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CNN PRESENTS

CNN Presents: Gerry-Rigged

Aired November 26, 2011 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT (on camera): This is Independence Hall, the birthplace of our American form of government. And for us, the starting point for our journey into why so often that government is failing us now.

I've been asked to do a report on gerrymandering. What do you think about gerrymandering?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think gerrymandering is a great guy.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): These are people lined up to see the Liberty Bell.

(On camera): What do you think about gerrymandering?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't really know him.

GRIFFIN: How about you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

GRIFFIN: Do you know anything about gerrymandering?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never heard of him.

(LAUGHTER)

GRIFFIN: It's actually the way politicians draw up congressional districts into weird-looking shapes so they can protect their own seats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): We brought along these inkblot cards as examples.

(On camera): What does this look like to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like California coastline?

GRIFFIN: Just tell me what's the first thing that comes to mind.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, a skyline.

GRIFFIN: And how about this one?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Haven't a clue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A dragon.

(LAUGHTER)

GRIFFIN: A dragon? Very good. Do you know these are U.S. congressional voting districts?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was going to say that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's what we were going to say next.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were going to say that next.

GRIFFIN: Right after dragon.

We call this Gerry-rigged. It's the way politicians in both parties draw congressional district lines to protect their own seats. By packing them with the voters they want. Not what you might want. Some examples in the hour ahead.

(Voice-over): A narrow grassy strip drawn by Democrats as the connecting point for one gerrymandered district in Illinois. In North Carolina, Republicans use the width of this river to help design a district crammed mainly with black voters.

In California, it was a citizen's commission, which used this narrow sandy beach to tie together parts of another district.

Republicans and Democrats alike have been drawing weird districts like this going back some 200 years.

(On camera): The results, when both parties can create safe seats for politicians, voters have less influence over what happens in Washington. When you ask, why Congress is so badly gridlocked, so unwilling to compromise, gerrymandering is one of the answers.

(Voice-over): In Chicago, squeezed between two freeways this narrow strip is needed to connect two halves of a gerrymandered district to keep it continuous as is required.

(On camera): This is the way Congress gets around the contiguous rule because there's obviously nobody living here. I mean, unless they're homeless people, I guess. Anybody here? Any congressional voters out there?

This is Illinois' 4th District. Stand it on end and what does it look like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ear muffs?

GRIFFIN: Luis Gutierrez has been the congressman here for almost 20 years.

REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (D), ILLINOIS: There's one part and another part, and you stay protected. And you stay together.

GRIFFIN: The district was drawn to give Hispanics a seat in Congress.

GUTIERREZ: Shouldn't the Congress of the United States be a reflection of the city of Chicago?

GRIFFIN: Gutierrez ticks off what he says is an Irish district, a Polish district, a Jewish district. Three black districts.

This is the map for those Chicago districts, all held by Democrats with irregular lines. Odd connecting points. Back in the earmuff strip.

(On camera): Here comes a tractor. He's leaving the 7th. He is in the 4th congressional district right now. He's going through the 4th congressional district and he has entered the 5th congressional district.

GUTIERREZ: The problem is that the history of the city of Chicago hasn't been circles, right? Or squares. You know what they've been? They've been black, they've been Latino, they've been white.

GRIFFIN: And the congressman is actually right. Having grown up in Chicago, that's the way it was. It's a racially divided city, divided almost by streets. You can cross through a viaduct and the color of people just changes like that. It's always been that way.

Black neighborhood. Hispanic neighborhood.

(Voice-over): In his pass panic district, Gutierrez is usually re- elected with 75 percent of the vote or more. For other Democrats around him, it can be as high as 85 percent.

Mary Shafsma of the League of Women Voters.

MARY SHAFSMA, THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS: This is my district. And they -- and they say that. This is my district.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Consider this. In the last decade, 78 percent of all the seats in the House did not change party hands, not even once. That's nearly four out of five congressmen in safe seats year after year after year.

(Voice-over): David Wasserman is the "Cook Political Report's" redistricting expert.

DAVID WASSERMAN, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Well, we currently rate less than 20 races as tossup.

GRIFFIN: Only 20 swing races next year out of 435 seats in the House.

