A New Nation Votes lives again

By Krista Ferrante.

The Gerry-mander.  A new species of Monster that appeared in Essex South District in January last.

For several years the New Nation Votes project existed here at Tufts. If you go here you can learn more about this project. It involves a partnership between Tufts DCA and the American Antiquarian Society. Data entry on this project has been dormant on this project since December of 2008, but it will be up and running again soon. There are currently over 18,000 elections available and once data entry is finished on the remaining states, there will be over 30,000 elections covering the span from 1787 to 1825.

I am the new Project Coordinator for A New Nation Votes and look forward to bringing the project to the next step (the digitization of almost 9000 pages of election information from elections in New York and Pennsylvania).

So why the picture of "The Gerry-mander" (which is from the March 26, 1812 issue of the Boston Gazette)? Well, Elbridge Gerry was the Governor of Massachusetts in early 1812 when the required redistricting of the Congressional districts in accordance with the 1810 Census was carried out. In order to retain power for the Republicans over the Federalists in Massachusetts, he ordered the lines drawn in the odd manner depicted in the picture, thus giving birth to the phrase "gerrymander".

This had implications at the time (Gerry was defeated by a mere 1380 votes out of over 100,000 cast in April, 1812 due to his bizarre redistricting plan, but then went on to be elected Vice-President of the United States later that year and would become the first Vice-President to die in office in 1814) and for today (the state legislatures elected next month across the country are the elected officials who will redraw congressional districts early next year based on the results from the 2010 census). The term dates back to 1812 and we have the results from the elections from that first gerrymandered district, but expect to hear the term a lot next year as well.