A Reaction, by Bryan Newbury
June 2, 2008
You might have seen a satirical Onion video this February about Diebold accidentally leaking the 2008 general election results. You might have laughed. You might have stopped to consider the likelihood of this fake news piece being, in many ways, more efficacious than hours of election coverage on mainstream networks. The laughter might have subsided when the realization hit.
For those of you who did indeed experience that, Uncounted will serve as a thought-provoking sermon to a convert. For those of you that might have, but haven’t seen it as yet, click the link. We’ll wait.
All right. Now, for everyone left outside of groups A and B (which one can only suppose fall into the ostrich camp, the third congressional district of Oklahoma, or the mainstream media), the film should serve as a wake-up call. It’s tough out there, but you’ve been hitting the snooze button for about a decade. While you were sleeping, we might have lost our democracy.
Uncounted, much like Hacking Democracy, is information dense and utterly shocking, if a bit uneven in strictly aesthetic terms. In the course of a short 81 minutes, David Earnhardt addresses the principle issues driving successful election fraud. We start, naturally, in Ohio, circa 2004. One can almost feel the tingling, as the ghosts of strongmen and box stuffers throughout the ages, from Chicago to New Orleans and beyond, simultaneously quiver with admiration and kick themselves with envy while witnessing the myriad of methods used to attain scandalous levels of voter disenfranchisement. Uncounted illustrates the oppressively long lines, the purging of voter rolls, the undervotes (more on this to follow), and, of course, the voting machines. This reviewer can relate on the latter only through the words of the eternal Viv Savage: “Quite exciting, this computer magic.”
Regarding this documentary simply as preaching to the choir is a disservice. While a preponderance of the public is woefully uninformed about election fraud, and a filmmaker could easily spend an hour and a half on the machines alone, it is a necessity to provide new information to the regular Brad Blog reader as well as the average voter. On this, Earnhardt delivers.
For starters, the 2004 election had a number of “anomalies” outside of the state of Ohio, though Uncounted does not give Ohio short shrift. Among many staggering realizations, such as the clear gamesmanship in Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Nevada, is one that calls 2006 into question alongside the obviously manufactured results of 2000 and 2004. In addition, the segment with Robert Koehler on the media’s role in the entire charade is brilliant.
The film stands out largely as a result of its highlighting the perilous nature of opposing electoral fraud in 21st Century America. Most striking is the story of Athan Gibbs, accountant and inventor behind the TruVote electronic voting system. Gibbs had a pretty revolutionary idea: provide a paper receipt to the voter in order to confirm his vote was counted accurately and that there should be some accounting within the process. Gibbs was on to something, and his support was growing. In the wake of a security scandal (largely thanks to Jones Day Law Firm employee Steve Heller) regarding California’s Diebold machines, Gibbs was on the cusp of realizing his dream by gaining contracts for his TruVote machines. Sadly, and coincidentally, we’re sure, Gibbs perished in an automobile accident days before meeting with election officials in California. Heller, for his part, was prosecuted. They serve as the tip of this iceberg, as Bruce Funk of Utah might attest.
By this point, the claim that the 2004 election was stolen has progressed from unspeakably ominous to laughably obvious. Again, the effort to make it happen on multiple platforms is staggering. Not content with old school Jim Crow lines and purges, not happy with mailings replete with false information… if you’re a Democrat, you’ll be voting Wednesday … in an effort to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s, Diebold, ES & S and whomever was in charge from the governmental wing rigged the computers. Not a tough task, as this film clearly shows. It is quite easy to be cavalier about these findings, because not all of the tracks have been covered. Though the computer is out of sight (and, it seems, mind) to the public or to any system of accounting, and even if one dismisses the statistical improbability of the exit polls being so wrong, the laugh test grade proof lies in the undervotes.
“Undervote” is an odd formulation, which basically means that a voter who has cast a ballot fails, refuses, or omits having her say on a certain race. For example, Shelly Smith of Carlsbad, New Mexico goes to the polls on election day and votes for her Representative, Senator, mayor, a few odd mill levies, but not for the President of the United States of America. Seems strange that someone would show up to vote, possibly stand in long lines (the long lines and broken machines seem to correspond strikingly with areas boasting above average undervoting margins) and go through the paces, only to abstain from deciding who the leader of the free world should be. As the film shows, as many as 80 percent of voters in certain Pennsylvania counties did just that in 2004. Odd places, those. Apparently, Mr. Kerry’s people didn’t do a good enough job of emphasizing that one should definitely vote the top line on the ballot.
The film, like so many advocacy films today, ends in a call for action. Reasonable minds can disagree on what path to take, but it seems that the best route is a campaign contribution to the candidate of your choice. Visiting with a staffer from your Representative’s office might get you a word in, and working at the polls on election day will at least give you a front seat to the shenanigans. You might even have a local or regional newspaper that isn’t in the power structure’s tank. These were suggested, and they are a start. Let’s say you’re a strong Democrat, though, and you want to buck the trend in 2008. From all evidence, your first option is to donate as much as possible to Barack Obama. In the memo line of the check, you might write “to hire a hacker.” For, if the system is equally rigged, you can alter the enumeration to your side for a change. It isn’t perfect; but, short of successfully lobbying your precinct, county and state to switch back to paper ballots, it is the winning formula. Who knows? With John McCain so far behind in his campaign war chest, we might just win this one.
A note of thanks to Lawrence’s “Films for Action,” for screening Uncounted at Liberty Hall on 2 June 2008. It is great work you are doing, and many towns should be so lucky to have you. To those of you without such an organization, please visit http://www.filmsforaction.org and take notes.
Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections
by David Earnhardt
Color, 81 minutes, 2008