Stealing America: Vote By Vote

By Henry Slovak

The most provocative element of Dorothy Fadiman's new, timely, and relevant documentary is its title, “Stealing America: Vote By Vote.” But, alas, as a movie, it's so clumsy and so poorly executed that, despite good intentions, it will not be taken seriously by either critical reviewers or moviegoers.

The timing for such work is right–after all we are in the midst of an election year, with two new candidates heading their respective political parties. But “Stealing America” is strangely and randomly structured, a combo of circumstantial evidence, anecdotal material, and inferences that are not entirely plausible. As my science teacher used to say, where is the “hard evidence”

Narrated by Peter Coyote, “Stealing Beauty: Vote By Vote” aims to bring together some poignant behind-the-scenes perspectives from the U.S. presidential election of 2004. Throwing into the mix are also stories from key races in previous years, 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2006, which serve as a useful reminder that the problem has been persistent in the American political system.

Fadiman's goal is to shed light on a decade of vote counts that don't match votes cast, uncounted ballots, vote switching, under-votes, and many other examples of election totals that warrant serious investigation. But, judging by the execution, “Stealing America” comes across as an opportunistic feature that tries to cash in on already established feelings of paranoia and conspiracy among the populace. It's the kind of film that Oliver Stone (and his supporters) would lovewithout even seeing.

The docu begins well by establishing that the last two presidential elections came down to a relatively small number of votes, and that in both elections the integrity of the voting process has been called into question. “Stealing America” is undoubtedly meant as a cautionary tale, an alarming call–Watch Out this November, when the presidential elections could be similarly close.

Fadiman raises the right questions: What exactly happened in 2000 and 2004 What has changed since What can be done to ensure a fair and honest tabulation of votes in 2008 But her docu is not only short on answers or recommendations, but also lacking in factual data.

Intermittently, the film is enlightening by including testimonies from voters who experienced a wide range of problems, including those whose votes flipped from one candidate to another, when using electronic voting machines and polling places that didn't have enough machines to serve the number of voters.

Several investigative journalists describe how their reportage on election fraud was sidelined. First-person citizen stories speak of waiting in line for over nine hours to vote. Polling experts requests for essential information, such as precinct voting data necessary to examine irregularities, were rejected, while ballots were systematically destroyed, making audits impossible.

Among the experts appearing in the film are Bob Hagan, Ohio State Senator and firsthand witness to on-screen vote switching; Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., activist, author, environmental lawyer and co-host of Ring of Fire on the Air America Radio network; Charles Lewis, journalist and former “60 Minutes” producer and founder, Center for Public Integrity; Bruce O' Dell and Chuck Herrin, Fortune 100 Company computer security analysts; Greg Palast, BBC investigative journalist; Paul Craig Roberts; economist and former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan and former editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service and presently a nationally syndicated columnist for Creators Syndicate; Dr. Avi Rubin, Director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins; Ion Sancho Appointed by the Florida Supreme Court to count the votes in the disputed 2000 presidential election and who blazed a trail in proving that it is possible to “hack” into voting machines and change the totals; Dr. Jonathan Simon, Data analyst, who has been focusing on Exit Polls discrepancies; and John Zogby, International polling authority.

The only work by Dorothy Fadiman I have seen before is “When Abortion Was Illegal: Untold Stories,” which was nominated for the Best Documentary Short Oscar.