Journalism in the Public Interest

Video: The Redistricting Song

As part of our investigation into the reality of redistricting, we’ve created, yes, a music video.

As part of our investigation into the reality of redistricting, we've created, yes, a music video. For more on the shenanigans we detail in the video, see our Devil's Dictionary. For more on the secret money influencing redistricting, see our investigation, The Hidden Hands in Redistricting.

Video by Andrew Bean and David Holmes, Special to ProPublica

Informative! It helped me understand the tactics. Are the terms used standard terminology, or just made up for this video? (packing, cracking, bleaching, etc)

State Integrity Investigation

Nov. 2, 2011, 11:16 a.m.

This is an amazing contribution and follow-up to “Hidden Hands!” Thanks for the creative work you’re doing to help people understand how corruption can exist and thrive in redistricting practices in every state. This video going to serve as our number one go-to as we direct people from the State Integrity Investigation ( to greater resources explaining how corruption affects redistricting practices. Thanks, again for the quality and artistry ProPublica!

A partnership of, &

“Our voice” - if it is non-personal and far beyond self interests will be heard if we won’t give up but it is focused into basic humanitarian policies for every human on earth it is bound to be loudly heard by the faceless manipulators of a giant Crocodile (fake) and non-violently scare them enough to refrain from continuing the personal ugly greedy things they have done up until now..

Excellent video!  It gets the message across in a very catchy but informative manner!

This video implicitly suggests that there are fair ways of redistricting to avoid these tactics. But are there? Consider the problem of false majorities. False majorities are when a party has the minority of votes yet wins the majority of seats. Work by political scientist Douglas Amy indicates that countries using single-member districts occur roughly half the time. But countries that use proportional systems ( experience false majorities a mere 10% of the time.

Independent commissions have been another attempt. Canada has used independent commissions for their redistricting for over 50 years. But that didn’t help them in their last election. Their conservative party won the majority of seats with the minority of votes. 60% of the voters voted AGAINST the conservative party and they still won the majority.

Others have proposed strict mathematical algorithms ( This is likely an improvement, but it appears more likely that the procedure of single-member districts is inherently flawed. It’s vulnerable to false majorities and those that didn’t vote for the winner get no representation. That means minority voices are entirely excluded.

But proportional systems using multi-winner districts are immune to gerrymandering so long as they have greater than four seats. They also reduce false majorities and are far more representative. Most US state legislatures allow multi-winner districts but none currently use them. There is a federal law that forbids multi-winner districts for US House seats. Perhaps this should be reconsidered. Its original purpose was to forbid using Multi-Member Plurality which is not proportional (still common in city councils, however). But they unfortunately also threw out the opportunity to use proportional systems for their US House seats.

No doubt about it, proportional systems would end gerrymandering outright.

Steele Olmstead

Nov. 2, 2011, 12:34 p.m.

It is entertaining to see the names these cynical “reformers” of redistricting call the scurrilous tactics they use to defeat common sense district boundaries. 

I have had it.  No more corporate control of my government, by EITHER party.

Mike Pheneger

Nov. 2, 2011, 12:36 p.m.

This is great.  I’m going to work to make sure this goes viral in Florida.

President, ACLU of Florida

WOW!!!  Powerful and clear.  Posted this on facebook.

I didn’t see Philadelphia or Pennsylvania included.  Great vedeo.

fracking song > cracking song

Excellent video. Good use of different styles to grab everyone’s attention. Also very good in not stressing on any one particular party since both are guilty of it whenever either has a majority to do the redistricting. And yes, to the first commenter, these are real and actual terms used in the process and are not necessarily nice.

Well done ProPublica!

Please, give some credit to Indiana. Many state and congressional legislative districts in Indiana are as convoluted as any in the country.

Aaron, I see Proportional Representation as an atrocity, personally.  It often implies (as implemented) that candidates are interchangeable as long as they’re from the same party and—worse—in a lot of places it encodes the available parties and locks out other possibilities.  The latter is the reason minor parties are pushing for it, I think:  It puts them on the ballot even if they couldn’t get popular support.

