‘Uncounted’ adds up voting irregularities

Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections
Earnhardt Pirkle Inc.
“Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections” includes footage of this protest in Washington, D.C., over Ohio’s presidential election results in 2004.

Would you trust a black box with your presidential election vote? What if the black box was manufactured by a private company with close ties to the Republican Party and its presidential nominee in particular? What if the box contained a cheap lock to a side door through which its counting procedures could be easily reprogrammed or disabled?

You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist — or a black box designer — to recognize that there were numerous and striking irregularities in the past two presidential elections, and that combined they give new meaning to the term “national security.”

These irregularities, and what they mean to American democracy, are the subject of “Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections,” a feature-length documentary by Nashville-based filmmaker David Earnhardt. He will introduce the Minnesota premiere of the movie and answer questions at 6:45 tonight at the Riverview Theater in Minneapolis.

Timed to precede the Minnesota presidential caucuses next Tuesday, the screening is hosted by Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota and the voting-rights division of the Minnesota Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Alliance.

Earnhardt, who has worked in film and video for 30 years, was inspired to make the film by the wide discrepancies between results of exit polls and tallied votes, and by the lack of coverage of these discrepancies in the mainstream media.

Though the film’s promotional materials acknowledge the influential story by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in Rolling Stone, the film doesn’t attempt to argue that the issues were completely unrepresented in the establishment press. In fact, Earnhardt makes ample use of network television reports of the unreliability of electronic voting machines in the months preceding the 2004 election. But those reports seem to have diminished to the point of nonexistence only hours after the long night of Nov. 4, 2004.

Organized to outrage
“Uncounted,” whose points are well organized to cultivate viewer outrage, features interviews with journalists, computer programmers, statisticians, election officials, disenfranchised voters, and whistleblowers such as Clint Curtis, a software engineer who testifies by sworn affidavit that he had been contacted by George W. Bush ally Tom Feeney to create a “vote-flipping” program.

Then there’s California law office temp Steve Heller, who transcribed a tape with “smoking gun” evidence of illegal software knowingly designed by Diebold Election Systems, and paid a price for it ($10,000 to be exact). And there’s the late Athan Gibbs, an African American activist and entrepreneur who was killed in March 2004 in a head-on collision with an 18-wheel truck just after his electronic voting machine company TruVote, whose machines provided paper receipts, signed a deal with Microsoft.

Earnhardt’s film is pointedly infuriating, not least when it uses the simplest mathematical equations. In one Ohio county, 600 people voted and some 4,200 votes were counted — for Bush. Many talking heads in the film testify to the targeting of particular groups, including working people of color in historically Democratic strongholds. One expert argues convincingly that the electronic voting machines are less sophisticated, transparent, and reliable than the average Xbox 360.

Focusing primarily on issues in the ’04 election, “Uncounted,” also available on DVD, is a worthy addendum to executive producer Robert Greenwald’s “Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election.” Its release in another presidential election year is clearly intended to encourage the vigilance of voters on any side of the political spectrum, and ends by urging the viewer to contact his or her congressional representative to work against the continued proliferation of black boxes —otherwise known as paperless electronic voting machines.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Tom Poe on 01/30/2008 - 05:31 pm.

    Both Australia and the U.S. studied the electronic voting systems requirements that might be best for their countries. Australia decided that only one option would protect their voters’ right to vote. Any voting system used by Australia is required to use software that is subject to public scrutiny. They developed their election software, put it on the Internet and made it freely available to anyone to download, modify it for their own use, and use it in their elections.

    The U.S. decided that only one option would eliminate the voters’ right to vote. Any voting system used in our elections must be proprietary, and not permit anyone to subject it to public scrutiny. That way, vote counts would be assured of being counted in a secret vote count (that’s what Stalin loved).

    When voters stand in line to vote, with, or without paper ballots, the bottom line is, the computer decides what the vote count result is. Anyone who manipulates the vote count is assured they can do so, and never be detected. When vote count manipulation is done, all that’s needed is to manipulate the vote count just enough to avoid hand counts (of course, states make sure it costs a lot of millions to demand a recount).

    So, stand in line, look like a fool, pretending to vote, when knowing the vote count will take place in secret. See you at the polls, fool!

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 01/31/2008 - 04:46 pm.

