Recently, I had a project involving studying the history of redistricting and gerrymandering.

In my studies, I came across what appears to be a particularly common aphorism in redistricting academia. It generally takes the approximate form of “gerrymandering means that it’s not the voters picking their representatives; it’s the representatives picking their voters!”

I was curious as to when and where this phrase originated, due to its ubiquity in its particular niche.

However, I was unable to find any research dating the phrase, and a somewhat exhaustive Google search (done by moving the latest search point further into the past) turned up as the oldest source I could find: a FairVote article from early 2001 that says that with at-large elections, “[p]oliticians are not permitted to choose the voters, and the evils of gerrymandering are conveniently avoided...”

However, this answer is not definitive by any means, and I would like a more definitive answer than “Google says so”. So, can anyone help me find the origin of this quote? Anything would be helpful.

By the way, if this question seems a bit out of place here, I would like to note that I already put it on English Stack Exchange. A user effectively stated that the question was out of place there because it mentioned something political. I disagreed, but arguing the point didn't seem worth it to me.

(Note, I am not seeking the origin of the word "gerrymander", I am well aware of that.)

  • I have no idea what the answer is, and I would have expected it to be on topic at English.SE, but it's certainly on topic here.
    – Bobson
    Aug 3, 2020 at 23:15
  • Good thing I re-read. At first I thought you were asking for the origin of the word "gerrymandering."
    – user29681
    Aug 6, 2020 at 5:18
  • You and everybody on English.SE. Aug 6, 2020 at 13:52
  • 1
    @LieutenantZipp I am a regular contributor on English Language Users, more so than I am here. And I can see why you may have been having problems. Clearly it doesn't belong there but here on Politics. I have broken the text up into paragraphs and highlighted key aspects. Hopefully that should prevent people like me misunderstanding the question.
    – WS2
    Nov 7, 2021 at 21:05
  • 2
    I have also upvoted it as a very worthwhile question to ask.
    – WS2
    Nov 7, 2021 at 21:12

1 Answer 1


A candidate:

Lectures delivered before the American Institution of Instruction, Boston, August, 1841, pg 186

The young should be prepared , by their education , to choose their rulers , and not be left in such ignorance as that the rulers shall choose their voters .

  • @AShelly While not strictly about gerrymandering, this is definitely the same general idea, and this is an old enough quote that I feel no qualms about accepting it. Aug 4, 2020 at 0:30

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