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Gerrymanders: How Redistricting Has Protected Slavery, White Supremacy, and Partisan Minorities in Virginia, Brent Tarter

Reviewed by Chad J. Kinsella

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One of the key results of the 2020 U.S. Census will be the redrawing of congressional, state legislative, and local government districts across the country. The drawing of these districts, especially by partisan bodies such as state legislatures, will inevitably lead to debate and accusations of gerrymandering—the purposeful drawing of legislative districts for political gain. Gerrymanders: How Redistricting Has Protected Slavery, White Supremacy, and Partisan Minorities in Virginia, by Brent Tarter, discusses the history of gerrymanders in Virginia, even before they were known as such, from the colonial period to the present. It is a timely addition to the literature on gerrymandering and provides rich historical background on the practice.

Although gerrymandering and gerrymanders will always be associated with Elbridge Gerry and his irregular drawing of maps in Massachusetts, this book points out that gerrymandering happened in many states, especially Virginia, and is older than the republic itself. The historical analysis examines a host of gerrymandering tactics employed by elites in Virginia, first by slaveholders, then by those interested in continuing wealthy white dominion over the state,

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