Nightly News   |  October 14, 2013

Gerrymandering: the recipe for dysfunctional government?

The age-old practice of politicians re-drawing Congressional districts to find friendly voters, or, gerrymandering, has allowed members of the House of Representatives from both sides of the aisle to stay in power regardless of public opinion. NBC’s Kevin Tibbles reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> earlier, this current showdown and this current government shutdown traces its history back to a determined core of gop house members who are vehemently against obama care and were willing to shut down the government because of it. these members happen to be from very conservative districts where they won by big margins, and their jobs are secure more or less. and in both parties, there are congressional districts that are set up by the states to keep the parties in power. but some believe if the system stays this way, our politics will kind of stay this way. i'll report on all of it tonight from nbc's kevin tibbles.

>> you're willing to bring this country to its knees!

>> reporter: ever wonder how we got here?

>> we did not elect a dictator. we elected a president.

>> reporter: a good many fingers are pointing at this guy, founding father and massachusetts governor el ridge gary drew this contorted district to ensure his party's victory in 1812 . one political cartoonist likened it to a salamander. from that day on the practice of redrawing maps to find friendly voters has been known as gerrymandering. north carolina 's 12th district looks like spilled coffee. pennsylvania's 16th is flexing its muscles. and one commentator compared maryland's third to a broken-winged pterodactyl. and then there is this. they call it the earmuffs. i don't may think i'm zipping along an eight-lane highway, when in fact i'm traveling the single thread that links the two halves of the illinois fourth congressional district .

>> the control of the house of representatives would switch from the democratic party to the republicans.

>> reporter: when republicans won the majority of state houses in 2010 , it ensured they would be redrawing the maps in those states. and lo and behold, it paid off in 2012 . nationwide, democrats running for congress got 1.1 million more votes, but republicans sent 33 more members to the house. but it's not just republicans who draw safe districts. democrats do it too. in 2012 , both republicans and democrats had a paltry 15% approval rating, and yet 90% of house members were re-elected.

>> we have now created a system where politicians are choosing their voters more than voter are choosing their politicians.

>> reporter: math met turners using algorithms have proposed creating electoral maps based on geography and population to eliminate the politics.

>> if we continue to have a system which allows ridiculous folks to be elected, then we're going to have a situation where government actually just literally does not function.

>> reporter: and on day 14 of the government shutdown , some may argue that's exactly what has