In Brief

Maps of Gerrymandered Districts Are Turned Into a Typeface

The font “Gerry,” created by two Chicago-based digital creatives, renders maps of gerrymandered districts into letters of the alphabet as a commentary on the “eroding of democracy.”

The new Gerry font (courtesy of Ben Doessel & James Lee)

Gerrymandering, the practice of drawing the boundaries of electoral districts to unfairly benefit one political party, is one of the most blatant maladies of American politics. To protest this phenomenon, Chicago-based digital creatives Ben Doessel and James Lee released a new font, named “Gerry,” that renders maps of gerrymandered districts into letters of the alphabet.

“To ensure the eroding of democracy isn’t an issue that is lost in the news cycle, our design team from Chicago concocted a creative way to keep our warped voting districts top-of-mind,” the font’s creators said in a statement. “What looks like a ‘G’ is really the 4th Congressional district of Ohio, the ‘E’ is actually Missouri’s 6th district, and so on.”

“We’ve got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around.” – President Barack Obama in his 2016 State of the Union address, written in Gerry

Doessel and Lee both work at the Chicago offices of the international advertising firm Leo Burnett. The project is independent of the company, but it has received its blessing. Freelancer Kevin McGlone helped them create the website Ugly Gerry where the font is available for free download.

The idea came to Doessel and Lee after they noticed that their gerrymandered Illinois 4th District is shaped like the letter U. “Then after seeing other letters on the map, the idea hit us, let’s create a typeface so our districts can become digital graffiti that voters and politicians can’t ignore,” they said.

In 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court redrew the state’s districts, overturning a Republican gerrymander that skewed voting to the advantage of the party. States like California and Arizona have already terminated gerrymandering by excluding politicians from the redistricting process. In North Carolina, however, a legal battle over gerrymandered districts is still in full force. In 2018, a federal court ruled against the state’s electoral maps after finding that have been drawn in favor of the Republican party. Following an appeal filed in March 2019, the Supreme Court overturned the decision, ruling that partisan gerrymandering is beyond its authority to adjudicate on the matter. The authority to decide on gerrymandering should be in the hands of states or congress, the ruling said. The court’s 5-4 decision was dominated by conservative judges. Voting rights activists have filed another lawsuit in July to challenge North Carolina’s gerrymandering.

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