Election Day, a documentary from filmmaker Katy Chevigny, opens in Chicago in the pre-dawn darkness and takes us on a journey across the country on November 2, 2004 — the day America went to the polls to elect local, state, and federal officials. The film ends after the polls close, but not before viewers have had a chance to see the diversity of experiences awaiting citizens who choose to exercise this most fundamental right of our democracy, a diversity that is not unlike the very face of America itself.
The film pretty much follows the chronology of the day. The technical and narrative challenges involved (filming in multiple locations over the course of one day, with no chance of a "do-over", and then editing the work of multiple crews into a cohesive whole) are nicely chronicled on the PBS Election Day website.
The stories told are compelling. We meet Jim Fuchs, an earnest Republican poll monitor who keeps an eye on the electoral process in a largely Democratic neighborhood in Chicago. We meet Brenda Holt, monitoring an election in Quincy, Florida, where a close race for county sheriff pits an underdog black candidate against a white opponent in a county where the black population constitutes a majority. We meet the Buzbees, Bob and Traci, from Sapulpa, Oklahoma, factory workers who sacrifice the quality of their home life to meet the financial demands of their son's kidney disease. And then there's Rashida Tlaib, a Muslim woman from Dearborn, Michigan who takes the day off work to mobilize her family and other members of her community to get to the polls. We follow Leon Batts of New York, a convicted felon and former prisoner, who votes for the first time. As Batts is aided by an organization that works to re-enfranchise ex-convicts, we meet "Bossman", a dishwasher and ex-felon in Orlando, Florida who is prevented by Florida law (which largely keeps ex-felons disenfranchised) from voting. Meanwhile, across the country, Jason Drapeaux works to mobilize thousands of Native American voters on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.