Voter suppression is a danger to our democratic practices. It stifles voices and marginalizes votes in communities at risk of political disenfranchisement. President Trump complained about the system being "rigged." But it is not where Trump says it is. In fact, our electoral system is most rigged in the last places you would ever think to look.
This is the focus of producer Tim Smith's new documentary Rigged: The Voter Suppression Playbook. Earlier this month, Smith premiered parts of his brand-new documentary to USC students and participated in a panel hosted by the USC Center for the Political Future in partnership with Community Advocates, Inc.
For Smith, the goal of the documentary is "to show audiences that this is happening — and too few people are noticing." Narrated by actor Jeffrey Wright, the film delves deep into the heart of the country, showcasing untold stories about voting policy and voter suppression — the practice of influencing the outcome of an election by actively discouraging or preventing people from voting.
"It's a film we began two years ago with the idea of having numerous crews out on the road to document voter suppression during the 2016 elections," says Smith. They decided to look at states like Wisconsin, Texas, Missouri, North Carolina, Georgia, and Kansas. "These were places where we thought we could most clearly see this story evolving."
Through some investigating, they were able to uncover a real-life case of voter purging and the conception of violative measures, like gerrymandering and voter ID laws, which often make it more difficult for registered voters to cast their ballots in elections.
"We wanted to educate Americans about voter suppression — why it is happening, how it is happening, and how it undermines our democracy by undercutting the notion of one person, one vote," says Smith. "We hope the effect will be to energize voters to fight against voter ID laws by supporting the politicians who oppose these laws."
Rigged: The Voter Suppression Playbook will be temporarily released for free streaming on Vimeo starting next week, just in time for the midterm elections on November 6. It will then officially go live at the beginning of 2019 on Amazon and iTunes.
"It is not just about Trump and Supreme Court nominations," he said. "It is ultimately about the health and well-being of our democracy."
Video courtesy of Timothy Smith and the American Issues Initiative.