How many of you have ever attended voter education sessions?
Read voter education material sent to you by your local precinct?
Decided not to vote because you didn’t read the information?
Decided not to vote because you DID read the information?
How many of you decided to vote because of political information?
How many of you decided to vote because of candidate-produced information?
How many of you have had trouble voting?
Who has ever ‘voted strategically?”
Who here is cynical about voting?
Who here is optimistic about voting?
Who here vascilates?
Tell my biographical story about why I made the film after the Presidential election in 2000.
Call it Democracy focuses on problems discovered in the 2000 election, the attempt to fix them, and the results of the 2004 election, all under the penumbra of the history of the Electoral College and Presidential elections. Breaking ground, CiD provides significant insights on mishaps of the Electoral College, including attempts to abolish or improve it and why they failed.
• CiD contains former Senator Birch Bayh’s first detailed interview about his attempt to abolish the Electoral College. He is also the framer of the 25th and 26th Amendments to the US Constitution, the first American to frame 2 Amendments since the Founding Fathers.
•CiD contains the first history of HAVA, the first major electoral reform measure passed in a generation. Indeed, the four major authors of HAVA have still never done detailed interviews and HAVA’s birth is shrouded in secrecy.
•The Bush v. Gore decision was the focus of three days of media attention before the America “moved on.” For the first time in a non-academic setting, CiD gives Bush v. Gore perspective; showing how it could be justified by some and worthy of condemnation by others.
•Few Americans are aware they do not have the right to vote for President of the United States
This content appeals to voters and non-voters, to people who are invested and aware of the permutations of the system, and those who are not. As I described in my interview for Buzzflash, “I wouldn't say that the system discourages people. I think that people understand the system and know of their ability to change it. Whether that happens or not is something else entirely.” Isn’t it apparent in the fact that battleground states have voter turnout rates significantly higher than those whose outcome is certain, regular, or outside the margin of error?
Stimulating Americans for Electoral Reform
Problem: few Americans understand the need for electoral reform of any kind. Even fewer understand the ways in which the current system perpetuates itself so that it seems impossible to change.
There is no shortage of electoral reform organizations. Their major issues include paper trails for electronic votes, the constitutional right to vote in Presidential Elections, the rights to vote for former felons, Election Day registration, instant run off voting and proportional representation. Some hope to abolish or end run the Electoral College. A consensus is developing to deny campaign workers the right to be senior election administrators. Yet others hope to insure that only legitimate voters receive ballots through increased Voter ID requirements.
Recent successes, as result of the Help America Vote Act, are widespread early voting, the beginnings of statewide voter databases, and the prospect of increased access for the handicapped. Awareness of “the ballot design issue” is a change for the better.
However, most Americans have no idea these changes are occurring. Even less have been aware of what changes could occur if they fought for them.
Election reform is daunting because it is largely questions of ideals versus practicality, of numbers in infinite combinations, of margins of error. Honest but imperfect solutions will always make the system better. But improving the system based on technological solution is very hard to translate into massive awareness of a civil and human rights problem. It almost seems like the oil in the machine of the Republic is a professional specialty akin to computer programming. So support is difficult to come by.
Different activist groups perform different functions.
Demos-usa.org is an excellent source of position papers on a whole variety of progressive topics. Specifically in the arena of voting, they specialize in Felon Re-enfranchisement, Election Day Registration, Voter Registration issues including better implementation of National Voter Rights Act, also known as the Motor Voter bill.
The Center for Voting and Democracy, available at Fairvote.org is a group that you can go to learn about alternative forms of voting such as instant runoff voting and proportional representation. One of the main brains over there is Steven Hill, who has written an excellent book about what’s wrong with elections and the book is called, FIXING ELECTIONS. You can take that both ways.
Electionline.org is an information clearinghouse, basically non-partisan, that provides a newsletter about reforms in general and in each state. It dwells in the realm of the wonky, but that’s where you want to go if you think you can make a difference in the state in which you vote.
Verified Voting.org, started by a Stanford Professor, galvanizes people who are spefically interested in learning more about electronic voting and stopping it.
Common Cause is mounting the largest extant effort to change legislation about Electronic Voting, featuring a push for New Jersey Rep. Rush Holt’s bill which would require a paper trial for every electronic voting machine. I attended their lobby effort in the middle of the summer and it was a great experience. If we have some time, I have some prepared remarks about that.
There are other organizations, both at my website, CALL IT DEMOCRACY.com and others.
Now I’m just going to sum up with a few big picture questions, because I think, even with the sudden awareness that we need federal authority to actually help people sometimes, its going to be a long time before the media and our politicians wake up to the need to have election reform that is actually non-partisan, that treats the process and something separate from the politics.
Is it possible to have a silver bullet pamphlet, book, event or film? Is it possible to have a a unifying means to educate each voter and simultaneously inspire them to take actions?
The answer is yes.
But I think ultimately, the only way to see real change will be a national effort, a combination of all these different organizations. The American Bar Association and the Federalist Society, the Knights of Columbus and the League of Women Voters. We will have to be present at every national meeting of the association of secretaries of state and every national meeting of governors.
The margin of error and the methods of counting votes might not always be perfect, but we must insure a means under perfect situations.
This will be a platform for “solution media, the legislation and a defined process which takes elections, in an effect way, out of the hands of politicians and judges.
We need solutions where Ds, Rs, and Is sit side by side, increase the democracy, can answer to the realities of the legislation in a way that every voter understands.