“Whose Vote Counts, Explained” takes a close look at the United States’ political system and attempts to get voters engaged and informed before the 2020 general election.
The documentary miniseries, produced by Vox Media and distributed by Netflix, examines the various aspects of democracy in the United States, the way our representatives are selected and the history of the right to vote in this country. The series’ three episodes are each narrated by various celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Selena Gomez and John Legend, a common tactic by voting topic presentations to help better engage potential voters.
The first episode examines the history of the right to vote and is incredibly informative. The American education system, specifically in history education, is incredibly skewed to bury the facts about the history of the right to vote. When the United States was founded, voter registration wasn’t even a concept, let alone a widely done practice. Anybody living in the United States at the time could vote, but the rub came when land-owning widows and black men wanted to vote. Due to the insurgence of new voters that were not white men, many politicians feared the new voters would not vote for them, so the outlaw of women’s suffrage and black suffrage was outlawed. If you did not know this, then congratulations! The history curriculum was designed that way. The documentary points out that the United States is an outlier in terms of how its democracy is run. Most developed democracies have automatic voter registration, meaning if you are a citizen of that country, you are registered to vote once you come of age. Some countries even have mandatory voting, similar to jury duty.
The second episode examines the function of money in politics. There have been many movements about money in politics, mostly involving the influence money has on elected officials. It outlines the definitions of “soft money” and “dark money” and the paramount feature in the episode is the way money funds the campaign for office. The episode points out that finances are serious barrier to elected office using the example of New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Her campaign was funded almost entirely by small donors with no money of Ocasio-Cortez’ but she is an overwhelming minority in this regard. In some states, the filing fees, that is the fees that put the candidate in the race officially, for even the state legislature run upwards of 1000’s of dollars. The average American citizen does not have that money to put up and so Ocasio-Cortez’ approach is the only method for the average American to represent people like themselves. This is not how our democracy is supposed to operate.
The third episode details how individual votes count for each American and it points out that the current party affiliation breakdown is not representative of the American people. Gerrymandering by both sides of the political spectrum has tilted the power away from the people. In the current system, the politicians are allowed to choose their voters, rather than the other way around. It’s a gross miscarriage of the democratic process and this documentary highlights it along with solutions on how to combat this.
“Whose Vote Counts” is a brief but important documentary series and everyone should check it out. To check your voter registration status, you can visit the votesaveamerica.com and if you are not registered, you can do so. “Whose Vote Counts” receives an A-plus rating.