Ohio, and the broken U.S. election system

Published December 23, 2004 9:23PM (EST)

We Do Not Concede, a nonprofit group formed in response to charges of widespread voting irregularities across the country on Election Day, has released a 25-minute documentary video that it says proves that African-American voters were disenfranchised in Franklin County, Ohio, this year. For anyone who doubts that the American electoral system is in shambles, this video -- which is available here in Quicktime format, and here in Windows Media format -- is a must-see.

It starkly demonstrates the one pervasive problem experienced by voters on Election Day: long lines caused by too few, and often faulty voting machines. As Salon has documented previously, the American electoral system is designed to work well only in elections in which not too many people vote -- at all levels of government, there is simply not enough thought, money and energy put into making sure that our elections function well when many people go to the polls. What you end up with in this atmosphere -- often in poorer, urban communities -- can be seen in this video: People waiting in line for three hours or more in the rain in order to vote at precincts that are equipped with only a handful (in some precincts, just two or three) voting machines.

It's important to note that the video does not prove that the problems experienced by voters in African-American neighborhoods in Ohio were enough to have given John Kerry a win in the state. But that doesn't make what you see in this video any less disconcerting. The voters interviewed here seem to accept their fate with good humor, and few of them turn away from the polls, promising to do whatever's necessary in order to cast a ballot. "A little rain ain't gonna stop nobody -- we're here together!" one man says.

This is inspiring. But it's also unfair, and must be fixed.

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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