A prerequisite for holding any election is deciding who’s going to vote where. This is usually done by drawing geographical boundaries. Contrary to what we’re told and how the lines dart all over the map, the drawing of borders is anything but indiscriminate. In fact, the most common dirty trick used by opportunists to steal an election is to subvert the necessary process of districting and redistricting. Unscrupulous political parties draw district lines, often in seemingly nonsensical shapes, in order to flagrantly affect voting results and guarantee their candidate’s win. This is gerrymandering, a word coined in 1812 when, to suit his own political purposes, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry crafted a district that looked like a salamander.

How powerful is this border-drawing stuff? Incumbents in the U.S. House of Representatives use tactics such as packing, cracking, and kidnapping to ensure a 98% retention rate. So even though we still get to speak up, when what we’re saying doesn’t suit the tyrants’ needs, they shuffle us around so we drown each others’ voices out. Regardless of the short-term gain, it’s a net loss for all of us, as the ultimate effect of gerrymandering is to further dilute our collective say in how our government is run.

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