Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections (2007)

Suppose that you’re a normal, everyday moviewatcher. You’ve seen a few documentaries and now I come to you and ask you to make a documentary your own self. “Who, me?” you say, “What do I know about making a documentary?” “Just give it a try,” I say, and I say, “David Earnhardt did it. This is his first stab at making one. So, your movie will be about voter fraud, like his was. Here’s a camera. Get out there and record some interviews with the sort of folks that you see shopping every day down at the Save N’ Go Supermarket. That is, turn up some interesting folks – folks maybe just a tad peculiar in their views and in their aspect. Then Wiki some voter statistics and find some footage of voters standing in line and, I predict, you will make a movie very like Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections.”

Nothing wrong with that. The movie’s karma is positive. It’s impossible to take a step these days without tripping over an article on voter problems, so you probably won’t learn anything new, but at the movie’s conclusion, Earnhardt urges you to:

1. Contact your representatives in congress.
2. Say no to paperless voting machines.
3. Volunteer to be a poll observer.
4. Volunteer to be a poll worker.
5. Share the film with others.
6. Dialog with others on the subject of voter fraud.
7. Write letters to the editor.
8. Lobby for change.

Good and reasonable urgings for these, our parlous times.

The end credits also serve as a bibliography.

Thus endth my review of the documentary Uncounted.

But now listen. Who do you want to govern you in difficult times? A guy who can’t win an election even when he garners a majority of the legitimate votes cast, or a guy who can turn a handful of votes into a freaking landslide?

There is incontrovertible evidence in the Lascaux cave drawings that before one of the annual cave elections, the Neanderthals stole all the voting clubs and as a result soundly thrashed the Cro-Magnons. The Neanderthal who was thus elected started some unnecessary wars, flubbed local aid after the neighborhood volcano erupted, and caused the cave-dwelling population in general to seriously rethink the whole business of voting-with-clubs technology going forward.

Full disclosure: when I was in the fourth grade, the student who was to do the voice and operate the strings for the Peter Pan puppet in the big school puppet show was to be determined by student vote at an audition. Those of us trying out for the role stood behind a blanket rigged as a screen. We were to read out lines from the Peter Pan script when our number was called. The students on the other side of the blanket, once they heard all of us read, were to vote on the voice that would be Peter Pan. Before we began, I went to the end of the blanket and wrote down my number on a piece of paper and surreptitiously flashed it around the end of the curtain. We then did the readings. Turns out that the voting students didn’t like me. They all voted against the number that I had flashed. However, by dumb luck I had flashed the wrong number and won the vote when all the haters raised their hands for me by mistake. My point here is that vote rigging is rife! Whatever it takes to pull Peter Pan’s strings!

Now let’s suppose that the Republicans stole the ’04 presidential election by flipping 3 million votes, as some claim that they did. This still means that almost half the voters in the U.S. cast their ballots to reelect Bush, after four years of his presidency – after the war, Katrina, the gutting of the EPA, so forth. Can we make an argument here that fraud or no fraud, fix or no fix, if almost half the country voted for Bush in ’04, then the country as a whole deserved what it got throughout his second term? Can we make an argument that one in three citizens in America still likes George Bush and so the country richly deserves what’s coming up next as well?

And by the way, thought experiment: If Michael Moore made Fahrenheit 9/ll today instead of four years ago, how would the movie be different? Bush reading about the bunny rabbit, Katrina, the start of the war – all far in the past now. What the frack has Bush been doing the last four years that would still make Moore’s movie Cannes-Golden-Palm-worthy? If you see Moore, please ask him for me and email me his response at this address. Thank you.

If you do go ahead and make a documentary about voter fraud (votes don’t kill people, voters kill people), and if you are of a conservative stripe, the film will probably focus on voter registration fraud, which according to McCain and Palin threatens to convert the U.S. into a Soviet-style state governed by the spawn of Satan. ACORN, formerly thought of as a minor civil-rights organization, turns out to be an outfit structured along the lines of SPECTRE. If you are of a liberal stripe, you’ll want to warn all black voters that their ballots have already been cast by the central Republican Diebold computer, and that if they actually show up at the polls, they’ll probably be pulled down by Sheriff Crawford’s German Shepherds and dragged off to the county Gulag out beyond the settling ponds.

I mean, if I’m standing there in front of an outsourced computerized voting machine, I’m accepting the fact up front that anything might happen to my vote. The computer might turn it upside down, or right to left, or black to white, or flip it, or delete it, or recycle it, or email it to Kirghizistan, or use it later to have me tracked down like a dog. Far from losing my vote, the computer may never forget or forgive me for it. I’ve seen Idiocracy. Twice. Dumb is stronger than smart and I’ve got history on my side to prove it. Last but not least, there might be a little person hiding inside that machine, operating its lights and whistles. Capture that reality in your film.

And put in gerrymandering. For a nice touch, shoot the exteriors in Gerry, New York (on Route 60).

And while I’m thinking about it, what is it with all those names on the ballots? Why am I voting for a damn judge? And how was I to know that my random selection of school-board members last year would cause natural selection to be tossed out of the grade-school curriculum in favor of that divine Providence who misengineered my lower spinal disks? And what is a county adjuster anyway? Explain to the viewer the steps that should be taken to clean up these ballots. Put all these jobs up for sale.

Also, here’s a hint for you, novice documentary-maker: rather than focusing on the sins of one political party or the other, go find an election that pits two unscrupulous win-at-any-cost types against each other. Gather your information during their campaigning and electioneering, as the attendant payouts and other tricks and frauds and jackanaperies ensue. Work quietly so as to avoid being shot or otherwise disappeared while doing so – and then when the election is over, don’t fail to interview several of the folks who voted a lot – do they plan to spend their money or save it? Will they have a place in the new administration? Etc.

General guidelines:

1. Don’t make the movie in your home state or any state that borders on your home state, to minimize blowback when you screen it.

2. Never admit what you’re doing to the local populace. Your great-uncle Jeter on his deathbed begged you to come to Cletisville to visit and record memories of the town and its old – very old – family memories. Hence your camera and the interviews.

3. Adopt a rural accent.

4. Wear only togs from Walmart.

5. Buy drinks all around, frequently.

6. Never mention the election, but it’s ok to say, “So who is this Bubba Prendergast with his picture up on posters all over town?”

7. Go to church.

8. Don’t talk to anyone with a dark skin, foreign accent, or Asian eyes.

9. Keep your own eyes peeled on election day for ballot stuffing, vote buying, counterfeit votes, disappearing ballots and ballot boxes, scaring the voters, and murder.

For a historical discussion of voter fraud, I refer you to Tracy Campbell’s “Deliver the Vote: A History of Election Fraud, an American Political Tradition—1742-2004.” For an in-depth examination of how to lose a local election and then come back and win the next one, if you know what I mean, I recommend “The Path to Power (The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Volume 1),” by Robert A. Caro. It can’t be beat. For Diebold (not Livebold), Princeton University Exposes Diebold Flaws.

Contest: What’s the craziest conspiricy theory you’ve heard regarding the Bush/Gore, Bush/Kerry, or McCain/Obama election? Prize: Three votes in this year’s special coroner’s election in the town of Pigliver, Texas. (You have to cast one vote in the morning, one vote in the afternoon, and one vote in the evening, using the names Pardee, Pardeux, and Pardoo, respectively.)

Movie recommendation: When it’s all over, go watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to restore a little bit of your faith in the country.

Let me conclude this review like any good politician concludes his speeches, whether currently indicted or not: God bless America.