WASSERMAN: Americans really are between the ideological 40-yard lines but the districts aren't and that's part of the reason Congress is so polarized.

GRIFFIN: A result of district lines drawn to protect incumbents in both parties.

WASSERMAN: In general elections it's almost rigged.

GRIFFIN: Every 10 years after each census, Congress is redistricted as our population grows and shifts. That is what is going on now all across the country. Even in states with the same number of seats as before. These are the states, which will gain seats. These states will lose.

Republicans control the process in red states. Democrats in blue. The rest are nonpartisan or divided control.

In Illinois, Democrats pushed through their new map over a holiday weekend. Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a Republican.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Basically, there's five new Republican freshmen. A lot of those people are going to be wiped out in this map.

GRIFFIN: This fading billboard is about all that remains of freshman Adam Kinzinger's district. These farmlands were redrawn into Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.'s majority black south side Chicago district.

That includes Kinzinger's home in small town Manteno, Illinois.

To run for re-election next year, Kinzinger will have to move somewhere else. Hastert is helping lead a GOP lawsuit in federal court to try to overturn the Democratic map. One fourth of the people in Chicago's Cook County are Latino now and Hastert's lawsuit says they deserve two seats. Not just the one Gutierrez has for himself.

HASTERT: That hasn't been done to preserve the territories of some Democrat congressmen that are already there.

GRIFFIN: But the nation's highest court has already said, no more political complaints.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This case is the biggest Supreme Court case that no one has ever heard of.

GRIFFIN: CNN legal expert Jeffrey Toobin.

TOOBIN: Basically what the Supreme Court said was, if you Democrats and you Republicans want to go out there and fight about redistricting, we are not going to get involved. That is not the place of the courts. We will get involved if race is being abused in that process. But if it's just politics, we're staying out of it. Redistricting is a partisan enterprise. Always has been. And we're just not going to get involved.

GRIFFIN: This is Marblehead, Massachusetts, where gerrymandering was born. The namesake of this man but mispronounced. It should be --

WAYNE BUTLER, TOWN HISTORIAN: Gerry with a hard G.

GRIFFIN: As governor two centuries ago, Gerry drew weird districts like this with the state legislature.

Town historian Wayne Butler.

BUTLER: It has a head like a dragon and has two claws. Marblehead is the bottom claw.

GRIFFIN: Here in Chicago, you'd think they'd know all about gerrymandering. Not necessarily so.

Outside Wrigley Field, during a Cubs game. We ran in to this peanut vendor.

(On camera): Ever heard of gerrymandering?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. What is he running for?

GRIFFIN: What's he running for?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

GRIFFIN: Nothing right now. That's you? Gerrymandering?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that you, Mr. Gerrymandering?

GRIFFIN: No, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.

GRIFFIN: Have fun. Take it easy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.

NARRATOR: Coming up, jamming black voters together to whitewash other districts.

SEN. DAN BLUE (D), NORTH CAROLINA: It's just a concerted effort to ghetto-ize the black vote in North Carolina.

NARRATOR: A deepening racial divide in the politics of the south. Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN (voice-over): In small town Mt. Airy, North Carolina, businessman Bruce Springthorpe use his company's computer system to redistrict the people of his state.

I don't know what party they're part of, I don't know what age they are, how much money they make, whether they're black or white or Hispanic, or Native American. It just draws the lines.

GRIFFIN: No squiggly lines here.

SPRINGTHORPE: The trick is to get as compact as possible. In other words, you want ideally a square.

GRIFFIN: What happens if two incumbents wind up in the same district?

SPRINGTHORPE: Let them fight it out.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Beg your pardon?

SPRINGTHORPE: Let them fight it out.

(LAUGHTER)

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Springthorpe submitted his congressional map at this public hearing. And was ignored. This year, Republicans won control of the North Carolina legislature for the first time since right after the Civil War. They hired a GOP expert from Washington to draw their map.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All in favor say aye.

GRIFFIN: And rammed it through on a party line vote.

(On camera): Remember that grassy area between the two expressways up in Chicago? Well, this is another one of those weird redistricting designs that screams gerrymandering. Behind me is the Cape Fear River here in North Carolina. And just upstream is a connecting point no wider than this river.

