Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections

We are all consumers of democracy. Or, at least, we think we are. David Earnhardt’s “Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections” makes a convincing case that voter fraud has been rampant in the last four elections, making U.S. elections worse than elections in many third-world countries. Except that in the U.S., nobody was paying attention.

Since 2000, many states have used touch-screen voting machines, mostly produced by Diebold, that produce no paper trail of the votes. In other words, the voter has no guarantee that the vote on the screen is the vote recorded. And there is some pretty solid evidence that many votes are not recorded and that others are fabricated out of thin air. In an Ohio county, districts with a few hundred people were recording thousands of votes for one candidate. In Florida, numerous counties reported more votes for president than there were voters. This takes either extremely shoddy code or intentional tampering.

None of this should be surprising to anyone with a television or access to the outside world. Voting irregularities were widely publicized in the 2006 elections, and since many states are still using the same machines, we can expect more of the same next fall. “Uncounted” makes a strong case that touchscreen machines should print out a receipt for the ballot box so that voters can be sure their vote is being counted correctly.

On the other hand, the movie also convinced me that the only result the creator would consider fair would be one in which the Democrats won by a landslide. This is unfortunate, because many viewers will shut their minds to the problem due to the blatant partisan slant of the film. That partisan slant was reflected in the audience at the Riverview Theater (which, annoyingly, but consistent with its 40s decor, refuses to accept plastic money). The audience booed, hissed (seriously, who hisses anymore?), and yelled through the entire movie.

As a work of documentary film, the movie was pretty awful. It looked like an amateur documentary you might see on Google Video, but without the edge or creative skill. I do not mean image quality, I mean dull, repetitive transitions, boring interview framing and backgrounds (i.e., none), and a numbing soundtrack.

What is worse, you must pay to see the movie. While the creator does not mind using high-sounding ideals to publicize his movie, you still have to pay $19.95 for a copy of the DVD. If he were serious about putting the issue out there, I would expect him to upload it to Google Video or Revver at the least, or hopefully offer a Bittorrent download. Supporters would still pay, but everyone could benefit from the information.

To summarize: persuasive movie in a clumsy, partisan package. Research the issue and take action to protect the right to vote, but wait to see the movie until it hits Netflix.