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Election Film Dismays Students

Mills students were alarmed after attending a screening of the
film Unprecedented: The 2000 Election in the Student Union
on Wednesday, Oct. 6.

An extended “2004 Campaign Edition” of the film was
shown and took viewers through the political, personal, and
business relationships that led to the Florida elections scandal,
detailing key events meant to prove a conspiracy to “steal
the vote.”

“I [was surprised] to see how partisan the whole thing
was,” said junior Ashley Groves.

According to the film, President George W. Bush’s brother,
Gov. Jeb Bush, and Florida’s Secretary of State Katharine
Harris contracted a company called Data Base Technologies to purge
the names of convicted felons from the voter rolls.

In the film, John Nichols, author of Jews for Buchanan, said
that the Florida law, which keeps convicted felons from voting, was
written by ex-Confederate soldiers specifically to disenfranchise
black voters.

But many on the list were not felons, and the majority were
African Americans and Latinos.

“It’s hard to believe that that stuff can still be
happening, but it’s so obvious at the same time,” said
sophomore Britt Card.

The film also featured journalist John Lantigua, who discussed
the more recent history of racism in Florida to explain why many
weren’t surprised by the discrimination at the polls. He said
that when Jeb Bush was running for governor, he was asked what he
would do for African Americans if elected. His answer was,
“Probably nothing.”

The filmmakers provided numerous memos from Harris telling DBT
to use “loose parameters” in deciding who to delete
from the lists.

Students were shocked to learn that deleted voters’
information like names and birthdays did not match up to actual
felons. Some even had convictions listed with future dates such as

Purged voters were sent letters asking them to prove their
innocence in order to vote. In later investigations, only 33 of the
690 purged voters were confirmed as felons, according to the

“They might as well have said ‘We’re trying to
rig the election’,” Groves said.

After election night, when a manual recount was ordered, many
ballots were found damaged because of faulty machines. About 27,000
votes were thrown out, mostly from counties that typically vote 98
percent Democratic, according to the film.

As the ballots were counted, the difference of 1,784 votes
between Bush and Gore began to shrink. According to the film, it
became clear that the number were moving in favor of Gore.

The film covered the controversy stirred up over whether late
military absentee ballots should be counted. The decision was made
to not accept one third of late or illegal absentee ballots, but
the rest, which were majority Republican, were counted.

Eventually the case went to the Supreme Court, where the recount
was stopped and Bush was selected as president.

According to analysts in the film, the number of purged
“felons” alone could have swung the vote.

The film’s host, actor Danny Glover, explained that
Congress passed legislation in 2002 for all states to replace
outdated voting systems. Many states responded by purchasing fully
computerized touch screen voting machines.

There is a problem, however with this new system, according to
the film. There is no way to check for error in the machines, and
it is easy to trick them. Some believe this could lead to rigged
elections in the future.

Diebold is one of the major manufacturers of these new voting
machines. They also make the swipe machines used at the Tea Shop
and Founders. This makes some students especially nervous about
electronic voting.

“It always counts [my meals] wrong,” said junior
Carolyn Jenkins. “They’ll tell me ‘you
don’t have any meals left’ when I know I do!”

This year Mills will have an absentee drop-off site in the
Cowell Building, which provides an opportunity to use paper ballots
and ensure evidence of votes.