofy Kicking Donald Duck.‘”

Elbridge Gerry, the governor who signed the bill creating the misshapen Massachusetts  district, was a Founding Father: signer of the Declaration of Independence, reluctant framer of the Constitution, congressman, diplomat, and the fifth vice-president. Well-known in his day, Gerry was a wild-eyed eccentric and an awkward speaker, a trusted confidant of John Adams and a deep (if peculiar) thinker. He could also be a dyspeptic hothead—a trait that got the better of him when he signed the infamous redistricting bill.

[In 1812] the Democratic-Republicans, who controlled the legislature, redrew the state’s Senate districts to benefit their party. Until then, senatorial districts had followed county boundaries. The new Senate map was so filled with unnatural shapes, Federalists denounced them as “carvings and manglings.”

The word “gerrymander” was coined at a Boston dinner party hosted by a prominent Federalist in March 1812, according to an 1892 article by historian John Ward Dean. As talk turned to the hated redistricting bill,  illustrator Elkanah Tisdale drew a picture map of the district as if it were a monster, with claws and a snake-like head on its long neck. It looked like a salamander, another dinner guest noted. No, a “Gerry-mander,” offered poet Richard Alsop, who often collaborated with Tisdale. (An alternate origin story, which Dean found less credible, credited painter Gilbert Stuart, famed portraitist of George Washington, with drawing the monster on a visit to a newspaper office.)



To learn more, we urge all concerned citizens to attend this event!


DATE: February 8, 2018

TIME: 6:00 – 8:00 PM

PLACE: Haverhill Public Library, Johnson Auditorium
99 Main Street
Haverhill, MA 01830