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Contortionist species turns 200

March 26, 2012 - Rob Weaver
It’s not really an anniversary worth celebrating, but the term “gerrymander” now is 200 years old.

March 26, 1812, the term was used for the first time in reporting the redistricting of Massachusetts state senate election districts under the governor at the time, Elbridge Gerry. Gerry had signed a bill that redrew Massachusetts districts to benefit his Democratic-Republican Party. A map of one of the districts in the Boston area was said to resemble the shape of a salamander (see illustration).

Thus, the gerry-mander was born. Or created. Or drawn. Whatever.

Anyway, the practice of drawing convoluted district lines continues to this day. That’s why Voters First, a coalition of non-partisan organizations in Ohio — including the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Common Cause — marked the anniversary by releasing a Top 10 list in response to the gerrymandering apparent in Ohio’s new Congressional and legislative districts.

The list is from the news release. The first few actually are funny.

Top Ten Reasons for Ohioans to Reject Gerrymandering

1. Ohio's new Congressional Districts now look like they were drawn using an Etch A Sketch.

2. Ohio's new 9th Congressional District is so narrow that with a good long jump, you could leap right over it -- from the 4th District, right in to Lake Erie.

3. The mapmakers put The Ohio State University and Ohio University in the same Congressional District instead of the NCAA Elite 8.

4. Taxpayers had to foot the bill for a fancy hotel room -- the politicians called "The Bunker" -- so the mapmakers could have more privacy to gerrymander Ohio's new Congressional and State Legislative districts.

5. Washington political leaders had more of a voice drawing Ohio's lines than most members of the Ohio's General Assembly.

6. Washington politicians directed the mapmakers to include Timken headquarters in an incumbent Congressman's district in order to maximize contributions to his campaign.

7. The mapmakers came up with a brand new criteria for redistricting called “Save Our Politicians Millions in Future Campaign Spending.”

8. Partisan operatives got $150,000 to help draw the maps.  Ohio's voters got the shaft.

9. Mapmakers ignored public input and protected their own political interests. Their efforts made a mockery of public redistricting hearings held across the state.

10. Congressional districts were rigged so most U.S. representatives were selected during the primary, robbing millions of general election voters of a voice.

Last year, more than two dozen nonprofit groups, including the League of Women Voters of Ohio, Common Cause/Ohio and Ohio Citizen Action, conducted a redistricting contest.  Afterward, some of the groups formed Voters First to pursue reforms that would result in fairly drawn districts.

For more details on the proposal and redistricting, visit


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