When Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 911 was released in 2004, many criticized it because it was based on pre-conceived notions about President George W. Bush’s motivations for war with Iraq. A number of documentary filmmakers, historians and academics defended Moore, saying that any investigative work has its roots in pre-conceived notions. The viability of such a work is not in its hypothesis but in the evidence provided to prove the theory.
Invisible Ballots: A Temptation for Electronic Vote Fraud attempts to surmount mountains of suspicion, rumor and innuendo and magically transform it all into evidence proving the ability of voting machine manufacturers to perpetrate fraudulent results. In this sense, Invisible Ballots is less a documentary and more an opinion piece in the vein of other recent films like Outfoxed and a previous film from Invisible Ballots director William Gazecki, WACO: The Rules of Engagement. This factor doesn’t make Invisible Ballots a bad film — it’s just important to remind yourself while you’re watching it that there is much more supposition here than hard evidence.
There are many problems with Invisible Ballots as a documentary. First, there are no opposing voices to the charges Gazecki makes. Throughout, Gazecki interviews election and computer experts, a journalist, New Jersey Senator Rush Holt, and a citizen activist who agree that the temptation for electronic vote fraud was huge, considering the lack of software security by the companies and oversight from state and federal officials. Gazecki tries to make the case that the Help America Vote Act of 2002 was nothing more than a way to transfer billions of taxpayer dollars into the creation of electronic voting machines that had little to no accountability built in for their computations.
As I watched, I wondered whether Gazecki did his due diligence in contacting manufacturers Diebold, Sequoia, and ES&S. If he did, that due diligence wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the piece. Instead, we heard from Gazecki’s experts what the executives of these companies were thinking and doing. Further, the paper trail Gazecki presents doesn’t really pass the smell test. Many of the emails presented as relevant proof of intended fraud look like they could have been produced by anyone. The email addresses on the memos are all from public internet service providers instead of intranet servers which would have the company name on the memos. Beyond this, many of these memos have words underscored by the red squiggly lines Microsoft Word uses to alert the writer to a possible mistake. Why the need to post these in Word? More importantly, anything posted to Word can be manipulated easily.
More problematic was an interview with voting activist Bev Harris, who spoke meticulously about the actions of Jeffrey Dean, an executive of Global Electronic Systems, a voting machine company was accused of botching elections for Washington State’s King County. Harris rightly points out that Dean served time for embezzling funds from a law firm for whom he installed a new accounting program. However, what Harris either didn’t mention or Gazecki edited was that Dean pleaded nolo contendre to the charges. According to a story in the Seattle Times, when computer giant Diebold bought out Dean’s Global Electronic Systems, they promptly fired him when his criminal record became known, another tidbit missing from Harris’ version of events.
There are a few other slight manipulations here, including a video feed of a woman working with poll workers while Harris talks about company representatives training Election Day volunteers. Later, we find out the woman is actually a county elections official helping disabled voters.
It’s apparent that the purpose of Invisible Ballots is to reinforce the opinions of people who are certain election fraud took place in both the 2000 and 2004 elections rather than proving said fraud. There’s nothing wrong with preaching to the converted, however a more objective mind won’t be convinced by Gazecki’s allegations and sketchy evidence alone. It will take a much fairer, much more expansive look at the electoral process before such minds can be changed.
But if progressive political opinion on the election is what you crave, this is the film for you. It will confirm all of the unsupportable conjecture about voting fraud and make for great conversation at your next DFA meeting. However, don’t fool yourself into believing that this film comes anywhere close to being a documentary.