• Protestors march for voting rights in Washington D.C.

    Protestors march for voting rights in Washington D.C.

The Film

The story of what happened in Florida during the 2000 Bush-Gore presidential race plays like a drama in many acts. From election night, when the three networks erroneously called the state before the polls closed, to 36 days later when the Supreme Court made the highly controversial decision to halt the recount and call the election for George W. Bush, Americans were stunned by what they saw. As the confusing stories piled up — of voter fraud, “dimpled, pregnant, and hanging chads,” African Americans whose names were purged from the rolls, Jewish Palm Beach retirees who were horrified to learn they had voted for Pat Buchanan — both candidates swiped at each other, each seeming less presidential as the days dragged on. But concern, outrage, and continued investigation of the debacle became a casualty of September 11th. The New York Times wrote, “The Florida debate shifted from ‘who won’ to ‘who cares.’” Before the fiasco in Florida, most Americans assumed that the votes they cast would be counted in accordance with one of the fundamental principles of American democracy, yet 175,000 votes cast in that state, largely by the working poor and people of color, were uncounted. Counting on Democracy asserts that a systematic pattern of behavior on the part of the state’s various election boards, overseen by a compromised elections department, resulted in myriad lost votes. Thousands of African American voters were purged from the voter rolls and, in some counties, African Americans were required to present three forms of I.D.; in other counties, none. In communities with large Spanish-speaking populations, translators and bilingual ballots were inexplicably absent. In communities with large Jewish populations, confusing ballots made what looked like a vote for Al Gore actually a vote for Pat Buchanan. The film also shows how both sides responded to the situation — with schoolyard bullying and taunts of “sore loser,” by sending busloads of protesters (actually party functionaries) to disrupt the recounts, by each candidate calling for recounts only in precincts they expected to win, and by fighting against recounts in precincts they thought they would lose. What emerges is a shocking but very clear picture of political interests cynically ignoring and overriding the will of voters. As 1960s civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis says in the film, “People struggled, people died for the right to vote. And there are people saying we should forget about it, we shouldn’t make too much of it. How can you sweep it under the rug like it didn’t happen? It did happen.”

The Filmmakers

  1. Danny SchechterProducer
  2. Faye M. AndersonProducer