Home>Highlight>Here’s how the father of gerrymandering lost New Jersey

Former Vice President Elbridge Gerry, the father of Gerrymandering. (Image: Massachusetts Historical Society).

Here’s how the father of gerrymandering lost New Jersey

By David Wildstein, July 17 2021 12:01 am

Today is the 277th anniversary of the birth of Elbridge Gerry, the father of gerrymandering.

While serving as governor of Massachusetts, Gerry approved the creation of some oddly-shaped State Senate districts that helped drive the old Federalists out of power.  One district was said to be shaped like a Salamander, which led to the term Gerrymander.

Gerry became James Madison’s running mate in the election of 1812, but their ticket lost New Jersey.

After Federalists won control of the New Jersey Legislature, they changed the law so that members of the Electoral College would be chosen by legislators rather than directly elected.   New Jersey cast it’s eight electoral votes for DeWitt Clinton, the mayor of New York City.

Eleven municipalities voted for their electors anyway: Egg Harbor Galloway and Weymouth in Atlantic (then part of Gloucester); Deerfield, Hopewell and Millville in Cumberland; Gloucester Township in Camden (then part of Gloucester); Kingwood and Tewksbury in Hunterdon; and Hardyston, Vernon and Wantage in Sussex.  Madison won each of those towns.

Gerry died in 1814, during his second year as Vice President.

A political cartoon from the Boston Gazette on March 26, 1812 is an early reference to gerrymandering, a combination of then-Gov. Eldridge Gerry and a legislative district that looks like a salamander. (Image: Smithsonian Institution).
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