Film Night: The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

 

On March 3  the Film Committee  will screen The Best Democracy Money Can Buy  with the dynamic  Greg Palast—the film’s writer, narrator and co-director—as our guest speaker.

 

 

 

While the quirky style and editing of this film divides opinions, its message is central to the well-being of our democracy. Its subject—voter suppression—could not be more relevant now.Greg Palast, an investigative journalist for the Rolling Stone, takes us on a roller-coaster ride to uncover suppression efforts  in voting constituencies, especially where there is a large minority presence. He says, “This is the story of the investigation of the theft of the 2016 election—it’s a crime still in progress and a hunt for the very rich guys behind the crime.”

Central to this story of voter suppression is the use of the Interstate Crosscheck computer program, which was launched to compare voter registration data across states to look for evidence of double voting.  The Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, chair of Kansas’s Republican Party, was responsible for introducing this program in 2005. It has been rolled out to 30 states. According to The Voting News, September 2, 2016, “…while the program flagged 7.2 million possible double voting no more than four have actually been charged with deliberate double registration or double voting.”

Greg Palast gives us evidence  that Republican officials in many states have used this very program to remove  legitimate voters from the electoral rolls in a way that has disproportionately affected minorities, i.e. Democratic voters. We see the investigative journalist at work: interviewing officials, including Kobach himself, minority voters who have lost their vote and dealing with masses of data. It is an horrific story.

Palast describes the style of the film:

"This real life detective story is told in a film noir style with cartoon animations, secret documents, hidden cameras, and a little help from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit detectives, Ice-T and Richard Belzer, Shailene Woodley, Rosario Dawson, Willie Nelson and Ed Asner, Palast and his associates expose the darkest plans of the uber-rich to steal America’s democracy." 

However the film and Greg Palast are not without controversy and have attracted criticism. The question arises: If all of his assertions about Crosscheck are true, why aren’t  our Democratic leaders and other journalists screaming about this? With Greg Palast as our guest speaker and our very able Stephanie Stewart in the chair, who was a long-time organiser for GOTV for DAUK, we shall have the opportunity to interrogate this most fascinating lobbyist and filmmaker. 

This Film Night will open up the opportunity to discuss other voting rights issues as well: gerrymandering , the gutting of the Voters’ Rights Act, and the oftern onerous and arbitray voter id laws passed in many states. These issues matter. Democrats face gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia this year. And we must start laying the groundwork now for the critical 2018 mid-term elections.  

Interviews  with Greg Palast 

With Amy Goodman

 

Interview with Joy Ann Reid  before the November 2016 election

Books and articles by Greg Palast

Visit Greg Palast's website for articles and links to resources. 

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy:  A Tale of Billionaires & Ballot BanditsSeven Stories Press.  Updated edition (4 Oct. 2016)

"The Election was Stolen - Here's How". November 11, 2016. 

"The GOP's Stealth War against Voters". Rolling Stone. August 24, 2016 

Organizations working on the issues of voting rights

Brennan Center for Justice.  On Voting Rights and Election : " Voting is the foundation of our democracy. The Brennan Center is at the center of the fight to preserve and expand the right to vote for every eligible citizen. Through practical policy proposals, litigation, advocacy, and communications, the Brennan Center  works to ensure that voting is free, fair, and accessible for all Americans. The Center’s signature proposal to modernize the voter registration system saves money, increases accuracy and participation — and adds an additional 50 million"voters to the rolls permanently."  

See the Brennan Center's  Voting Laws Roundup 2017 published on February 3 2017. The news is not all negative:  there are at least 308 bills to enhance voting access introduced in the 36 states and at least 46 bills to restrict access in 21 states.   

Verified Voting Foundation states its mission to be  “Safeguarding elections in the digital age. We are a non-governmental organization working toward accuracy, integrity and verifiability of elections. We believe the integrity and strength of our democracy relies on citizen’s trust that each vote be counted as cast. Our primary concern lies in ensuring that the means for verifying election outcomes is in place and used for that purpose. We also focus on the reliability and security of voting systems."

American Civil Liberties Union.  on Voting Rights

Fair Elections Legal Network. They provide state specific guides on  voter registration deadlines, and, more signifianly, voter ID requirements for registration and voting.  

ProPublica.  Electionland Project 

Democratic Party Voting Rights Institute. 

