January 30, 2008

BuzzFlash Interviews David Earnhardt, director of film "Uncounted"

Recommended reading, BuzzFlash interview with David Earnhardt, director of new film "Uncounted":


For me, it's quite simple. I was appalled at what I'd seen in the 2004 election ...

-- David Earnhardt, Director of Uncounted

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First of all, BuzzFlash wants to commend all those Americans who are working to ensure that every citizen can vote -- and that every vote is properly counted.

Since the debacle of the Florida vote in 2000, there has been a growing movement to ensure voting rights. It involves the unacceptable role of proprietary electronic voting machines (owned in large part by Republican affiliated corporations); the suppression of voting rights (think "Jim Crow" voter "identification cards"); and equal access to voting precincts, among other issues.

It's a complicated and long-term challenge to ensure that the legal right of "one person/one vote" is enforced -- and that a vote count accurately reflects the votes cast. Given the large number of issues involved, the voter advocacy community has, at times, disagreed about some of the potential solutions, particularly when it comes to electronic voting machines.

As for BuzzFlash, we believe that if there is not a count of paper ballots to audit any electronic total, then there is no possibility of ensuring an accurate vote count. We also believe that no private corporations should own any proprietary software that is not completely transparent. Unless one can count paper ballot "trails" (which can be thought of as "receipts,") there is always room for monkey business. (In fact, having publicly owned electronic voting machines that produce printed ballots that can be reviewed and checked for accuracy by the voter allows for cross-matching totals to ensure a correct count. Remember that paper ballots alone can also be abused. That's how the term "stuffing the ballot box" came into being.)

All of this leads us into recommending Uncounted, an excellent, informative documentary about the broad range of election integrity issues that confront us as a nation. Uncounted distills the most important problems confronting advocates for allowing every eligible voter to cast a ballot -- and then making sure that the ballots are accurately counted.

We were delighted to interview David Earnhardt, who produced, directed and wrote Uncounted.
* * *

BuzzFlash: We've seen your film, Uncounted, The New Math of American Elections. Your film is exceptional in how it presents a narrative about what is really quite a complex issue to follow. What motivated you to undertake a film like this on the voting issue, let alone distribute it on your own, show it around the country on your own?

David Earnhardt: For me, it's quite simple. I was appalled at what I'd seen in the 2004 election, and then, coupled that with, after the election was over and after Kerry conceded, watching the media just go away. From a mainstream media standpoint, there was no looking into many of the problems that had been observed on Election Day.

There was lots of great work going on on the Internet. There was great investigating going on in Ohio and New Mexico, from the legal standpoint, from the alternative journalistic standpoint. But in terms of the mainstream media, it did not exist. I was just naïve enough to be shocked. I just could not believe it. I thought we'd sort of fallen into a parallel universe.

And for me, like a lot of people, the 2004 election felt like a very important election. It felt like the stakes were very high. We closed down our office that day. Many of us wanted to go out and get involved, door to door, to encourage people to vote. My wife and I did that kind of thing for the first time. And I was struck by several interactions I had in a neighborhood that we were in.

It was a fairly low economic neighborhood. When I knocked on the door -- and this happened on three or four different occasions -- I would encourage people to get out and vote. The sentiment was something to the effect -- different forms of this - look, I'm not going to vote. This is not for me. This is not anything that has to do with me. They've already decided who's going to win. It's that kind of language. I'm saying, no, no, no, that's what they want you to do -- not go out and vote. You've got to get out there. You've got to. It was that kind of interaction.

I realized later that I was the naïve one. There was a certain truth in there that I was missing, and it upset me. I thought: my gosh, we really don't take this right very seriously. So I went to work. I went to work immediately and started studying everything I could. I decided, I'm going to find everything I can, and at least consider doing a documentary. Eventually I had enough material to where we could pull the trigger and say let's keep going. Let's do something on this. Let's try to get this issue out there.
Complete interview

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