Wiktionary tells us to “gerrymander” is:
v. To divide a geographic area into voting districts in such a way as to give an unfair advantage to one party in an election.
v. To draw dividing lines for other types of districts in an unintuitive way to favor a particular group or for other perceived gain.
Clearly this method was not undetected, as the weird outline of the electoral district cheat devised by Governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry in 1812 was ridiculed in the press. The district retained its shape, but Governor Gerry lost his job. And was, of course, immortalized by the term.
Canada attempts to prevent gerrymandering by employing (hopefuilly) non-partisan organizations to set district boundaries, but how effective this is up for debate.
Gerrymandering can be effective in winner-take-all systems like First Past The Post, a large number of voters fail to secure representation.
In order to reduce the importance of the boundary commissions in deciding our government, we need to abandon the idea that each constituency should elect one MP.
Proportional electoral systems like the Single Transferable Vote elect multiple MPs from bigger constituencies so that parties that get a fifth of the vote across five constituencies now, would get 1 out of 5 MPs from a new merged constituency.
Rather than trying to divide a town or county into equal-sized lumps, the whole town could be represented by a team of MPs who actually reflect the variety of political opinion in that town.
— Doug Cowan, Electoral Reform Society
“The Return of the Gerrymander“
In systems where parties are represented in proportion to the votes they receive, Gerrymandering doesn’t make much (if any) difference. That’s the thing: do we want a system that can be gamed by the placement of boundaries? Or are we trying to achieve representation for all.
I’m for representation.
“The Gerrymander” by published in the Boston Gazette, March 26, 1812.
Gerrymander Wheel GIF by the UK Electoral Reform Society was inspired by the Proportional Representation Society of Australia (prsa.org.au/)