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Free for All!
October 4, 2008 7:11 AM   Subscribe

"One dude's quest to save democracy!" Free for All! is a new documentary about the 2004 Ohio election results, which decided the presidential winner. It covers some familiar ground, but also a lot of details you might have missed. You can see it in theaters on October 8, or view it online right now. Here's Roger Ebert's review.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner (28 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hm, between this and his recent (also positive) review of Religulous, Ebert's been dipping into the controversial soup pretty often lately.
posted by rokusan at 7:27 AM on October 4, 2008


oooooooooooooooh, "controversial"? So the stealing of an election is not illegal, it's controversial? And the ridiculous beliefs of millions of people is controversial? Oh, right, it is. Never mind.
posted by newfers at 7:57 AM on October 4, 2008


In the "lot of details you might have missed" basket, there's also this rolling stone article from 2006 which I stumbled upon. Perhaps it's just because I'm not in the USA (or a citizen thereof), but before I read that I wasn't aware of the degree to which things were fucked up at the 2004 Ohio elections.
posted by fvw at 8:16 AM on October 4, 2008


And yet, I'd be willing to bet my left nut, absolutely nothing will be done about any of this except to award Diebold more government contracts and find the names of the scumbags who perpetrated this on the January 19 pardon list.
posted by maxwelton at 8:49 AM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Perhaps it's just because I'm not in the USA (or a citizen thereof), but before I read that I wasn't aware of the degree to which things were fucked up at the 2004 Ohio elections.

I don't think it has anything to do with your location. The 2004 issues were quickly swept under the rug. Kerry having conceded so quickly certainly had a lot to do with it. After all, if the candidate and head of the party doesn't want to put up a fight, then it takes away the morale.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 8:59 AM on October 4, 2008


I think there's a high bar to meet to say that the election was stolen, particularly when the popular vote was clearly for Bush, and there has been a lot of research on the Iowa results other than by Greg Palast.

More generally, I think that shouting about voter fraud doesn't help Democrats (and democrats), as its presence in the public debate gives an excuse for laws and practices that promote vote suppression.
posted by athenian at 9:02 AM on October 4, 2008


Well, this may be the only time I ever say it, so:
"Teach the controversy!"

Because if we as a nation don't learn from history, these assholes will keep making us repeat it for their benefit.
posted by mystyk at 9:13 AM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought about making an FPP about interesting groups countering vote suppression, including Election Protection and Black Box Voting, but I never could get it right. So I'll just post those links here. Election Protection in particular seems to have a lot of good information and resources presented in a user-friendly manner.
posted by doift at 9:26 AM on October 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


The information in this film may be accurate and interesting but this director is a terrible filmmaker.
posted by Manhasset at 9:28 AM on October 4, 2008


I guess he's not read True Enough then, as I seem to remember it had an entire chapter about how the Ohio election hadn't been stolen. The source? A study paid for by the Democrats...
posted by iain at 10:26 AM on October 4, 2008


Oh, Cuyahoga County, you of burning rivers and fraudulent elections. They just don't understand you.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:26 AM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


I remember seeing a doc not long ago (someone will remember the name, but it's escaping me at this point) about the Ohio elections. The Democrats themselves chalked up the loss to be outplayed in rural areas, where Republican support was strong, while they concentrated on the urban areas and trying to get swing voters.

Even though I posted this, and I'm sure Republicans did some shady things, I'm certain that Republicans don't have a monopoly on voter "irregularities," and I'm not so sure Ohio was "stolen." Comparing exit-polling to actual results is a poor way to prove anything.

The film does make a case for certain issues that do indeed need some examination. But, by definition, a personal film such as this is very one-sided.

I like the idea of video-taping polling places to have a way to document discrimination, broken equipment, unclear signage, etc. But video won't show back-room tampering, dead people voting, people voting more than once in different precincts, or people being paid to vote.

I'm a conservative leaning independent, and there's no question the Republicans have done their share of hardball (but legal) politics, as well illegal or unethical things. But it's naive to think Democrats are all sweetness and light, while Republicans are satan incarnate. It's just not that simple.

