Lisa Rein has posted three clips from the November 3rd Daily Show with Jon Stewart: “Jon covers Kerry’s concession, Bush’s relishing in his glory, and hot Mr. Colbert commenting on it all.” Reader beware, I have no clue how long Lisa plans on hosting these videos … so don’t expect the link to work 30~ days from now. I’ve got a mirror of all the files though, just in case!
You can’t help but wonder why everyone else is acting as if nothing is wrong. You’ve seen it all before, and its been done much better. You’re in the position of pointing out that the emporer’s new clothes don’t exist. It’s important for you to try to get in touch with your feelings if you want to remember why you’re going through these motions. You might be able to find it within yourself to try just a bit harder.
Update from one of the videographers hired by Michael Moore:
Slowness in getting tapes back from the field prevented my getting any video posted on Election day. It was also just chaotic enough that the video crews didn’t know the importance of what they had witnessed and recorded. The general impression was that we were seeing more confusion and incompetence at the polls than actual manipulation or intimidation. But just around the time the polls were about to close, there was a report of Republican challengers and police at one site. A video team and our lead producer headed over to see.
The first report said that there were five challengers at a polling station where they were only allowed two. Our team had to stay outside and record statements from voters and the Democratic challenger, who told a peculiar story. Remember, these were all black neighborhoods.
Sometime around noon, eight white people showed up, claiming to be GOP operatives but refusing to show any ID. They said they were there to see the Republican challenger, but no one knew who they were referring to. Several of them came into the polling station and set up shop looking at people’s documents and making notes in clipboards. When a couple of them came outside and someone asked them what they were doing, they said they were just delivering sandwiches, and that they had to go. But the same dark blue PT Cruiser had been seen driving around several different polling stations.
Our crew taped two of the people beginning to cross the street to the polling place, then noticing the crew and quickly turn around and go back to their car. They also drove up next to them in the parking lot and when they got out to try to talk to them, they sped off.
I had a glimpse of some of this footage last night when the crews came back, exhausted, wet and cold. Everyone was ready to go to a small party at the house of a local Democratic judge to watch the returns. I left the reel digitizing into my laptop and went off for the evening. At that point I had only seen a few other clips of voters who had been told they weren’t on the list , were sent to another polling site, and often not offered a provisional ballot.
Today on the bus ride back to New York, what we had recorded began to come into focus. The filmmakers logged their tapes and found the most interesting material There were interviews with voters who were amazingly calm after the ordeal of trying to vote and getting sent back and forth when their names were not found on the lists. Young couples where only one would be on the list, when they had registered at the same time. Elderly people who were sent from place to place and then not offered provisional ballots. People who had normal ballots put into the provisional ballot box and vice versa. Voters who had received confusing or misleading information by mail or phone. People who had not been offered the required 2 more chances if they messed up the first ballot, and were instead given a provisional ballot. Some who were told that the provisional ballot would not be counted (who knows yet whether that will come to pass).
And one crew had been at the “PT Cruiser Gang” location earlier in the day and had gone into the voting room. They didn’t know who the white guys with clipboards were, but they didn’t like their looks and shot about ten minutes of footage of them. These were not blue-suited Republicans. They were twenty-somethings with short haircuts wearing black crewneck or turtle neck sweaters. One stood at a table examining voter documents with a severe look, while holding his pen in a “stabbing” grip and clicking the button repeatedly in a strange menacing way. His two male friends carried clipboards and wandered around, looking over people’s shoulders. They talked to each other or to people outside with cell phones, and a short haired blonde woman came in to confer. When our team went outside they got a great shot of the PT Cruiser – a pullout from the license plate.
What to make of all this? Well, the expected army of challengers didn’t show up, at least where we were – polling places that had been determined to be at risk, and had many Election Protection voluteers in addition to our teams. We have the distinct impression that a campaign of purging the rolls and discouraging the voters had been in place. As far as provisional ballots go, the people manning the polling stations were at best poorly instructed (a policy of passive negligence on its own) or could not be bothered. At worst they were part of a cleverly altered system that denied people the vote whether they were recently registered or had been voting in that same location for over 30 years.
The PT Cruiser Gang? Freelancers having some fun? Deniable operatives? Who knows. But the tape of these incidents that I put together on the bus is going to the Democratic National Committee as well as Michael Moore’s group. In another era it would probably go to the Justice Department. We are also trying to see if some television outlet is interested (Nightline?) and we hope it will spark some action in voting reform and will get the Dems to tackle these issues and others before the next presidential election.
I wish I could convey the feeling on the bus today as we left Cuyahoga County while the bad news came flooding in. There was a nightmarish moment when we got calls from the Dems and Michael Moore’s people (I assume – I was in a black funk, editing with my headphones on) asking if we had enough evidence for a lawsuit. Was it all on our shoulders whether Kerry conceded or not? Was there a lawyer among us to even begin to answer that question? Could I tell anything from the collection of impressions I was assembling on my laptop? This could not be happening. Fortunately for our sanity (and perhaps for the nation’s), we soon heard that all the provisional ballots of Ohio would not make the difference. And what about all the votes that were lost when not offered the provisional ballot? When people gave up on running from place to place in the rain, looking for their name on a list? We’ll never know.
A word about our Video the Vote team. You heard 1200? There were 20 of us in Cleveland. Yes, Michael Moore paid for our bus and hotel rooms.
But we are not acolytes. We are a diverse group of young and older filmmakers with our own interests and agendas, who volunteered our time, skills and equipment to try to make a difference. The tape we shot belongs to each filmmaker, with the agreement to make it available as this develops. We were astonished by the dedication of all the other Election Protection volunteers, and by the deep desire to vote shown by everyone we met. And we are impressed by the potential of a “Rapid Media Response Team” – maybe we’ll get a chance to do it again some time, with better communications and closer access to bandwidth, so the editor (me) and feedpoint won’t be clear across town.
And a word about the tapes. Once I’ve gotten some sleep I will post a short edit of the PT Cruiser Gang. We’ll see what happens with the rest – moving testimonials by folks who just wanted to exercise their right to participate in the process. Now I can catch up on back posts in Boing Boing and get on with life in these times.