This passage explains the origin of the word "gerrymandering."

Lexile Level: 1030L

Categories: History

The United States Congress is composed of two types of legislators: senators and representatives. Each state has two senators who are voted into office in statewide elections. However, the number of representatives a state has depends on its population. There are 435 representatives in Congress; each comes from one of the 435 congressional districts in the country. Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau releases updated population statistics that are used to determine how many representatives a state receives. Each state then redraws its map of districts to reflect the new data. Sometimes these maps take strange shapes as the political party in power in the state legislature tries to include as many of its supporters as possible in the new districts. This process of redrawing congressional districts for political ends is called "gerrymandering." The term was coined to ridicule Elbridge Gerry, the governor of Massachusetts, who in 1811 approved an election district that reportedly resembled a salamander.


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