Stealing America: Vote By Vote

Posted August 14, 2008 in Film

When the votes were tallied, Al Gore won Florida. Of course, as we all know but have too soon forgotten, five Supreme Court justices halted the recount—the most overt abuse of democracy in a decade of shady elections. Until 1996—the rise of the Republican Right— exit polls were accurate within 1.5%. Now, ballots versus what voters say they just put on those ballots are wildly off the mark, as much as 7% for Gore and 6% for John Kerry. Dorothy Fadiman’s documentary doesn’t prove what changed; like a game of Clue it puts forth a dozen suspects and their weapons from Florida congressman Tom Feeney who paid a computer security expert to learn how to hack voting machines, Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel who revealed after his shock win that he owned the election computers, and Diebold CEO Warren O’Dell who in 2003 infamously promised he was “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president.” And he did, aided by touch screen machines that selected Bush no matter how precisely voters—including Democratic senator Bob Hagan—pushed Kerry, and polling lines as long as 11 hours in student and black neighborhoods. In a just democracy, why is the average wait time for whites 18 minutes and blacks 3 ½ hours? And why if these are random errors does every slip benefit Republicans? Fadiman’s film is amateurish but thorough with the tone of an ominous filmstrip. (Peter Coyote’s narration has the smack of Robert Stack.) It taps into the thrumming fear many have felt since they left work whistling to a projected Kerry win and woke up to a Bush presidency. Right-wingers will cry “Paranoid!” and Fadiman can’t resist a mournful oboe over Kerry’s premature concession. But should we demand more neutrality from a film than we do of our elections? (Amy Nicholson)



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