The water here is the only link to the second half of the district, farther downstream. Politicians used it to cram in as many blacks as possible in to just a few congressional districts. Keeping the rest of the districts mostly white and predictably Republican.

Democrat David Price is the incumbent here.

REP. DAVID PRICE (D), NORTH CAROLINA: They're even splitting precincts to include the black population in one district and purge them from another. I think that's atrocious.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Ask him what his new 4th district looks like --

PRICE: The district resembles Vietnam some say. Others say Italy but it's --

GRIFFIN (on camera): A boot?

(LAUGHTER)

PRICE: The boot.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): This is the actual shape of the new district. The southern half was extended down to Fayetteville to bring in another 100,000 voters, most of them black, most of them Democrat.

By design, Republicans crammed almost half of all the African-American voters in North Carolina in to just three of the state's 13 congressional districts. Resegregation is the word the NAACP and others are using.

State Senator Dan Blue.

BLUE: It's just a concerted effort to ghetto-ize the black vote in North Carolina.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Is this just power politics or is this racism?

BLUE: It's racism and it weakens the country.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): There is a racial divide today in the politics of the south. Ninety-five percent of all registered Republicans in North Carolina are white, 96 percent of all registered blacks are Democrats.

In the five Deep South cotton belt states, from South Carolina over to Louisiana, there are only nine Democratic congressmen left. Only one of them is white. He's from Savannah, Georgia, and Republican redistricting in that state has just taken his home city away from him.

WASSERMAN: It's possible there won't be a single white Democrat remaining from the Deep South by 2013.

GRIFFIN: The brutal police beatings of these Civil Rights marchers in Selma, Alabama, led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It guarantees blacks an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. But when blacks are jammed in to districts of their own, Republicans benefit.

WASSERMAN: Well, redistricting has helped whitewash a lot of the districts surrounding African-American majority seats.

GRIFFIN: Democrats in North Carolina now have seven seats in Congress, Republicans six. Next year, the GOP could win as many as 10 seats.

State Senator Bob Rucho led this redistricting victory.

(On camera): Aren't you guys just really stacking the deck for the next 10 years to make these secure Republican seats?

SEN. BOB RUCHO (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Well, not really.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): He says Democrats could be competitive.

RUCHO: They have a chance of winning every one of those 10 elections.

GRIFFIN (on camera): From the outside, this looks like pure political grab. And the Republicans of this state using the Voting Rights Act to justify the redrawing of the map.

RUCHO: I don't agree with your premise, on your question. Because we are not using the Voting Rights Act to do anything. We're following the law. GRIFFIN (voice-over): Black incumbents hold two of the districts packed with blacks. The third such Democrat seat is that of David Price. Thought to be safe until now.

On Halloween weekend, a neighborhood party in this confederate cemetery in Raleigh. A mermaid out of water. A tortoise and a hare. And Democrat Congressman Brad Miller --

REP. BRAD MILLER (D), NORTH CAROLINA: How are you doing?

GRIFFIN: -- munching and mingling with constituents.

Ten years ago, when Miller helped draw the lines the state gained a seat. Miller ran for it and won. This year, with the GOP in control, roughly 100,000 voters, many of them black, were moved out of this side of Raleigh and made it part of Price's district. Along with Miller's own home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to have us a primary?

MILLER: We might. We might.

GRIFFIN (on camera): If you look at this very cynically, the strategy is put you two against each other and one kills the other one off?

MILLER: Sure.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): A race certain to be closer than the contest between the tortoise and the hare leading Republicans to relish one bit of Bruce Springthorpe's philosophy.

SPRINGTHORPE: Let them fight it out.

(LAUGHTER)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Just ahead, reform takes root in California.

KATHY FUNG, COMMON CAUSE: You can't draw lines to favor parties, incumbents or any candidate.

NARRATOR: But is it working?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought we were finally going to put an end to the gerrymandered districts of the past.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN (voice-over): As in so many other states, even here in sunny, free-spirit California, voters had become disenchanted. Year after year, election after election, locked in congressional district lines meant the same old politicians were being elected the same old way.

FUNG: I hate to say that your vote doesn't count.

