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|Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election
by Chris Parry
A lot of things were said about the 2000 US Presidential Election that can be categorized down party lines. Bush voters said Gore was a sore loser, Gore voters said their votes hadn't been counted, and the media basically obsessed over a Ryder truck and a vote counter with three-inch think Coke bottle glasses. What nobody seemed to pay much attention to was that the game had been rigged from the outset, from chasing black voters away from voting locations at the threat of being arrested for loitering, to threatening to run warrant checks on the license plates of any car parked outside black county voting locations, to the scrubbing of nearly 50,000 mostly black and latino voters from registration lists. In case you didn't know, 90% of black voters traditionally vote Democrat. And the people who oversaw this mess in Florida? They'd be A) George Bush's brother Jeb, and B) Katherine Harris, one of the higher-ups in the Bush 2000 Florida election campaign. And you thought this was democracy?Okay, so let's get the disclaimers out of the way right off the bat. I despise George W. Bush with great gusto. I personally feel he's an affront to humanity, a twisted tool of the born again and fundamentalist brigade, a C average student who couldn't negotiate his way out of an unlocked men's room, a dribbling buffoon who has managed to drive bankrupt every company he's ever owned, and even the nation of the United States of America. But I thank God for him every day, because if a smart man were in his place, the morons who think Dubbya is a great guy might be even larger in number.
"Like you didn't already know that the Republicans are criminals..."
I'm thinking the makers of this documentary feel much the same way I do, but to their credit, you'd never know it by watching Unprecedented. Perhaps aware that every Republican and his helper monkey will be looking for bias, directors Richard Ray Perez and Joan Sekler not only give an even hand to the 2000 vote anomalies, but they even manage to peg a little blame the way of Al Gore. In fact, one of the producers involved in this film, Amy Sommer, was also behind the 1997 Oscar-nominated documentary, Waco: The Rules of Engagement, which I'm thinking didn't win her many friends in the Democratic Party.
So is this merely partisan claptrap? Not at all, in fact the facts are writ large, giving a damning account of a course of events that have never been denied by those behind them. Facts such as these:
1) Florida Governor Jeb Bush demanded that all felons be scrubbed from voter lists. The lists were sent out to a private database company along with felon records, and the database company sent correspondence to Katherine Harris saying that what they wanted was very broad, and that many flase positives would turn up. Jeb Bush's office fired off a letter telling them to go ahead. The false positive rat of this process has since been pegged at between 90 and 95%, which means upwards of 40,000 legitimate voters were taken off voter lists for no reason other than they shared a 'similar' name or birthday with a felon.
2) When the felon list was shown to be listing the dates of some felonies as being in 2007, clearly an erroneous record, the instructions came back to simply remove the felony dates and continue as planned.
3) Black voters trying to vote were moved along if they were considered to be 'loitering' at a polling area, were commanded to show two pieces of picture ID, including voter registration cards which don't exist, and were told that their car license plates would be run if they drove to a polling area. Consequently, many tens of thousands more black voters were estimated to have not bothered, or been allowed to vote.
4) In white areas, bad votes were subjected to testing at the polling places, allowing people who made a mistake to re-cast their vote. In black polling areas no system was allowed, so those who voted for Al Gore and then wrote "Al Gore" on the bottom of the page where it said "Write In Candidate's Name" were considered illegal votes.
5) Katherine Harris, whose job it was to oversee the Florida ballot, was working on the George Bush election campaign in Florida - a clear conflict of interest.
6) When the recount went to the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia's two sons were legall counsels for the Republicans, and were later offered jobs at the Department of Trade, after Scalia voted that the recount cease with Bush ahead. Justice Clarence Thomas voted the same, despite the fact that his wife worked for the Republican Party, and has been working for the Heritage Foundation, a rabidly pro-Bush thinktank. Both, by any assessment of the term conflict-of-interest, should have recused themselves from the decision.
7) As this documentary shows, the Republicans flew in their own employees, who stood outside the vote-counting rooms and pounded on doors, screaming "stop the vote", while trying to get in and break up the count. These people were not locals, nor even Floridians, and Unprecedented takes the step of actually using old news footage to highlight them, name them, and tell you which Republicans they work for.
8) Over 90% of Florida's black population votes Democrat. The vote, in the end, was declared won by George W. Bush, by less then 500 votes. You do the math.
Unprecedented goes further still, from inevitable problems with the new electronic vote counting machines which are manufactured by companies with Republicans listed on their boards of directors (and one who actually ran for Senate and was elected by votes counted by machines built by the company he was running), to Jeb Bush's own campaign trail admission that he would do "probably nothing" to help African Americans. If you didn't know about all this, you'd be justified in scratching your head and assuming it's all paranoid fantasy, except that it's all documented right here. The talking heads are far more than simply the usual line-up of lefty loonies - these are university law professors, people who run Florida election boards, journalists, and the voters themselves, who all seem to have a litany of stories as to how they, and those around them, had their vote taken away from them.
In the end, a vote is pretty simple. In most countries of the civilized world, votes are counted electronically, but then confirmed by hand. In Australia, the votes are counted overnight. In Canada, likewise. Yet, in America, this system of punchcards and chads and electoral colleges and, ultimately, political decisions by judges, seem to be determined to make the process less democratic, rather than moreso.
If there's a problem with Florida, then Florida recounts their votes. If they can't, they revote - to me it seems simple... but then, I'm not being paid by the Republican Party to make things difficult, like Katherine Harris was.As a documentary, Unprecedented is on the bottom end of quality on a technical level. It comes off looking like public access cable at times, but there can be little doubt that the exhaustive research and extensive line-up of knowledgeable interviewees make for one dramatic, disgusting and all too conclusive case that the current President of the United States of America became same not because he was elected by a majority of Americans, but rather that the ground was prepared ahead of time by people in his employ to ensure that any close result was tipped in his favor. And tipped it was. Let's hope America doesn't let such a disgrace go unanswered in 2004.
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originally posted: 05/31/04 04:45:11
|OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
This film is listed in our political documentary series. For more in the Political Documentary series, click here.