Copyright (c) 2008 William & Mary Law Review
William & Mary Law Review
ARTICLE: TEMPEST IN AN EMPTY TEAPOT: WHY THE CONSTITUTION DOES NOT REGULATE GERRYMANDERING
William and Mary Law Review
50 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 1
LARRY ALEXANDER* and SAIKRISHNA B. PRAKASH**
Gerrymandering is older than the republic, the first American gerrymander occurring in early eighteenth-century Pennsylvania. 1 The portmanteau "gerrymander" was coined in 1812 to describe a particularly contorted Massachusetts district, one created as part of a larger redistricting plan that Governor Elbridge Gerry had signed into law. 2 Apparently, guests at a dinner party were lamenting the contours of that particular district, noting that it looked like a lizard or salamander, when one guest exclaimed that the district looked more like a "gerrymander." 3 Ever since, "gerrymander" has been used as an epithet to describe districts that are thought to have been drawn with an eye toward furthering various agendas.
The legislators who drafted the 1812 Massachusetts redistricting plan were rank amateurs compared to the sophisticates who craft districting plans today. For some time now, legislators have used demographic data to identify, among other things, the racial background, party affiliations, and voting proclivities of residents. 4 Using these data, legislators have utilized computers to draw precise district lines in order to include certain voters in particular districts and exclude others. 5 The aim is to draw district boundaries that increase the likelihood of some electoral outcome, 6 such as more Republican (or Democrat) legislators, or more (or fewer) minority legislators.
As lawmakers have become more skilled at shaping district lines, a scholarly consensus has emerged that excessive gerrymandering is unconstitutional. 7 Racial gerrymanders might be used to divide the votes of ...
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