GRIFFIN: Kathy Fung of California's Common Cause.

FUNG: I think for the large part congressional elections in California were already rigged to have a certain outcome.

GRIFFIN (on camera): So your vote really didn't count.

FUNG: In terms of determining the final outcome, it didn't count.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): In fact, the 2001 map kept so many incumbents safe only one of California's 53 congressional seats changed party hands in the past decade.

FUNG: It just really opened my eyes to how wrong that old process was.

GRIFFIN: So California set out to change things and voters did. Passing two amendments which essentially took the power to draw lines out of the hands of the politicians and put it in to the hands of the public. And Independent Citizens Commission.

Dr. Mike Ward, a political novice, was among the 14 members.

DR. MIKE WARD, INDEPENDENT CITIZENS COMMISSION: I saw it as an opportunity to change the entire landscape of California politics.

GRIFFIN: Fung helped lead the voter drive for reform.

FUNG: We specifically wrote in rules that you can't draw lines that will favor parties, incumbents or any candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doesn't that clearly provides favoritism to the incumbent.

GRIFFIN: The Citizens Commission held dozens of hearings around the state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The valley needs to be kept together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sixty-forty makes common for elections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These maps should be rejected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keep the (INAUDIBLE) together.

FUNG: They really sat and listened to thousands of people coming and talking about where their communities were, where the neighborhoods were.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought we were finally going to put an end to the gerrymandered districts of the past.

FUNG: The rooms were packed. You couldn't get in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for your time and consideration. GRIFFIN: Did it work? Mike Ward says a quick walk on this beach at the very end of the Los Angeles airport runway will show you it did not.

WARD: This is a great example of exactly why the commission was created to prevent. In 2001, California had what was a -- 200-mile long district known as the "Ribbon of Shame."

GRIFFIN (on camera): Look at. I mean, where are we? We're -- this is a -- this is somebody's congressional district. It's just a strip of sand.

(Voice-over): The narrow strip is needed to connect upper and lower halves of this district.

WARD: This strip of sand, I would call it a high tide district that's only there when the tide is low.

GRIFFIN: Party politics were would give way to social politics. In San Francisco and elsewhere, gay and lesbian communities were suddenly being protected and kept intact by the Citizens Commission.

PAUL MITCHELL, DEMOCRAT CONSULTANT: In here is where a lot of the gay commission is.

GRIFFIN: Which Democratic political consultant Paul Mitchell thinks is good.

MITCHELL: It would draw lines to try to protect the voting power of the gay and lesbian community. This is the first time anybody has done this nationally and it was a huge impact.

GRIFFIN: Race and ethnicity mattered even more. When the commission posted its final congressional maps like the one for this district, each map specified the percentage of Latinos and blacks and Asian Americans living there.

Latinos whose population in California is exploding gained and could win nine of California's seats next year. And even though the black population in Los Angeles County is shrinking, the three traditionally black districts did remain although reshaped.

The commission said it wanted to protect minority interests in part to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

(On camera): At the end of the day, wasn't the commission just the commission individual members afraid of being accused of being racist?

MATT REXROAD, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Absolutely. And you know, that's really funny because that is a big part of this process. They were worried about being accused of being racist. They chose political expediency over the true reading of the Voting Rights Act.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The commission denies race or fear of being a racist was a part of any decision.

When the final map emerged, Mike Ward was one of two members of the commission to vote against it.

WARD: There's no question that partisanship and special interests had a special seat at the table and that was reflected in the maps.

GRIFFIN: Even so, redistricting expert David Wasserman says as many as 15 of California 53 incumbents could be in real trouble this coming election.

WASSERMAN: Fifteen out of 53 doesn't sound like a lot but compared to most states it's an avalanche.

GRIFFIN: Perhaps a dozen districts could remain competitive through this next decade, a success for California by that measure.

FUNG: For the first time we're going to have congressional races where when you look at the ballot, you're going to have some interesting choices and your vote might actually make a lot of difference.

GRIFFIN: If there is one perfect example of how power has been taken out of the hands of politicians it is in the newly-formed district in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley. Howard Berman has been in Congress 29 years. Brad Sherman, 15. They have held a simmering disdain for each other separated by the carefully-drawn lines that one once accused the other of drawing to stab him in the back. Now these two nearly identical Democrats are squaring off in a fight to the finish.