Congressional Voting Rights Caucus. The goal of this Caucus is to "educate the public on the current voter suppression tactics in place in their home states, districts, and counties, inform constituencies on their rights as voters, and to create and advance legislation that blocks current and future suppressive and discriminatory tactics that deny American citizens the sacred right to vote".

Journals and journalists tracking these issues:

Mother Jones. Live Updates of the problems at the polls so far: Live updates of Election Day snafus, shenanigans and suppression 

Daily Kos.  Articles and posts on Voter Suppression

Ari Berman,   author of Give Us the Ballot: The history of the modern struggle for voting rights, has a website where you can find many of his articles on this issue. 

 Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck

Verified Voting Foundation produces reports on voting Issues

See these articles  on the operation of Interstate Crosscheck https://thevotingnews.com/tag/interstate-crosscheck/

Voter protection and assistance:

Election Assistance Commission—the  federal agency responsible for helping states improve their voting systems.From its website:  EAC "is an independent, bipartisan commission established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). It is charged with supporting state and local election officials in their efforts to ensure accessible, accurate and secure elections. EAC develops guidance to meet HAVA requirements, adopts voluntary voting system guidelines, and serves as a national clearinghouse of information on election administration. EAC also accredits testing laboratories and certifies voting systems, as well as audits the use of HAVA funds."

Berman, Russell.  "The Federal Voting Agency Republicans Want to Kill".  The Atlantic. February 12, 2017. 

"House Committee votes to eliminate independent election commission". The Guardian. February 7, 2017.

Weiser, Wendy and Brater, Jonathan. "This GOP Bill Could Make It Easier for Russia to Hack U.S. Elections".  Forbes. February 14, 2017. 

Berman, Ari. "The GOP's Attack on Voting Rights Was the Most Under-reported Story of 2016: This was the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Right Act". The Nation. November 9. 2016

Overseas Vote Foundation. 

VotefromAbroad  Recommended by Democrats Abroad as the easy, efficient way to register to vote. 

Voter ID laws and their impact.

ACLU. Oppose Voter ID Legislation Fact Sheet. December 2016

Gerrymandering: 

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee:  An initiative led by President Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder.

Bonsall, Evan and Agbafe, Victor.  "Redrawing America: Why Gerrymandering Matters".  Harvard Political Review. May 24, 2016 

The Voting Rights Act:  recent developments

Toobin, Jeffrey.  The Real Voting Scandal of 2016. The New Yorker. December 12, 2016

Trump and lies about  voter fraud  and their impact:

Berman, Ari. "The Trump Administration's Lies About Voter Fraud Will Lead to Massive Voter Suppression: Twenty one states are now considering new laws to make it harder to vote". The Nation. February 13. 2017

Waldman, Michael. "Voting Fraud Inquiry? The Investigators Got Burned Last Time". New York TimesJanuary 26, 2017

Ethnic minorites  and the right to vote:

Cruz, Caitlin.  "The forgotten history of how Latinos earned the right to vote". Fusion. October 10, 2016

 

Updates on legal challenges

Wisconsin 

 

Who is promoting voter suppression?

The conservative The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been an important driver in drafting  'model legislation' that is widely adopted by Republican state legislators since 1973.  One of its aims was the tightening of Voter ID laws.  However, its power 'behind the scenes' has been disrupted.   "In July 2011, The Nation published a series of articles produced in collaboration with the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) that showcased some of the ALEC model bills and described ties to the Koch family, and CMD launched a website "ALEC Exposed" that documented more than 800 of ALEC's model bills, the legislators and corporations that had helped to draft them, and the states that enacted them. The joint effort, and particularly its coverage of ALEC's push for tough voter ID laws, prompted the advocacy group Color of Change to launch a public campaign to pressure corporations to withdraw their ALEC memberships."  It remains a significant force in developing right-wing legislation on a wide range of issues, but is now subject to much more scrutiny.

Diallo, Amadou. "Who is funding voter suppression?" Aljazeera. February 12, 2106. 

 

 

Disclaimer: The screening of these films does not constitute an endorsement or promotion of the film, nor of any views expressed therein or any association with The Film Committee, DAUK, Democrats Abroad or the Democratic Party. Screenings are solely conceived as educational activities: offering an opportunity for members to discuss issues.

Links to other organizations or publications imply neither endorsement of their policies nor any association with the Democratic Party or Democrats Abroad - UK.