I like the mathematical approach, but the one you cite is geometric and almost opposite of what we want.  We basically (you’ll all pardon me for thinking out loud, here, but I’m a software guy by trade, so this is an interesting exercise for me) want to use the concentrations found in census data to build “spheres” bound by distinct changes.  Where there’s a rapid drop in income or a significant change of skin color, religion, party registration, or whatever else is in the data, that’s where a district line should be drawn.

That’s why we pay the Census Bureau to collect the data in the first place, of course, and that kind of plan minimizes the chance of a minority vote being intentionally or accidentally dispersed into surrounding majority districts.

It’s also possible to add a…what’s the term the Census Bureau uses?  N-respondant/k%-dominance rule, I think it is, where you refuse a grouping in which fewer than some number of people in the group (n) make up more than a certain representation (k) of a property.  It’s usually used in security (preventing you from, for example, asking for everybody living on the same street as Bill Gates to extract Bill’s salary, which is possible since he might have so much more money than his neighbors), but the same idea can apply here to prevent a minority from getting isolated.

So we might say that we need to divide any such district (or small set of districts) where fewer than three contain 80% or more of a particular minority.

The remaining problem is what to do about minorities that live primarily along the state’s borders, since they would be “pushed out” of the districts drawn by the above rules.  I’m not sure how to handle that, since the options are to have spaghetti-strand districts (hard to get a large group behind a good candidate when he needs to cover points hundreds of miles apart) or integrate them with the nearest district (supressing their voices if the band is sufficiently narrow).  But that may be a figurative fringe case as well as literal.  I’d have to check to see how often those cases pop up.

To anyone unaware, proportional systems (PR) give representation according the amount of voter support. Example: 20% like Libertarians. Libertarians get 20% of the seats. Single-winner Plurality, on the other hand, offers us nothing of the sort in terms of fairness.

John, I don’t see candidates as interchangeable with proportional (PR) systems. The only way this could be the case would be in a closed party-list system where voters only choose a party. Even open party list systems let voters choose candidates. And with multi-winner district based PR, the focus is directly on candidates. Candidates within the same party must still show voters they are better than the other candidates—even ones in their own party. I have a hard time understanding how this interchangeability arises.

I really don’t understand the idea of PR systems entrenching certain parties. Single-member districts have completely entrenched Republicans and Democrats to the exclusion of all others. PR systems are intensely competitive because one must fight for every seat. And PR’s low threshold for election allows minority voices and parties at least a chance at getting a seat.

The idea of using single-member districts with an algorithm such as the split-line algorithm does make things easier. But I can hardly expect it to solve the inherent problems associated with single-member districts. Its automation and objectivity is about the only thing I see going for it. Attempting to deal with communities with single-member districts pulls in a nightmare of subjectivity problems still vulnerable to the inherent flaws of single-member districts.

I don’t follow how having Census data available should make us be comfortable about minority representation. Minority voices are destroyed with single-member districts no matter how you set things up. And minority-majority districts are just a clumsy way of improperly addressing the issue. PR systems handle the issue much more accurately and with more representation for everyone.

Even with Census data, there is no way to get around the problems I’ve mentioned above with single-member systems. Census data can, however, be used to draw lines for multi-member districts with PR systems. The reason it would be okay there is because when you have multi-member PR districts with more than four seats, you simply avoid all the issues associated with single member districts (see first post).

Here’s another article by Douglas Amy on how PR systems specifically deal with redistricting issues:

Also, just so it’s clear, the US used to use PR systems for numerous cities including New York, Denver, and Cincinnati (albeit with city councils). But major parties didn’t like the competition. It took the major parties decades to pass referendums to remove the system. And they were forced to use racism and red-baiting tactics. See the history here: History of PR.htm Also, Illinois used three-member districts under a semi-PR system of cumulative voting for around a century. And this was their state legislature. Three-member districts weren’t enough for minority representation, but it still moderately handled other issues. Five-seated districts would have been better.