You can't blame one party for wanting pretty stringent ID requirements, when the other party has a reputation for "impostor" voting. Nor can you blame one party for thinking the ID requirements are too cumbersome, when the other party has a reputation for wanting to keep minority and poor voters from voting.

One thing I do know: I'm glad my local voting place still uses paper ballots.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 11:02 AM on October 4, 2008


I like the idea of video-taping polling places to have a way to document discrimination, broken equipment, unclear signage, etc.

That's just moving the goalposts. Put up a roadblock there and they'll find some other way pull shenanigans.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:21 AM on October 4, 2008


Oh, Cuyahoga County, you of burning rivers and fraudulent elections...

...you of ethnically gerrymandered congressional districts, where Democratic party thugs and shakedown artists gather behind closed doors to hand-pick "elected" officials... Where county officials get fat off payoffs and kickbacks... Where spectacular corruption goes unnmentioned until the corrupt one retires... where the clownish mayor lets violent criminals run wild, because, after all, his own family... Look at this rogues gallery...
posted by Faze at 11:30 AM on October 4, 2008


Because if we as a nation don't learn from history, these assholes will keep making us repeat it for their benefit.

There's a great scene in Oliver Stone's movie NIXON where Nixon has just lost the 1960 Presidential election to JFK by one state (Illinois). Nixon's people are all over him claiming that the Democrats used every dirty/illegal trick in the book (mob connections etc) to swing the vote. "You must protest this, Dick." "Fight it all the way." "Take it to the Supreme Court." etc ...

But then Nixon's oldest, most trusted adviser pulls him aside, clamps a big hand down on his shoulder and says, "They stole this election fair and square, Dick. We'll get'em next time."

Welcome to American Presidential politics where the stakes are way too high to just politely play fair, and yet strangely, there do seem to be rules.
posted by philip-random at 11:50 AM on October 4, 2008


Welcome to American Presidential politics where the stakes are way too high to just politely play fair, and yet strangely, there do seem to be rules.

As long as the cheating doesn't give a result wildly inconsistent with the democratically"ideal" outcome, it doesn't seem like such a big deal. Either a Democrat or a Republican with sufficient popular support can win the presidency, but when popular support is split, the importance of irregularities is magnified. But it's precisely when popular support is split that neither candidate strongly deserves to win, and neither is going to represent the electorate as a whole if they do win.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:21 PM on October 4, 2008


Harper's covered this story as well, back in 2005, with the tremendously depressing: None dare call it stolen: Ohio, the election, and America's servile press.
posted by Ljubljana at 1:02 PM on October 4, 2008 [2 favorites]


I have little doubt that The Democrats stole Illinois from Nixon in 1960 and therefore The Election (although there is evidence that a couple very Republican towns downstate were doing the same thing as Chicago but on a smaller scale - not likely enough to sway the vote back but enough to hurt those calling for an investigation).

By 1972, and the Committee to Re-elect the President (CReeP), Nixon and his associates had learned very well. As the son of a Prominent Republican Woman (who, by the way, was NEVER paid for her work, because, well, they never HAD to) one year before I was old enough to vote, I was old enough to be "volunteered" to work for the campaign and I saw just enough (like the people 'helping' residents in Senior Citizen Homes to vote, without which the GOP never would have become so dominant among the 65+) to be unsurprised at anything involved in the Watergate scandal, but still puzzled why they had to cheat so much when the Election was already in the bag. Until I realized they were building an infrastructure to ensure that the Republican Party would never be "out-cheated" by the Democrats again, an infrastructure that survived Watergate and most certainly has contributed to their electoral success of the last 30 years.

Of course, Chicago, political home of Barack Obama, is still solidly corrupt in favor of the Democrats. But unlike Nixon in 1972, in 2004 Obama wisely avoided using that corruption in an election he could easily win without it. I have been quite impressed with what I've seen of his campaign organization and its ability to succeed while staying safely within the rules AND the standards. He obviously learned a lot from that often-noted ACORN debacle with paying workers "per registration" (which was rather obviously doomed to scandal and failure), and I see NO evidence that the GOP accusations of 'voter fraud' are anything more than a justification for trying to undo the Obamanists' success in voter registration.