MITCHELL: For most normal people you can't really even tell the difference between the voting record and the style of Howard Berman versus Brad Sherman.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Well, the only difference is Berman apparently stabbed Sherman in the back.

REXROAD: It's one had the knife and one received it.

(LAUGHTER)

REXROAD: One had the knife, one now has it. One had the knife and had it taken away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Next, these two titans on a collision course.

MITCHELL: This is going to be the most expensive congressional race this country's ever seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN (voice-over): At this Beverley Hills hotel, a fund-raiser asking $5,000 a person for this congressman. CNN was barred from attending. And his press secretary had us banned from this outside area. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My guess is hotel security once they find out may ask you to leave.

GRIFFIN: But a local reporter was allowed inside. He took these photos. The dinner raised $1.6 million.

REP. HOWARD BERMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: I'm not going to lose because I am underresourced. So I'm going to raise the money that I needed to win.

GRIFFIN: He is Howard Berman, almost 30 years in Washington, an icon known as Hollywood's congressman.

BERMAN: Today we open part two of the hearing.

GRIFFIN: Now redistricted in to a race against fellow incumbent and fellow Democrat Brad Sherman.

REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Today for the votes is because I'm the best looking candidate.

GRIFFIN: In a winner-take-all, loser-go-home battle to the end. Reporter Jonah Lowenfeld has covered both for the "Jewish Journal."

(On camera): Do they shake hands? Do they talk to each other?

JONAH LOWENFELD, JEWISH JOURNAL: I know that they have co-sponsored a couple of bills together just in recent -- in the recent past.

GRIFFIN: But those are just two names on a piece of paper. When you've ever met them when they're in the same room together.

LOWENFELD: It's a big room.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): It's not a big room any longer.

WASSERMAN: This is one of those "Clashes of the Titans" that political pundits like us love to see and incumbents hate.

GRIFFIN: Until now, Berman and Sherman had separate districts in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley even though their houses are only three miles apart. When the new maps came out, Berman found his home placed in what is mostly Sherman's district.

SHERMAN: Howard and I have talked about this and he's suggested that I move to the Ventura County seat. The fact is, he lives an equal distance from that seat as I do.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Congressman Sherman tells me that you asked him to run in Ventura County.

BERMAN: No. It's out of context. We had -- he called me when the maps came out. And we had one conversation. The problem is, our suggestion of what the other guy should do is not something the other guy is buying into. So this race may be inevitable. GRIFFIN (voice-over): The chilly relationship goes back at least 10 years, to the last redistricting in California when Brad Sherman says Howard Berman and his Democratic strategist brother Michael drew their own congressional district lines stabbing him in the back.

SHERMAN: I -- I don't know if I used those exact words. I think there's --

GRIFFIN (on camera): I think those were your words.

SHERMAN: There's a reporter who thinks they heard it that way. Let's put it like this. I don't think that Michael Berman took my interest into account.

GRIFFIN: Did the Berman brothers seek to get rid of you?

SHERMAN: They strongly fought for a plan in which I would have had a very big disadvantage, I'm sure that Michael Berman loves his brother more than he loves me.

GRIFFIN: Sherman told me that 10 years ago you and your brother drew up those districts and try to carve him out of his seat? True?

BERMAN: Absolutely not. His recollections are designed to put other people off guard but have no relationship to reality.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): In reality they both got what they wanted and stayed safe for 10 years, but not any longer. This year the new California commission redrew the lines to convert much of Berman's current district into a majority Latino district.

L.A. City Councilman Tony Cardes is already running for that seat.

TONY CARDES, LA CITY COUNCILMAN: We've never had somebody who's a Latino American actually get elected to Congress from that community. But that community is over 70 percent Latino by population.

GRIFFIN: So the result, Berman versus Sherman. Not just the names are similar.

(On camera): You're a Democrat. He's a Democrat.

SHERMAN: Right.

GRIFFIN: You are Jewish. He's Jewish. And you vote the same. What's the difference?

