Published on More Intelligent Life (http://moreintelligentlife.com/)
WILL YOUR VOTE COUNT?
By Rachel Abrams
Created 29/10/2008 - 23:56
ISSUES & IDEAS
FINGERS CROSSED October 29th 2008 Did you know that a black American voter's ballot is 900% more likely to get "lost" than a white person's? A week before the election, Rachel Abrams talks to the editor of a comic book that's meant to help you protect your vote ...
Special to MORE INTELLIGENT LIFE
America's winner-takes-all system of counting votes per state  makes for some unsettling stories of bungled polls and missing votes in important swing states (yes Florida, we're looking at you.) Manhattanites needn't sweat too much over their own votes in the upcoming presidential elections: Obama fans will simply add their numbers to the blue-state hordes; McCain devotees will nobly spit in the bucket.
Yet uncounted votes make for an insidious problem: according to an exposé in this month's Rolling Stone  by Greg Palast , an investigative journalist, and Robert Kennedy Jr, a lawyer, over 3m votes cast in the 2004 presidential election were never counted. The culprit, they suggest, was a piece of legislation called the Help America Vote Act, signed into law by George Bush in 2002. They also discovered that a black voter's ballot is 900% more likely to get "lost" than a white person's. But who's counting.
About a week before election day Vote&Live!, political provocateurs in New York's DJ music community, invited their Facebook fan base to a packed Monday-night screening of two alarming films about America's missing votes: "Uncounted: The New Math of American Elections"  and "Steal Back Your Vote" .
"Uncounted" grimly documents the now-familiar story of misread ballots, dodgy voting machines, long lines at polling stations and missing names of registered voters from the past two presidential elections. "Steal Back Your Vote", made by Palast and Kennedy, is accompanied by a bristling tub-thumping comic book , featuring strips by Ted Rall, Lloyd Dangle and Lukas Ketner and edited by Zachary Roberts . Rachel Abrams caught up with Roberts after the Vote&Live! screening.
MIL: This exposé draws on eight years of number-crunching lessons learned from 2000 and 2004. So why a comic strip?
ZR: There's a lot of dry material about the past failures of the voting process out there, so we desperately wanted to do something fun to inform voters this time around. Cartoons were an obvious way to make the information accessible, something that people would remember and share afterwards.
MIL: What can people do between now and Tuesday to protect their votes?
ZR: As the handout explains, if you can vote early, do so. That way, if you find your name's missing from the roll or you run into some other setback at the polling station, you don't just give up; you've got a chance to take your inquiry to the County Clerk's office to see what you can do to get your ballot in.
The County Clerks are really the local heroes of the electoral process. If your name's missing, but you know you registered, it's probably still on the database. If you leave it til Tuesday, you might be leaving it too late to query any setback you encounter at the polling station. Know you're not powerless, know who to call, ask for support from the lawyers in the polling station, call 1-866 OUR VOTE and do what you can to vote unconditionally, not provisionally.
MIL: How is your handout going to make a difference?
ZR: We're distributing it to people while they wait in line to vote, so it had to be non-partisan otherwise the polling stations wouldn't be allowed to carry it. There's deliberately no mention of Obama or McCain, or campaign issues, so the hope is voters will stick it in their back pocket, or download it after November 4th, and share what they learn from it with others.
MIL: Tonight's audience was rightly stunned by what they've learned from these two films. Might they be put off voting all together?
ZR: We absolutely hope not! Whoever's on the ballot next week, the campaign to improve the system, fund it properly, make it more transparent and better organized continues after 4th.