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Need to Know, October 29, 2010: Election special edition

We have a special election edition of Need to Know this week. Our Watch List investigation focuses on efforts by both parties to control the future balance of power by controlling the way congressional district lines are redrawn. We’re also looking at the new and not exactly improved voting machines that are meant to make voting easier and more honest, along with some disquieting possibilities for what can be done with the software for these machines.

And our host Alison Stewart sits down with Salon’s Rebecca Traister and Princeton University associate professor Melissa Harris-Perry, two women who have a lot to say about how women have changed the political playing field this year.

Also this week, more advice from our new contributor Peter Sagal (host of “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”).

You can find all of Need to Know’s coverage of the 2010 midterm elections here.

Watch the individual segments:
Ballot Boxing

Ten years and billions of dollars after the Bush-Gore debacle, America’s voting system is still a mess. Machines can be hacked, votes can be stolen and voters’ intentions can’t be verified in a close race.
Drawing the lines

Need to Know investigates the fight to redraw congressional district lines, and interview two of the biggest figures in that battle: Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Harold Ickes.
A political climate

A California ballot initiative is getting national attention as the first time U.S. voters will determine policy on global warming — and out-of-state interests are spending millions to sway the result.
Rebecca Traister and Melissa Harris-Perry

In this extended web interview, Rebecca Traister and Melissa Harris-Perry join Alison Stewart to discuss whether the record numbers of women running for Congress equal progress on women’s issues.
Just ask Peter Sagal: Political debates

Need to Know’s Peter Sagal offers some helpful suggestions to candidates facing eleventh hour political debates.


  • Jnlife4646

    I am truly sorry but I have simply been unable to find much of real substance in Need To Know, and tonight’s episode is just another example. Can PBS invest in some serious, in-depth journalism, instead of the inane drivel that passes for news nowdays? It strikes me that broadcast journalism has gone the way of oil companies, financial institutions and the health care industry: GREED has become the overriding motivator, never mind ethics or principles. Honestly, I believe the media is largely responsible for the current mess the country finds itself experiencing. Had there been more factual, unbiased reporting about the issues and the newsmakers instead of the
    incessant focus on the bizarre and sensational, the electorate would be in a much better position
    to make the right choices. Obviously, there are few managers and decision makers left who are
    motivated by ethics and high standards, we’ve become a nation of lemmings.

  • Tita Monterroso

    I completely disagree with Jnlife4646 comments. PBS does a better job at unbiased reporting than other other news source in this country. Greed and the lack of honesty are the hallmarks of FOX news especially. It is a national disgrace and many newspapers are just as bad. I do fact checks and so I like PBS because they always pass unlike other news sources. Maybe the problem with Jnlife is a just a failure to face reality. In other words just like the judge in CA said to the birther Lawyer that filed suit regarding Obamas birthright, “this isn’t Alice in Wonderland, just because you want it to be true doesn’t mean that it is” Need to Know is a new show and they are doing well. They had a hard act to follow.

  • Jane

    If Fox is not telling the truth, why do they have more viewers then most of the others combined??Fox invites and listens to both parties on issues, where as other stations stick to 99% dems. From 5 till midnight on some channels it is all bashing conservatives and seldom accept any guests, who are running on the Republican ticket. PBS is the same. The new “humor” guy had to ridicule Tea Party candidates tonight so, now he fits right in. If American’s could hear the truth about candidates on all channels, maybe more folks would vote. All the negative remarks, serve no purpose and keep folks home on election day.Needs to Know, needs to know that people are very tired of your agenda

