UNPRECEDENTED: The 2000 Presidential Election

Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election is a 2002 47-minute documentary directed and co-written by Richard Ray Pérez and Joan Sekler, and narrated by Peter Coyote, about the contested 2000 presidential election in Florida. This documentary is the riveting story of the undermining of democracy in America. Focusing on events leading up to election day and the foiled attempt to count legally cast votes, it examines the suspicious pattern of irregularities, injustices and voter purges in Florida – a state governed by the winning candidate’s brother.

It was re-released in an extended 56-minute 2004 Campaign Edition presented by Danny Glover to tie in with the 2004 US presidential election.

A Public Interest Pictures Film, it was co-executive produced by Robert Greenwald and Earl Katz.. Greenwald later made this the first of his “Un-Trilogy”, which also includes Uncovered: The War on Iraq and Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties.

The film begins with claims that African Americans and other likely Democratic voters were disenfranchised by a resurrected 1868 law that prevented felons from voting. This law was originally intended to keep blacks from the polls, in the wake of the Civil War. In 2000, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris used the original law to create a computerized list of supposed ex-cons. The list had the vaguest parameters, and included as many as 57,000 to 91,000 non-felons, who were overwhelmingly people of color. On election day, these people were turned away at the polls. Since 90% of African Americans vote Democratic, this effectively reduced the number of votes for Democratic candidate Al Gore.

Unprecedented also examines the Florida recount and the hanging chad controversy. It faults Gore for demanding a recount of only certain counties, instead of the whole state; and also presents evidence that the Republican Party paid staffers to create a disturbance and end the recount prematurely.

The film then takes aim at the December 2000 Supreme Court decision that gave George W. Bush the presidency. The film documents conflicts of interest that should have resulted in the recusal of two of the SCOTUS justices.

Finally, it explores the problems with electronic voting machines. It argues that the companies that make these machines do not allow audits of the machines (allegedly because of copyright and trademark issues), which leaves them wide open for fraud. The machines also do not give paper receipts, so there is no physical evidence in case of the need for a recount.

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