Posted by: lcowie | September 18, 2008

David Earnhardt documentary

David Earnhardt documentary ‘Uncounted’ leaves students unsure

Election experts prove electronic machines incompetent, votes uncounted

by Lesley Cowie

While introducing his documentary, David Earnhardt reviews statistical data from the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections.

With the presidential election quickly approaching, many students came to McKinnon Wednesday evening to view David Earnhardt’s documentary, “Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections.” Earnhardt spoke to the crowd before the presentation, introducing a few facts about uncounted votes.

Four to six million votes were uncounted in the 2004 election, he said. Election officials have admitted that the election system is not precise enough to deal with close elections. Therefore, as voters, Earnhardt said, we have every reason to think the system can change or affect the election.

The documentary began with the 2000 presidential election, introducing the Florida ballot scandal. With questions raised, Earnhardt then moved onto the election scandals of 2004. He identified 5 specific states – Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, California, and Utah – that had voting issues.

Earnhardt interviewed Harvey Wasserman, journalist and co-author of “What Happened in Ohio?”, to get a better understanding of the scandals in Ohio. Wasserman listed 36 areas in which Ohio voting was compromised. The reasons included long lines, too few poll machines, and prepunched ballots.

Sophomore Derek Kiszely promotes Earnhardt's DVD after the presentation.

Sophomore Derek Kiszely promotes Earnhardt's DVD following the presentation.

A public forum occurring ten days after the 2004 election addressed these issues. Ohio voters came forward with their stories. As a result of the forum, election officials narrowed Ohio’s problem down to undervoting.

Earnhardt defined undervoting as casting a ballot with no candidate selected. Many believe undervoting indicates apathy or distaste toward both candidates. The proportion of those voters who had undervoted did not seem accurate to officials.

Marybeth Kuznik, of Pennsylvania, worked at her local poll station in 2004. When Kuznik saw that 80 percent of voters had undervoted, she wondered why so many people did not care.

“I knew the night of the election that something was wrong,” Kuznik said. “When you see 42%, 70%, and 80% undervotes in a precinct in this election, you know that’s not real. There’s something desperately not right.”

In New Mexico, precinct rates for undervoting were above 25 percent. Precinct neighbors had less than 1 percent undervotes. The majority of voters in the first precinct were Native Americans who supported Democratic candidate John Kerry at rates of 85 percent and higher. The 25 percent of undervotes would have belonged to the Native Americans and could have skewed the outcome of the election.

David Earnhardt answers questions following the show.

David Earnhardt answers questions following the show.

The other component to the 2004 voting scandal was the adoption of the black box voting machine. This electronic device conveniently allows voters to select their favorite candidate on a screen. There is no paper audit or receipt. Many voters question if their votes actually counted.

Andrew Gumbel, journalist and co-author of “Steal This Vote,” described the devastating effects of electronic input. If there is a problem inside the computer, he said, you will never know about it. They need to develop another electronic device, Gumbel said, where you can vote on the electronic interface and then receive a paper audit.

“With all these machines, you can alter the outcome of a national election in a way that is just unprecedented in terms of its reach and the power to really play around,” he said.

Earnhardt’s documentary evaluated past scandals and suggested that certain election officials, companies, and party leaders were involved in altering the votes. Clint Curtis, a former computer programmer at Yang Enterprises, Inc., supported Earnhardt’s views.

Curtis described his encounter with Tom Feeney, the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. Feeney had approached Curtis about developing a computer program that flips votes. Although Curtis questioned Feeney’s motives, he developed the program with no trouble.

A clip from “Uncounted” featuring Clint Curtis. Courtesy of YouTube.com

Earnhardt’s urgently pressed students to remain cautious when they vote. He explained that the media have not done a sufficient job of covering this massive issue and that too many voters are uninformed.

“I think that the media did not want to talk about it and bring up the spectre [sic] of election scandals again,” senior Erick Brown said. “Besides that, Kerry gave up, which reduced any real benefit from pushing the issue.”

“Uncounted” attempted to answer many questions but also raised a couple more. Students asked Earnhardt how they could check to make sure they were registered so that they could avoid any of his aforementioned problems. Earnhardt directed the students to a variety of web sites for more information.

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Responses

  1. Lesley, thank you for your very nice writeup of the screening. I thought the reception by the 250-person crowd was very exciting. I also enjoyed doing presentations to four different classes that same day – an exhausting day, but the reception by I received from Elon students continually infused me with energy. I hope to come back someday. David Earnhardt


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