Free for All?

“Free For All!”
Directed by John Wellington Ennis
freeforall.tv, 1:36:36, free online (streaming)

The controversial presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 angered many Americans, who believed their ballots were stolen. The investigative documentary “Free For All!” (2008) lifts the veil of secrecy.

In this film, director John Ennis investigates unsettling problems such as disfranchisement of registered voters, unregulated and inaccurate vote counts, and corrupt election officials.

Ennis’s investigation begins with the 2006 Ohio gubernatorial race between Republican Kenneth Blackwell and Democratic incumbent Ted Strickland. Voting irregularities identified by the state in that election spurred Ennis to dig deeper.

Ennis’s interviews with government officials, voting-machine company staff, journalists, attorneys and professors reveal serious misconduct that, he charges, has ruined the democratic system in America.

Ennis checks all elements in the voting system that could affect the result. In the end, “Free for All!” concludes that politicians and voting companies have planned everything far ahead of election day by rigging electronic voting machines. For some time now, state governments have been installing computerized voting machines that do not keep paper record that would verify their accuracy. Meanwhile, Ennis charges that the companies that produce the machines will not allow voters to inspect their software because it is proprietary.

Ennis’s portrayal of the voting process makes it look more like a business transaction than a democratic process. For instance, many questioned how Blackwell—the honorary co-chair of President George W. Bush’s 2004 Ohio campaign, who showed up at strategy session at Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch and attended a $1,000-a-plate dinner for the Bush campaign—could impartially monitor the elections as Ohio’s secretary of state. His role monitoring the elections drew even greater scrutiny when he signed a $100 million contract for Diebold voting machines despite having previously held stock in the voting-machine company.

Ennis charges that money and American political power are intertwined. He shows how individuals and economic entities with their own agenda are altering America’s democratic process. “Free for All!” demands we ask the question of whether a candidate who owns a 30-percent share in a voting-machine company can oversee a fair voting process.

Most shocking is how many times government officials and attorneys are unable to answer Ennis’s questions about the election process. Without knowing honest details about the voting process, we can only guess at what happens behind the scenes.

–An Jiang

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