SHERMAN: You want a congressman where you know that if you have a problem with the federal government you can tap him on the shoulder and tell him good-bye. That accessibility is probably the single most important thing.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): In a race between two almost identical politicians, the bumper stickers aren't going to be so clear. (On camera): He's been in Congress pretty long. You have been in Congress a real long time, and both somewhat effective. Where are you going to be able to get the message across that I'm even better than him?

BERMAN: It's your last point. Both somewhat effective. If you want to get down to what we have accomplished in Congress, there's really no comparison.

GRIFFIN: And no end to this fight. The reform movement in California did not stop with redistricting. Voters made another change. Next year there will be one super primary for everybody. Republicans, Democrats and independents. And the top two vote-getters will square of again in the main election in November.

WASSERMAN: It may create situations where you have a Republican and a Republican on the November ballot or a Democrat and a Democrat.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Everyone is expecting the bitter primary race between Berman and Sherman will be a rematch come November.

REXROAD: Latino districts were drawn.

GRIFFIN: Republican strategist Max Rexroad can't wait.

REXROAD: The best part about it for me is that I get to watch a blood bath in June and then I get to watch them go at it again in November.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: When we continue, just how far will incumbents go to try to stay in Congress?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, Seattle.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Paul Matheson is jogging a thousand miles across Pennsylvania and back.

(On camera): Have you had any scary moments out here?

PAUL MATHESON: An hour ago on the other side of the guardrail, I looked over and there were three black bears.

GRIFFIN: Really?

(Voice-over): Matheson is trying to rally support for a change in his state's redistricting system.

MATHESON: Political boundaries are drawn or redrawn by the elected officials themselves and then simply as a conflict of interest.

GRIFFIN: What's missing here is any evidence of public concern. (On camera): I mean, shouldn't we, Paul, have thousands of people behind us right now if that were the case?

MATHESON: Yes. Yes. I mean, yes.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Instead, it's a long and lonely road.

MATHESON: But you're right. It's not a -- you know, "burn them at the stake" sort of urgency.

GRIFFIN: In Florida, Deirdre MacNab says reform took three quarters of a century.

DEIRDRE MACNAB, LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS: We've had this cancer in our state of gerrymandering for decades and the League of Women Voters has worked on this issue for 72 years.

GRIFFIN: In 2010, Florida, just like California, did change its state's constitution. Three million people voted for an amendment demanding that no district be drawn to protect a sitting politician or get rid of one. Politicians refused to retreat. These two Congress members on the left not only campaigned against the change but then went to court to try to overturn what the voters did.

Remember the dragon district? The lady who represents it is Democrat Corrine Brown joined in the lawsuit by Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, a Hispanic and an African-American, both with what are considered safe seats.

When their lawsuit was thrown out of court by a federal judge this fall, they quickly filed an appeal.

REP. MARIO DIAZ-BALART (R), FLORIDA: We think that it might reach all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Aren't you both just really protecting your seats?

DIAZ-BALART: No. Absolutely not.

GRIFFIN: Did I see two congressional politicians in super secure seats.

DIAZ-BALART: Right.

GRIFFIN: Super secure seats. You haven't even been contested --

(CROSSTALK)

DIAZ-BALART: No. Well, last --

REP. CORRINE BROWN (D), FLORIDA: No, no. That is not true.

GRIFFIN: Trying to save your seats.

BROWN: I'm sorry. You need to go back and do your research, sir. GRIFFIN (voice-over): We did. Brown had no opponent on the November ballot in 2004, 2006 or 2008.

BROWN: It is not about me. It is about making sure that we continue to have minority representation in Florida.

GRIFFIN: Both of them portray this as a racial and ethnic issue.

DIAZ-BALART: Among the effects would be irreparable harm to the federal electoral system including the ability of minorities to elect candidates of their choice.

GRIFFIN: We read what he said to Dale Landry of the Florida NAACP.

DALE LANDRY, NAACP FLORIDA: We disagree with that.

GRIFFIN (on camera): He's wrong?

LANDRY: He's wrong.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): In fact, the new amendment requires that minority rights be protected.

LANDRY: It helps ensure that minority voters get to elect or have the opportunity to elect folk that they want to be placed in office.

