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Counting on Democracy cover image

Counting on Democracy 2003

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Bullfrog Films, PO Box 149, Oley, PA 19547; 800-543-FROG (3764)
Produced by Faye M. Anderson and Danny Schechter and Globalvision
Directed by Danny Schechter
VHS, color, 57 min.

College - Adult
History, Law, Sociology, Political Science, Urban Studies

Date Entered: 02/24/2004

Reviewed by LaRoi Lawton, Library & Learning Resources Department, Bronx Community College of the City University of New York

The presidential election of November 2000 will long be debated in political science classrooms, in newsrooms and among voting Americans. For 35 days, as Americans (and the rest of the world) watched and waited, a totally new vocabulary was added to the political scene: hanging chads, dimpled chads, butterfly ballots, recounts, jurisdiction of national and state Supreme Courts. Even the nation's law schools planned curriculum changes based on the events of those critical days. Students at Harvard, Columbia, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Berkeley and Stanford are already studying the Supreme Court decision, looking at the charges of partisanship in a court of law. Across the 50 states and in Congress, a plethora of legislation aimed at election reform is in the works. What are the issues? What are some possible solutions? National focus during November and December of 2000 was on the state of Florida - its 24 electoral votes hung in the balance in the midst of recounts and charges of inequity at the polls. With only 537 votes separating the Bush-Gore race, almost 180,000 ballots were thrown out of the final count. Americans and the world were stunned by what they saw.

Counting on Democracy asserts that a systematic pattern of behavior on the part of Florida's various election boards, overseen by a compromised elections department, resulted in a myriad of lost votes. What emerges is a shocking but very clear picture of political interests cynically ignoring and overriding the will of voters." There are a variety of voting methods used throughout the United States, each of which presents a number of problems:

  • paper ballot - historically vulnerable to "ballot-box stuffing;"
  • punch card - chads may not detach completely and handling may cause other unpunched chads to fall out;
  • mechanical lever - no longer manufactured and may be relabeled easily;
  • touch screen - vulnerable to "hackers" at precincts and difficult for those without computer skills to read directions and vote accurately;
  • optical scan (DREs) - bubbles not completely filled in/smudged and may not be scanned accurately.
It is a curious fact that the designer of the two-page ballot, Hart InterCivic, is a consulting firm based in Austin, Texas, and headquarters of the Bush presidential campaign. The company said it followed a format sent out by the Florida secretary of state, Katherine Harris, Florida co-chairman of the Bush campaign and a member of the cabinet of Governor Jeb Bush.

Counting on Democracy illustrates other anomalies as well. Officials in Lake County, who are Republican loyalists, ruled that a presidential ballot with two marks on it - one by the name, the other a write-in for the same candidate - was invalid, although state law allows them to be counted. The result was that 628 legal votes were discarded, votes which went disproportionately to Gore. Including these votes would have cut Bush's lead by 122 votes. Gore would have gained another 72 votes from similar double votes discarded in several smaller counties. What emerges from this video is a shocking but very clear picture of political interests cynically ignoring and overriding the will of American voters as well as a presidential election many still feel was tainted with deceit.

Highly Recommended