Film Review: Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections

If at times facts presented in this film seem overly suggestive or downright implausible, trust your instincts.

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Long lines. Misallocated voting machines. Voters inexplicably purged from the rolls. Sound familiar? Through interviews with activists and policymakers, filmmaker David Earnhardt surveys these and other symptoms of America’s ailing electoral system in the documentary Uncounted. While the film ends with sound advice—volunteer to be a poll worker; lobby against paperless machines, and support a national holiday on election day—the bulk of Uncounted relies less on facts to back its claims than on a canned, conspiratorial score.

If at times facts presented in Uncounted are often seem to you overly suggestive and or downright implausible, trust your instincts.

At one point the following text appears on the screen (accompanied by ominous cello notes): “Two voting machine companies—ES&S and Diebold—electronically counted 80 percent of the votes in the 2004 presidential election. Both companies have extensive ties to the Republican party.” Source: Baltimore Chronicle 12/09/04.”

Click over to the Chronicle, an online newspaper, and you’ll find that it did indeed run an article containing that 80 percent figure—as a directly quoted citation of the American Free Press. Click over to the Free Press, and you’ll find a fringe-right conspiracist website. Click around their site some more, and what do you find? That one of their primary focus coverage areas is the nefarious influence of international Jewry. And that’s just one of their favorite conspiracy theories.

Unsurprisingly, when I ran the 80 percent “factoid” by Kim Brace, a respected voting expert with the consulting firm Election Data Services, he called it “totally wrong.”

Perhaps, as with voting itself, indictment of the voting system is an exercise better suited to print than to a screen. That way, viewers can more easily check the facts for themselves.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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