Still, it's clear to me that Obama is going to need at least a 5-to-8 percent advantage in REAL voters to ensure a victory in November, but it is looking more and more like he's going to get it. But then, I must repeat my semi-belief that Bush&Cheney MUST and WILL do everything possible - including the clearly Unconstitutional - to prevent handing over the keys to the White House to a Democrat, so it may all be moot.
posted by wendell at 1:19 PM on October 4, 2008


Ugh. I watched about 1/4 of the way in and then just got sad and had to turn it off.
posted by Big_B at 3:22 PM on October 4, 2008


Fuzzy Skinner, you're probably thinking of the excellent ...So Goes the Nation.
posted by Jahaza at 7:32 PM on October 4, 2008


Fuzzy Skinner, you're probably thinking of the excellent ...So Goes the Nation.

Yes!!!!!! Thank you! I plan on seeing it again soon.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 8:13 PM on October 4, 2008


"More generally, I think that shouting about voter fraud doesn't help Democrats (and democrats), as its presence in the public debate gives an excuse for laws and practices that promote vote suppression."

I have to disagree. I just don't believe that more sunshine on this problem will only lead to more suppression. Ignoring it is very dangerous, and just because the media doesn't want to deal with it doesn't mean it's not a real problem. The film shows very clear evidence that crooked bullshit was going on:

1) Lists of precincts in Ohio with very high voter registration numbers having machines moved out.

2) The group from Texas calling voters in black precincts warning them not to vote or they will be arrested.

3) The very sophisticated 'vote caging' demonstrated by not only the Republican Party in Ohio, but nationwide.

Does it not bother people, no matter if you are left or right, that the best way for your ideas and candidates to win is to suppress voters from voting? That's like locking half the football team you are playing in the locker room and playing the other half. What kind of win is that?
posted by UseyurBrain at 8:29 PM on October 4, 2008 [1 favorite]


Interestingly, the Obama campaign is actively getting out in front of these issues and using the legal system to try to prevent republicans from fucking up the vote this time, unlike Gore and Kerry, who (as far as I know) let the republicans do whatever the hell they wanted and only complained about it after the vote.
posted by delmoi at 1:30 AM on October 5, 2008


If I was not about to leave the house for a voter-registration drive (nonpartisan), I would start drinking right now.

What really kills me on the machine issues is that, from a process and risk standpoint, I have never worked with anyone who would be so sloppy about tracking ketchup packet inventory, let alone votes.

Had a conversation with a county clerk candidate about 10 years ago, who was running on the issue of shiny new machines we would get to make voting safe and sanitary - and she just had zero background and seemed resentful of the idea that she should have reviewed anything but the dollar figures on bids.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:25 AM on October 5, 2008


“And yet, I'd be willing to bet my left nut, absolutely nothing will be done about any of this...”

Done how? What do you think some of us have been doing for the past four years?
I mean, where were you when Badnarik et.al was pushing this? (I was behind him btw)
No offense meant and nothing personal man. I just see a lot of people thinking that way. That “something” needs to be “done.” Well, it’s gotta be, y’know, you.

“Comparing exit-polling to actual results is a poor way to prove anything.”

Just ask the Angolans
Why do international observers use them if they’re not useful? (Btw - they weren’t given access in some areas back in ‘04 - funny,huh?)

I don’t care whos side you’re on, elections have to be fair or they entirely subvert the process. It’s not democracy then. Want to vote Bush a 3rd term - fine. But do it by the rules we all agree upon (change the constitution, etc.). Otherwise there’s no reason to respect the legitimacy of any office holder.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:57 PM on October 6, 2008


“Comparing exit-polling to actual results is a poor way to prove anything.”

Just ask the Angolans
Why do international observers use them if they’re not useful?


Just for the record, I didn't say "not useful." I said "poor way to prove anything." Especially in a close election.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 5:18 PM on October 6, 2008


Exit polling isn't supposed to prove a winner. Exit polling is a tool to detect the probability of fraud.
posted by rokusan at 3:40 PM on October 7, 2008


“Just for the record, I didn't say "not useful." I said "poor way to prove anything."”

Ok, fair enough. My mistake. Sometimes I get wound up over addressing an idea and it sounds personal. Sorry about that. Nothing personal.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:32 PM on October 7, 2008


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