Barry Schmittou

Nov. 3, 2011, 2:52 p.m.

Please help me get a Grand Jury to indict Obama and his Director’s for protecting Wachovia banks laundering of $378 billion for murderous drug cartels, and multiple corporate crimes Obama and Bush have protected as seen by pasting :

Bank of America, American Express Bank International and Western Union also laundered drug money and no one was prosecuted.

AIG, JP Morgan Chase, MetLife, Prudential, Unum, rigged huge bids and no one was prosecuted!!

This motion was filed in Federal Court on 9/13/11 but Judge Trauger would not appoint a Special prosecutor as I requested.

Additional evidence linked in the motion includes quotes from Numerous Federal Court Judges that prove insurance Company Doctors’ ignore life threatening medical conditions including Brain lesions and Multiple Sclerosis, cardiac conditions of many patients, and a foot that a new mother broke in 5 places.

The Judges quotes can be seen by pasting :

Multiple insurance companies are also committing identical crimes and endangering lives in five different types of insurance while Obama and Bush protected them, as seen at :

You or someone you know will be on a local or Federal Grand jury soon. Obama and Bush and many of their administrations top leaders should be indicted for multiple treasons and insurrections against the laws of the U.S. as evidenced at the websites above and their links !!

Betsy Jacobson

Nov. 3, 2011, 4:50 p.m.

I’m currently preparing a talk on redistricting and/or gerrymandering to a local group in Sandy Hook, CT, and I’d love to be able to show them the podcast above which I loved, but I don’t have all that equipment.  Can you help?

I know about packing and cracking but not bleaching.  Can I assume that this is a practise of getting rid of the African Amer. vote?

I DO understand that the redistricting procedures so popular in this country destroy the one man one vote definition of our electoral system, and in fact destroy the essential elements of our democracy.

But why oh why has Barry Schmittou chosen to use this redistricting blog to talk about banks’ laundering of drug cartels.  Is he running for something?

Barry Schmittou

Nov. 3, 2011, 5:10 p.m.


I believe the corruption including the redistricting corruption is all very intricate, organized, and connected. The destruction of lives is not even hidden anymore, and I believe it is the wickedness in high places mentioned in Ephesians 6:12

Betsy, I am surprised that you would complain about my post while ignoring the extreme destruction of lives caused by Obama and Bush protecting MetLife and other wealthy insurance companies Doctors’ who ignore life threatening medical conditions including Brain lesions and Multiple Sclerosis, cardiac conditions of many patients, and a foot that a new mother broke in 5 places.

Betsy, you could have scrolled past my comment.  I believe the agenda of complaints is to diminish from my evidence that Obama protects organized criminals, and so did Bush.

You minimized the evidence. My comment above mentions much more than Obama and his Director’s protecting Wachovia banks laundering of $378 billion for murderous drug cartels, as seen by pasting the websites listed above including :

I pray and hope someone on a Grand Jury seeks indictments, that is the reason I continue to post the evidence. (In 2005 I filed a complaint that led to the conviction of State Senator John Ford, and it took years of efforts to make that happen). Betsy, are you blinded by your allegiance to Obama and the Democrats or the Republicans to the point you can ignore the connection of all of this corruption and destruction of so many lives?

Oh, please stop this.  I never said I disagreed with you,  Barry, so stop making me out to be a witch.  Yuck.

Your comments just don’t belong in this discussion, and I DO believe you are using this blog for your own personal reasons.

That’s all.

Barry Schmittou

Nov. 3, 2011, 5:41 p.m.


I believe our world is being destroyed by the leaders of the Democratic and Republican party and the Psychopaths who own and control them.

I believe the corruption including the redistricting corruption is all very intricate, organized, and connected, and that is why I posted here.

Betsy you mentioned me posting here on this blog for personal reasons. You had a personal reason for posting so I think I should be allowed to also. You even attacked me by asking am I running for something, which I am not.

You could have scrolled past my comment.  I believe the agenda of complaints is to diminish from my evidence that Obama protects organized criminals, and so did Bush. I do not understand how you can ignore all the evidence about destruction of lives that Obama and Bush enabled as seen in my comments above.

