"The right to vote is the primary right by which all other rights are protected."
–Thomas Paine, 1795
"Americans are losing confidence in the fairness of elections...We believe the time for acting to improve our electoral system is now."
–Former President Jimmy Carter and
Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III,
Co-Chairs of the Commission on Federal Election Reform
What is the Electoral College and what are its origins? Why do we have 13,000 different sets of rules as to how we vote? And why is the right to vote guaranteed by Iraq’s constitution but nowhere to be found in the Constitution of the greatest democracy on earth?
Mo Rocca wants to know. A brilliant political humorist who spent five years as a correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Mo hits the road in the fall of 2008 to discover how voting works in America.
Set against the backdrop of one of the most dramatic elections in U.S. history, Mo’s quest leads him to Indiana, a state that has been solidly Republican for years but where the race is surprisingly tight in 2008. Two Hoosier activists—Republican Dee Dee Benkie of Versailles and Democrat Mike Marshall of North Vernon—take Mo inside their efforts to turn out every vote. Dee Dee, a member of the Republican National Committee and Indiana Republican Party leader, has met her match in Mike, a savvy political consultant who has been in politics since he was 16, when he was the leader of The Birch Bayh Democratic Club. Things heat up when the Republicans file a lawsuit challenging thousands of Democratic absentee ballots. The stakes are high: If Barack Obama can get enough votes in conservative southern Indiana, he could be the first Democrat since 1964 to win the state.
On Election Day, Republicans and Democrats alike are stunned as Barack Obama defeats John McCain to carry not only North Vernon but the entire state of Indiana. The shock wears off quickly when Mo remembers that this really wasn’t Election Day; it was more like voting day. He decides he has to see the real Election Day—the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December—when the Electoral College meets. He travels to the Indiana State House in Indianapolis, where he observes the Electoral College meeting, gets to know some of the state’s 11 electors, and reflects on the pros and cons of this uniquely American institution.
The Voting Film Project is the first documentary project to take an irreverent—but strictly nonpartisan—look at voting in America. Currently in post-production and intended for theatrical release and national television broadcast in the U.S. and abroad, the film is being directed by Leslie D. Farrell, an Emmy winner whose credits include African American Lives (hailed by The New York Times as “the most exciting and stirring documentary on any subject to appear on television in a long time … exquisitely produced and brilliantly conceived”), and Bennett Singer, whose credits include the Emmy- and Peabody-winning Eyes on the Prize II and Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin (which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to win more than 25 international awards).