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.

  • 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 '20 at 23:15
  • Good thing I re-read. At first I thought you were asking for the origin of the word "gerrymandering." – Chipster Aug 6 '20 at 5:18
  • You and everybody on English.SE. – Lieutenant Zipp Aug 6 '20 at 13:52

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 .

  • That was the response I got on English Stack Exchange, too. I accepted it there, but I plan to wait a little longer here before accepting. I hope that's okay by you. – Lieutenant Zipp Aug 3 '20 at 23:33
  • I seem to be wrong. – AShelly Aug 3 '20 at 23:35
  • Ooh, intrigue. Well, I'm curious to see what your revised answer is. – Lieutenant Zipp Aug 3 '20 at 23:38
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    The phrase seems to have entered the lexicon in the late 90's. books.google.com/ngrams/… – AShelly Aug 4 '20 at 0:04
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    Here's a source from 1989, though I'd be very surprised if this was the first usage – divibisan Aug 4 '20 at 0:22

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