I love all living beings, and I pray and hope someone on a Grand Jury seeks indictments, that is a personal reason I continue to post the evidence.

The main reason I post is the Bible has many quotes about seeking justice including Psalm 82:3 :

“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.”

Those are my personal reasons for posting Betsy. I have had cancer burned from one eye so it would be nice if people would help stop the destruction of many lives that I’ve evidenced here instead of complaining that I posted here.

paul: Yes, these are the standard terms used by redistricting experts.

Betsy: When minority voters are “packed” into one district, surrounding districts having fewer minorities and a larger percentage of white voters—that’s “bleaching.”

As always, we ask commenters on our site to address each other with courtesy—and we appreciate it when comments are directly related to our reporting, since this makes the comments section more helpful for all our readers.

If my advocating on behalf of a less corrupt government is a personal, so be it.

Both parties do this, but the GOP has raised the level of the game to extraordinary heights (or depths, perhaps).  Exclusionary redistricting, combined with bogus voter fraud initiatives, represent the core strategy of a party that could never win an election on the merits of it’s ideology, but only through trickery.

I’ve checked this out, and it turns out that the Republicans DO benefit more from “redistricting” than the Democrats.

Barry Schmittou

Nov. 7, 2011, 8:52 p.m.

I think I found links to an excellent PBS film description and video regarding manipulation of voting districts.

The show I saw in 2004 indicated Texas recreated districts in a way that seemed very unfair. The film description makes me think this is the right film.

Please paste :

For anyone really interested in redistricting I would recommend the video which can be purchased by pasting :

The video was so profound I remembered seeing it even though it was seven years ago.

I am a Christian, and the PBS Show I saw showed a young Republican candidate who really seemed to unfairly attempt use Christianity for political gain. That reminds me of Bush and the majority of the Republican leaders. ( the Democrats are using Christianity more now too)

The whole Republican use of religion and the energy behind the speeches in the PBS show I saw seemed very fake. The whole election process seemed very deceptive.

After 8 years of Cheney/Bush I was really hoping that Obama was genuine in his helping all and his belief in God,  but I am sorry to say that his actions make me wonder if he is really trying to do God’s will. Maybe he thinks he is; I’m still seeing a lot of lives destroyed by his Director’s protection of corporate crimes ( and Bush did the same )

I fail often, we all fail, but it is my understanding that we are supposed to try to do better and do God’s will. A Church sign said “Christians aren’t sinless but we should try to sin less” and I hope and pray that President Obama and I and all Christians will try to do that.

Most of us want to have a political party we can believe in, so I understand that most people do prefer one or another party.

ProPublica’s Ms. Beckett wrote :

“When minority voters are “packed” into one district, surrounding districts having fewer minorities and a larger percentage of white voters—that’s “bleaching.”

While that may give the minorities one district, I think I’m correct in saying the politicians use that to unfairly assure that the multiple districts with more whites will elect the candidates the minorities do not support. I believe the Republicans have done that often.

But please remember : In a Tennessee election, several people fraudulently voted using the voter registration of dead people, and that favored the Democratic candidate according to the investigation.

From what I have seen the Republicans have “raised the level of the game to extraordinary heights” as Bill wrote.

I was a Democrat all my life because I thought they helped the poor and those in need while the Republicans unjustly favored the rich, but now I believe both parties are controlled by the same corrupt influences and they are destroying our nation and world. I hope and pray that will change !!

Aaron, I do basically understand the history, but proportional voting—by definition—says that the party is more important than the candidate.  I mean, the entire premise is that the number of seats won by a party is proportional to the number of voters who cast votes for that party.  So, the candidates need to be interchangeable, since they’re appointees.

(And, in more than a few countries, that’s the evolution of proportional programs.  We could argue that “it could never happen here,” but fifteen years ago, we would’ve said that about a lot of things that’ve happened since.  All it takes here is a high bar in the number of signatures required to get your party on the ballot.)