GRIFFIN: But the Florida legislature has joined the resistance, led by Speaker Dean Cannon, lawyers for the lower House, are taking part in the appeal.

(On camera): You are willing to spend taxpayer dollars essentially fighting a taxpayer supported amendment.

REP. DEAN CANNON (R), FLORIDA HOUSE SPEAKER: No. We're spending taxpayer dollars to get clarity on a rule of federal and state constitutional law.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Cannon's argument? The U.S. Constitution gives the state legislature alone the responsibility for redistricting. An argument already rejected by the federal judge. Spending public money this way has raised public eyebrows.

MACNAB: People have been outraged about it. Absolutely outraged, as well they should be.

GRIFFIN: How far will incumbents go to try to keep a seat in Congress? Well, it's 2,019 miles from Cleveland to Seattle.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: Hello, Seattle.

GRIFFIN: Dennis Kucinich flew there fearing he might be drawn out of his seat in Ohio.

(On camera): You made several trips -- I think five trips to Seattle and seem to flirt with the idea about running for Congress in Washington state. KUCINICH: Well, I receive many invitations to speak there and I've been going out there for years and to many places in the country.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The eight-term congressman speaking at Seattle's pro-marijuana Hempfest last spring.

KUCINICH: Seattle, you shook the world once. Can you shake it again? I ask you.

GRIFFIN: This was not a campaign appearance. He says.

(On camera): When you were told your district in Ohio would be wiped out you weren't even considering a race in Washington state, considering a district in Washington state?

KUCINICH: I have people asking me from a number of different states if I -- if I would consider running but I made no commitment anywhere.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): In the end, the new Ohio map put Kucinich in the same district with another Democrat incumbent. He decided to stay home and run against her.

KUCINICH: Thank you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Still to come -- the state fair in Iowa. And the rare duel between Democrat and Republican incumbents.

WASSERMAN: You put a gun to my head I couldn't tell you who's going to win.

NARRATOR: Can Iowa's nonpartisan new districting system be a model for the nation?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Hog calling. Horseshoes. Hamburger on the hoof. This is the Iowa state fair. A million visitors every year to the midway and the farm exhibits. On sale at auction, the champion steers, hogs, other livestock. In all, these teenagers will walk away with more than a quarter million dollars. But this is a pittance of what one of the closest congressional races in the country will cost here next year.

REP. TOM LATHAM (R), IOWA: Anybody need some more iced tea?

GRIFFIN: Meet Republican incumbent Tom Latham working a farm lunch tent at the state fair.

LATHAM: I'm Congressman Tom Latham.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

LATHAM: Good to see you folks. Good to see you.

GRIFFIN: Elsewhere at a farmers market, Democrat incumbent Leonard Boswell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman.

REP. LEONARD BOSWELL (D), IOWA: Hey, how are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great. How are you? You're on my list to re- elect, man.

BOSWELL: Hey, I'm glad to be on your list.

GRIFFIN: Two congressmen from opposing parties facing each other in a race too close to call. The result of a nonpartisan redistricting system in Iowa. Free of politics.

(On camera): And if the voting patterns are the same, it's 1 percent either way.

LATHAM: Right.

GRIFFIN: Is that what you're hearing?

LATHAM: That's toss-up district. Oh, sure.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Des Moines has half the voters here. It's Boswell's base and they lean Democratic. But the rest of this district in southwest Iowa is mostly rural and Republican. Small town America. The birthplace of both John Wayne and Johnny Carson.

Right now it is the only race like this in the nation. Republican and Democrat incumbents in a duel to the end.

WASSERMAN: You put a gun to my head I couldn't tell you who's going to win.

GRIFFIN (on camera): A normal election year is you get so few seats switching party hands.

LATHAM: Right.

GRIFFIN: This is going to be one of those races. This is going to be the race, money pouring in from both sides. Will this be the most expensive race you have been involved in?

LATHAM: I -- it probably will.

GRIFFIN: How much will the winner or the close loser have to raise in this case?

LATHAM: I don't know.

GRIFFIN: We've heard $3.5 million aside?

LATHAM: It's possible. GRIFFIN (voice-over): Together, $7 million.

