Did you know that Iran, Libya, Indonesia and the United States are the only countries in the world where citizens aren’t guaranteed the right to vote? While Americans have acquired the privilege of voting through protests and organizing, the actual “right” to vote isn’t in the documents of the founding fathers.
Writer, journalist, comedian and political satirist Mo Rocca’s journey in the feature-length documentary “Electoral Dysfunction,” directed by the award-winning team of David Deschamps, Leslie D. Farrell and Bennett Singer, explores the power of the vote, who wields it and why the issue of voting is still controversial.
You get an education in how American politics works when Rocca jumps right in, with humor of course, to explain that the Electoral College’s birth could be attributed to the founding fathers leaving it up to the states to decide who had the right to vote. This, in turn, led to each state having their own way of counting ballots, dividing voting districts and deciding what votes would count more. The documentary uses the 2008 election as a backdrop.
Rocca descends upon Indiana to study a few counties to see how the voting process works and how it doesn’t. Between the partisan disputes over ballots that engulf the counties, Rocca travels around the America and meets with experts, political scientists and other politicians to explain what exactly America’s founding fathers put in the Constitution.
In Indiana, Dee Dee Benkle (Republican National Committee member and former co-chair of the Republican Party for Indiana’s 9th District) and Mike Marshall (former Indiana state representative and head of Jennings County’s Get Out the Vote campaign) make sure to alert and herd as many liberals and conservatives to the polls as possible in favor of their candidate. Rocca, however, shows how not all people were aware that they had the right to vote.
In Indiana, convicted felons are allowed to vote, but because of states’ rights affecting the Constitution, in Mississippi, people who commit certain felonies lose their right to vote for life. (That is, unless the governor pardons them or the state legislature passes a personal bill restoring their voting rights.) Rocca follows Marshall to the house of a 50-year-old woman who believed that since she was an ex-con that she was banned for life from voting. With the cameras rolling she votes for the first time in her life. “Dysfunction” is worth the viewing for this moment alone.
Rocca also ends up meeting with the electors, the actual members of the Electoral College who put in the votes for president. A scene with Rocca and a third-grade class voting on a choice between markers and colored pencils is sure to make its way to YouTube very soon. It perfectly demonstrates how many adult Americans currently feel about the electoral college.
If you were to present the history of America, you couldn’t do much better than “Dysfunction.” The process of voting and elections is messy, convoluted and confounding, but it’s all Americans have for now. “Electoral Dysfunction” is a perfect illustration of that.
“Electoral Dysfunction” will air in New York on WNET/Thirteen on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 1:30 PM. It’ll be available on iTunes on Oct. 30.