Another problem is alienation.  Since there isn’t a vote for a particular candidate (remember, that’s the entire point), it’s easy to stack a party’s choices to benefit a special interest.  You can argue that people will vote for another party the next time, but is that really a solution for most people?

Voting by district (when well-balanced) means that the district itself at least has one person they can hold personally accountable, and they win or lose on the faith of their neighbors.

My point regarding the Census is that it asks the question it does specifically to sort us for districting.  We can argue whether it asks the right questions, and I think that’s an important thing to discuss, but we fund the process specifically to guide the lines.  If it’s not being used for its purpose, then that’s a problem.

Personally, I’d overwhelmingly prefer direct democracy and an end to what’s increasingly viewing itself as an aristocratic class (whose extravagant lives we fund), but I also have been convinced that’d be a massive undertaking.  Well-drawn districts seem to me to be the next best thing.

Points VERY well taken, John.  I do believe in direct democracy, so forget districts, forget who can win based on population groupings and definitely forget the Electoral College which was designed to eliminate all but the elite voting public.  How on earth people figured that the Electoral College was an act of democracy, I’ll never know.


“Aaron, I do basically understand the history, but proportional voting—by definition—says that the party is more important than the candidate.  I mean, the entire premise is that the number of seats won by a party is proportional to the number of voters who cast votes for that party.”

John, you’re still mistaken on PR systems equating to party. I specifically referred to multi-member district PR systems. Examples include STV, Cumulative Voting (semi PR), and other modern systems such as Proportional Approval Voting, Reweighted Range Voting, and Asset Voting. There is no voting for party in any of these systems.

Also, the very link I mentioned on the US history with PR systems uses a system that is completely unaffiliated with party (STV) ( ).

An example like 20% of the votes = 20% of the seats for a party is a simple way to make PR systems understandable for those unfamiliar. PR systems work out to give ideological representation in proportion to votes. Parties are not necessary in order to achieve this. PR systems work perfectly fine with Independent candidates, for example.

And, as a reminder to those just reading this, PR systems COMPLETELY ELIMINATE gerrymandering when you use PR systems with at least 5-seated districts or completely at-large legislative bodies. See here:

With PR systems, there are no such phrases such as cracking, packing, kidnapping, and hijacking. Single-member districts are an inherently flawed approach.

This song says a lot!  It reflects too much of my experience here in Texas over the past year.

Testimony at redistricting hearings is ignored by politicians. The most common testimony is some version of “do not cut up my” neighborhood, city, or county.  That is followed by requests that districts be compact with boundaries that are easy to understand. But what has been the result?  Just look at the Texas gerrymandered maps submitted by the Legislature!  The map approved by the federal courts is only a small improvement.  In a state with 55% of the population who are minorities, other than Anglo non-Hispanic. we have only 36% of the 36 districts that are minority majority in the map approved by the legislature.  How is that fair?  Only people who do not understand the difference between voting and redistricting would say that has any potential to be fair.

The final answer is what Dallas, Florida and about a dozen other jurisdictions did by creating web sites where citizens are encouraged to create their own maps for submission.  Such maps then need to be visible online to the public, with all related demographic and compactness data, so all maps can be compared.  The result will be an intense public anger over the gerrymandering that, with computers, has become gerrymandering-on-steroids. As the public understands gerrymandering, they will demand that the power of their vote be restored!

See to see some of the terrible problems with the Texas Congressional Maps that were either approved by the Legislature, or mandated by the courts.  Texas has a lot of work in front of it.  With the power of online mapping, a solution is in sight.  Public involvement is the only answer!

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:

Redistricting: How Powerful Interests Are Drawing You Out of a Vote

How secret money and power interests are drawing you out of a vote.

The Story So Far

Redistricting should be a way of ensuring your vote counts. If all districts have roughly the same number of people in them and are drawn to respect natural communities—neighborhoods where people share a heritage, work in the same industry, or just generally feel tied to their neighbors—voters have a chance to be represented by politicians who represent their areas’ collective interests.

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