WASSERRMAN: At some point voters would just say give me the money because $7 million can buy a lot in Des Moines, Iowa.

BOSWELL: Hello and how are you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good.

GRIFFIN: For Boswell, it will mean raising twice what he spent to survive a hard fight a year ago.

(On camera): This next race -- you spent $1.5 million I think in the last race. In next race --

BOSWELL: It's going to cost more. Yes.

GRIFFIN: Even tighter.

BOSWELL: Yes.

GRIFFIN: Costing you even more and because seats in Congress rarely turn red to D or D to red, this is going to be one of those seats --

BOSWELL: Yes?

GRIFFIN: -- where both sides are going to be jumping all over this.

BOSWELL: Well, probably so.

GRIFFIN: And are you not envious of those guys sitting in their gerrymandered districts so safe?

BOSWELL: I couldn't tell you that I wouldn't appreciate it not being so tough.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): These are the men who made it so tough.

(On camera): And you literally have a secret location that you use?

GARY RUDICIL, LEGISLATION SERVICES AGENCY: Well, I don't know how secret it is.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): If not secret, at least behind locked doors. Not even the janitor is allowed in.

RUDICIL: The legislators, they all know that we're off limits.

GRIFFIN: Gary Rudicil is the computer specialist who draws Iowa's congressional maps. He's a nonpartisan staffer for the legislature. Politicians do not get to see the maps until the very end and then it's an up or down vote. No changes allowed. That's the law here.

Iowa lost one seat in this last census. This is the old map with five seats for the past decade. Now the new map with four. The lines look regular, rare for any state. But the congressmen were left scrambling in a game of musical chairs.

RUDICIL: In Iowa, it's understood that incumbent protection is not the name of the game.

GRIFFIN: Four congressmen wound up stuck together in new districts. Which parties are they in?

RUDICIL: That I do not know.

GRIFFIN (on camera): And Gary, the fact that you didn't know that is interesting because you really don't care.

RUDICIL: No. That's correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are those all done?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): One of those congressmen was Tom Latham. His district combined with that of another Republican incumbent, so Latham moved one county south to take on Boswell instead.

(On camera): Do you like the system that they have in Iowa?

LATHAM: I do. Because -- and I honestly believe that if we had more like it around the country, that I think we would get away from some of this really partisan stuff and I think if you sit in a very safe district, a lot of times it's people ignoring the public will. They don't have to listen because they can do whatever they want to and vote however they want to. And not be held accountable for it.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Voters in Iowa do want to be heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need somebody that will watch our money like it's their own.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rich are not paying their fair share.

GRIFFIN: Leonard Boswell is holding a weekend meeting in an ice cream parlor.

BOSWELL: The squeeze on the middle class, the working class is just -- is bigger and bigger and bigger.

GRIFFIN: This looks like democracy as it was meant to be, people who know their congressmen can speak their mind and will have a real choice come next year.

So can this system solve the nation's problems with gerrymandering?

(On camera): Before you think Iowa has all the answers for the rest of us, remember this state is mostly flat. Largely square. And let's be honest. Iowa is overwhelmingly white.

(Voice-over): In a state with only 3 percent African-American population, there are no minority districts to be drawn or manipulated.

No oddities of geography to divide people. It's neither a red or blue state. Just plain vanilla.

Here the governor stands in line for lunch at the state fair like anyone else. This is the fifth term for Terry Branstad. He's been around since Iowa began non-partisan redistricting three decades ago.

(On camera): I mean, let's face it, in other states most people in Congress don't have to worry about getting re-elected. They're almost guaranteed by the districts that are drawn.

GOV. TERRY BRANSTAD (R), IOWA: I don't think that's a healthy situation. I think if you have a competitive situation, you're likely to have a more conscientious congressman that recognizes that they're accountable to aware and a lot of people are concerned that today the Congress has lost touch with reality, our nation is plowed in to this deep debt and they just seem to be out of touch with the real world.

GRIFFIN: Outside Iowa, as long as politics continues to dominate redistricting, Congress will keep on running. Much like a merry-go- round. But once an incumbent gets on, most of them never have to get off.

At the Iowa state fair, Drew Griffin, reporting.