Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Not Showing at Sundance

[Voting] Utah's Bruce Funk is a movie star. The former Emery County clerk whose questioning of voting machines led to his ouster from office is profiled in a new movie, Uncounted, put out by those who want to convince you that elections are being stolen.

The folksy, soft spoken Funk was featured in City Weekly articles after he tussled with Emery County and state election officials over electronic voting machines in 2006 (
Ghost in the Machine, and Election Defection). In Uncounted, he is profiled as one of several “heroes” the film tells us have stood up against dark forces trying to deny Americans their right to vote.

Uncounted is showing in a few California theaters this month. It will also be shown at the Durango Film Festival in Colorado. Director David Earnhardt, a documentary filmmaker, is also hawking DVD copies on a Website,

The film’s premise isn’t new among voting conspiracy buffs: the presidential election in 2004 and congressional elections in 2006 were stolen, and more fraud “looms as an unbridled threat to the outcome of the 2008 election.”

It's hard to watch the film and not become a little convinced there is indeed a conspiracy. Uncounted has all the plot lines—including a segment about a man who invented the world’s greatest voting machine … only to die in a mysterious accident before his democracy-saving company could get off the ground.

Uncounted also includes the story of a computer expert who told a congressional committee that he was paid by a prominent George W. Bush supporter to create voting machine software that could switch votes from one candidate to another.

But the film’s most convincing segments aren’t those devoted to the alleged terrors of computerized voting. Rather, the film works best when it rehashes the well worn stories of voters—mostly poor or minority—who appear to have been systematically denied a vote during elections of 2004 and 2006.

There are the stories of would-be voters turned away at the polls through what seem like obvious attempts at voter suppression (like having just one polling place in poor parts of town or telling people to vote in the wrong neighborhood). There is the famous 2004 Ohio exit polling showing victory for Al Gore.

Some anti-voting machine buffs had trouble sticking to their conspiracy theory after the 2006 mid-term elections, which were won by Democrats. (The Democrats shouldn’t have won if the Bushies had fixed the elections through friends in the voting machine companies.)

Uncounted’s answer to the dilemma: Democrats would have won the 2006 elections by much wider margins had the fix not been in. The film examines polling data and examples of vote counting irregularities to support the idea.

Utah’s Funk serves as a bookend to the story. To recap: Funk was the man in charge of elections in Emery County when new electronic voting machines were delivered. Funk noticed the machines giving weird readouts and called in computer experts to check it out.

The geeks who Funk brought to town were from Black Box Voting, a group of prominent electronic voting critics, and Black Box splashed their visit to rural Utah all over the Internet. It was the first time a government elections official had allowed Black Box to hack into an official voting machine and Black Box claimed it had exposed vulnerabilities in the Utah boxes. (Utah state election officials, who purchased the machines for counties, denied the claims.)

Soon after the episode, executives of the voting machine company were in town and meeting privately with Emery County commissioners and state election officials. At the end of the meetings, Funk was out on his ear. There is still debate about whether or not Funk voluntarily resigned.

In the year since the Funk fiasco, several counties across the country have scrapped voting machines—some even returning to paper ballots—citing security flaws like those Black Box claimed to have found in the Emory County machines.

To the folks who made Uncounted, the Funk saga is evidence of nefarious private corporations taking over our democracy. One of the film’s final scenes is Funk, presumably at his ranch, tending animals and looking out into the sunset. (Ted McDonough)

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I know Bruce Funk! At least my t-shirt says I do.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.