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Charging Bush With Stealing the 2004 Election

Republicans won't flock to see Stealing America: Vote by Vote — but the story it uncovers is no partisan witch hunt.

by
Christian Toto

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August 29, 2008 - 12:00 am
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Many Democrats still haven’t gotten over the 2000 presidential election, and a smaller subset believe the 2004 election was similarly swiped out of their mitts.

The new documentary Stealing America: Vote by Vote will make those folks all but tear their hair out in anger. Even some Republicans might scratch their head over some of the material dredged up in this circumstantially based call to arms.

Stealing gives a cursory background on the country’s irregular voting past, but then launches into the meat and potatoes of the debate. The 2004 presidential election was stolen … by someone or some group — it’s never clear precisely who did the deed.

What’s missing, of course, is both context and hard-nosed journalism.

Narrated by Peter Coyote, Stealing America could be the ugliest documentary in a long while. The hackneyed graphics look like they came from a Commodore 64 computer. Documentaries shouldn’t normally be judged by their snazzy visuals, but today’s software advances mean even neophyte filmmakers can muster up better imagery than what’s seen here.

The story starts, inexplicably, with Comedy Central, which the film says is one of the few mainstream media outlets to explore voting discrepancies. Now, some of those Comedy Central shows do dig beyond the headlines on occasion, but the clips presented here are fairly innocuous.

The movie quickly finds its groove in the incorrect exit polls that seemed to portend a victory for Sen. John Kerry in 2004′s election.

The Massachusetts senator was up by roughly 3 percentage points across the nation, but by the time the actual votes were counted President George W. Bush had won by that same amount.

Exit polling tends to be an accurate barometer, but in both the 2000 and 2004 elections that didn’t hold true. Hmmm. It’s certainly fodder for conversation, but the film just keeps bringing it up in various configurations to hammer home the point that these polls are simply not wrong.

If the recent presidential primaries have taught us anything, it’s that modern polling accuracy is an oxymoron.

But Stealing America has much more up its sleeve. The 2004 elections caused massive lines to form in some polling places, often in neighborhoods of predominantly black and minority voters. Some delays forced people to wait for hours in order to cast their vote.

But the film also mentions voter turnout hit a record high that year. So the long lines could be explained as an ugly byproduct of that turnout. It’s hardly the stuff of conspiratorial fantasies.

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