Holiday movie viewing — starring "the voting machine"!

I’ve written a number of essays about voter education materials on the Internet, especially some of the educational materials that have been developed by voting system vendors. Thanks to MIT colleague Ron Rivest, here is an old example of media developed by voting system vendors — a 1957 film developed by the Automatic Voting Machine Corporation, “Behind the Freedom Curtain”.

One interesting segment, about a third of the way through the film, shows voters making errors on a paper ballot, using a pencil. This follows with a segment that justifies the use of the lever machine being promoted in the film, based on how the voting machine helps prevent many of the voting errors shown for the paper ballots. Particularily interesting is the scene (about half-way through the film), where the election official opens up the lever machine from the rear, showing the mechanical workings of the device (the same scene is repeated about two-thirds through, when the election official opens the device again and shows the reporter the election results). There are also a couple of fun scenes of faceless election officials counting massive paper ballots, voiding many of them.

But most compelling to me was the final segment of the film, which pointed out the many ways in 1957 that American life was becoming increasing automated, modernized, and convenient. I found that the parallels between this segment, and the contemporary debates about precinct voting devices, worth the seventeen minutes it took to watch this film. The closing line and scene, where the reporter asks “can democracy compete with it’s right hand tied to a hitching post” sums the film’s argument into a single sentence.

Also, Ron pointed out that if you click on the “Voting” keyword on the entry page for this particular film, you are then taken to an archive of other similar films, none of which I’ve had the chance to view yet.