Tuesday, March 04, 2014

"Electoral Dysfunction": Indiana voters deal with the system in the 2008 election, with the indirect election of the president; there is no constitutional right to vote!

Electoral Dysfunction” (2012, directed by David Deschamps, Leslie D. Farrell and Bennett Singer) starts with host Mo Rocca teaching grade school, with an exercise where the kids go through an ‘electoral college” to vote on whether to use crayons or colored pencils.  The kids learn soon that life isn’t always fair.
Rocca then quizzes some people on whether voting is a right or a privilege.  Most people don’t knw that there is no explicit right to vote mentioned in the US constitution (I glanced on this point in my 1998 booklet “Our Fundamental Rights” in the last chapter). 
Rocca goes on to explain how elections are managed by states, with authority delegated down to county control.  And then he gets to the topic of the indirect election of presidents through the Electoral College.
The film spends most of its time around Indianapolis before and on Election Day, 2008. We are introduced to one Democratic and one Republican elector.  The Democrat is a 19 year old college hunk, Ben Leatherbury. 

I worked as election judge three times, and the long grueling election day certainly looked familiar.  But I wasn’t familiar with how the parties hire high school students or “volunteers” to track who hasn’t yet voted (or whose absentee ballot failed) so they can go door-to-door and get votes at the last minute before the polls close.  I’m rather diffident when it comes to such collective activism.

The film. Shows the electors meeting in Indianapolis in December, and points out that only Maine and Nebraska don’t have a “winner take all” rule on the electors. 

The film mentions a proposal within the Electoral College to do away with winner takes all, which could be in effect by 2016.

It also mentions the case of Mike Marshall, who was sentenced to jail for apparent absentee voter fraud, story link here.

It recalls the 2000 Presidential election, gives a brief interview to Antonin Scalia (“Bush v. Gore”) and mentions the furor when the Florida secretary of state went out of her way to keep ex-felons off the rolls, often incorrectly.  (See review of  Robert Greenwald’s “Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election” here

The official site is here

The film is available on Netflix Instant Play, with YouTube rental for $3.99.  It has aired on PBS.  

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