  • Me

    The portion of your episode on redistricting made it sound as if the Republicans are the only party in this country who have benefited from gerrymandering. While I do think that all states should have an independent commission, who have all their finances checked on a constant basis (so they can’t be paid off), I think that you should be careful when you credit progressives for asking for this fairness. I also think that you should be sure to look into Demo areas that are benefiting from this practice, before you demonized the Republicans.
    Additionally, I wanted NTK to know that you should not use California as a shinning example of how our fair redistricting commission came to be. We fought hard to have that commission, and now with this election we could lose it with Proposition 27. The Limousine Liberals in this state are fighting the commission, so I’m sure that you will get a call from them this morning. We are trying to expand it to include Congress, and now tons of money is being poured into 27, so that Prop 20 (Prop 11) will be overturned.
    I wish that you would look into important issues like One Citizen One Vote, because after the census is counted we will have yet another representative in our legislative branch that is representing a non-citizen. And just in case they are not counted in the census—In our state you do not have to prove your citizenship in order to register, nor do you have to show an ID to prove that you are the registered voter when you vote. Now that is an issue that you should try to tackle, before your state has to deal with it too.

  • Astounded

    Your history lesson in the piece about gerrymandering is sadly inaccurate. Governor Gerry for whom the practice is named was NOT a Republican, he was a Democrat. The fact is that the Republican Party was not even formed until 1854 and the gerrymandering term was coined by the Federalists in 1812. PBS writers do not seem to bother checking their facts, but rather assume anything with a negative conotation must be from the side they personally oppose. Any competent editor would have caught such a graring error. I now watch your reporting with a very sceptical eye, what other facts are you twisting or manufacturing?

  • James Edwards

    Astounded, in the story Governor Gerry was referred to as a Jeffersonian Republican, which was not the Republican Party formed in 1854. Jeffersonian Republicans, also known as the Democratic-Republican Party, go back to the late 18th century. In fact, a faction of Jeffersonian Republicans would later evolve into the Democratic Party, while the Republican Party of 1854 named itself in honor of Jefferson and his party.

  • Shelley Lewis

    In fact, we did NOT refer to Governor Gerry as a Republican. He was called a Jeffersonian Republican, which is correct. But even if it had been a mistake, it doesn’t automatically follow that we are “twisting or manufacturing” facts.

  • Indienews

    How can Need to Know pretend to be unbiased when you have guests that represent one and only one point of view? Alison Stewart made an attempt to ask valid questions but Rebecca Traister and Melissa Harris-Perry were peas from the same pod. And each made the obligatory cheap shot regarding Sarah Palin. (I am an independent voter, definitely a Palin fan) If they are discussing changes in female GOP candidates would it be too much to have one of those Repub. women as a guest? Do we only “need to know” a progressive point of view?

  • Indienews

    Tita, if PBS programming truly strives for objectivity we will have to insist on a variety of guests with a variety of viewpoints …. especially those we might disagree with. I appreciated topics on Need to Know but was disappointed with the seemingly obligatory digs reserved for Sarah Palin. I do not have respect for Ms. Palin’s politics but I don’t have to ridicule her to feel better about my position. Also there was a statement made that it’s good to have Republican female candidates because to be fair we need to have women to vote against. Both panelists sharing this orientation against conservatives just fuels the NPR / PBS impression of biased commentary. Publc broadcasting can and should do better.

  • WoodsSolstart

    Federalists = Republicans

  • Michelle

    I’m all out of love

  • Michelle

    I’m all out of love

  • Guest

    How could someone who co-founded Air America and who wrote the book, ”Naked Republicans: A Full-frontal Exposure of Right-wing Hypocrisy and Greed”, possibly be balanced in how she looks at the world?  Given the debate over whether PBS should be receiving taxpayer dollars at all, I find it amazing that someone with this background, who has demonstrated not only blatant liberal bias but nastiness, too boot, would be hired for such an important position.  I LIKE PBS and have tried to defend it against those who attack it for being biased.  Wasn’t there anyone a little to the right of the co-founder of AIR AMERICA(!) available? 
    Shelley when you lay your cards on the table as obviously as you have in the past, there’s no going back.  You will never be taken as an even remotely objective journalist again.  Be thankful that apparently those working at WNET and PBS don’t really care.
    I’m through defending PBS to anyone, anymore.