    Worries about the reliability of electronic voting machines may, or may not be valid. Certainly there is no verifiable evidence that they have been used to propagate election fraud to date so at best the cry and hue may be said to be a preventative one.

    But there is certianly plenty of documented evidence of fraud and dirty tricks that should concern people.

    So one wonders why those that claim to be so concerned with protecting their franchise were so silent when widespread fraud was uncovered in Milwaukee, or when (again in Milwaukee)tires of GOTV vehicles were slashed, or when news of calculated, organized voter registration fraud is uncovered.

    One might also wonder why it seems that the protectors of the franchise are also the same people that are fighting tooth-and-nail against a common sense idea like producing a valid ID to vote.

    One might, in fact, be tempted to conclude that it is not necessarily fraud they object to, just fraud that their political party doesn’t happen to depend on.

  3. Submitted by Jim Westphal on 02/01/2008 - 08:57 am.

    “Uncounted”: NOT the Celluloid Equivalent of Yelling Fire In A Crowded Theater

    Yesterday, 1/30/08, my sister invited me to attend with her the Minnesota premiere of “Uncounted, the New Math of American Elections” by David Earnhardt at the Riverview Theater in South Minneapolis (see http://www.uncountedthemovie.com/the-issues.html).

    Although I was aware of many of the issues raised by the documentary, I was unaware of the lack of action in response to these issues. This is surprising and very troubling in light of all the problems experienced in the last four election cycles.

    I am not a conspiracy theorist nor a fringe political junkie, but rather a mainstream Minnesotan and attorney and greatly troubled by the issues and uncontroverted facts highlighted in the film. The discrepency between exit polls and eventual vote tallies alone demands greater scrutiny by the mainstream press.

    Please use your voice and whatever priviledged bully pulpit you may have to seek answers and demand change on behalf of all citizens. The integrity of our voting system is NOT a partisan issue. If democracy and the integrity of our political system means anything to you, YOU MUST SEE THIS MOVIE! Thank you to Rob Nelson for previewing this important movie.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/01/2008 - 10:16 am.

    “The integrity of our voting system is NOT a partisan issue.”

    Perhaps Jim, you might ask our Secretary of State to join you for an encore viewing; this is certianly a message Mr. Ritchie needs to hear.

  5. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/01/2008 - 10:26 am.

    By the way, I’d like to point out that exit polls have been shown to be notoriously unreliable. People often give answers that are diametrically opposed to the truth for a variety of reasons.

    If it is unhelpful to count on them to predict the outcome of an election, how much worse to suggest they are “proof” of fraud.

    As I’ve said, there is plenty of evidence of the calculated manipulations of our elections, and being counted among those that value my vote highly I am in no way opposed to mandating a permanent paper trail.

    However I do object to having the debate hijacked for the purpose of eliminating one groups favorite method of cheating while preserving anothers.

    I think this movie (which I have seen) traded a chance to ignite a deliberative discussion in favor of propagating a political talking point.

  6. Submitted by Jim Westphal on 02/03/2008 - 02:19 pm.

    I hear you Tom, what Mr. Ritchie did was really stupid (i.e. sending out partisan political announcement under his state office letterhead). However, he admitted his mistakes and agrees to accept the consequences.

    While making no apology for Mr. Ritchie’s actions, this pales in comparison to the nasty little war of voter suppression cooked up from on high by the likes of Karl Rove with orders sent out to political office holding operatives and U.S. Attorneys around the country in the election year of 2004. Just ask former Republican Sec. of State Kiffmeyer why she sent out notices to our American Indian communities opining that voters on the reservations needed state identification cards (for the first time) and that their sovereign nation ID cards were insufficient.

    Even then U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, Tom Hefflfinger, was outraged and countered with his own opinion that what Kiffmeyer put out was inaccurate. Gee, I wonder how Mr. Hefflfinger got on the list of nine U.S. Attorneys to be removed? Was it because like the other 8 he refused to engage in partisan voter suppression tactics in an election year, which tactics are expressly contrary to Justice Dept policy.

    With all due respect, before you try and make political points, maybe you should consider the big picture. After all, there are people like me are out there and will call people on their disinformation, (i.e. that the Democrats are the party of voter fraud and suppression when in fact the record is overwhelming that of Republican misconduct the last 8 years) no matter what party they are from.

    I reitierate, the integrity of our voting system is NOT a partisan issue, despite the overwhelmingly dismal record of the Republicans to the contrary.

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