Documentary filmmaker examines reasons why Americans don't vote
Errol Morris makes political ads, among other TV and movie productions, and even made a series of commercials in support of John Kerry's losing campaign in 2004. His latest project, though, is apolitical, and looks at why Americans just don't vote.
Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris makes really non-traditional campaign commercials.
Sometimes, they don't even advocate for one candidate, or one issue. They look at America. His latest project looks at why we Americans, well, don't vote. Just 64 percent of us voted in the 2008 presidential election, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and we're unlikely to see dramatic differences in 2012.
America is fairly unique among democracies in that way. In many other countries, turnout is considerably grater.
Morris details a few reasons why in his recent documentary, "11 Excellent Reasons Not to Vote?" Among them are apathy, the Electoral College calculations that force candidates to focus on only a few key swing states and Washington gridlock.
"What does it take to get people to go out and vote," Morris said. "Why is it that so few people do get out and vote, particularly young people."
Through his documentary, Morris also wants to gently encourage people to get more active.
"I don’t know what, in the end, forces me to vote. It could be fear; it could be guilt. Although my mother died over 10 years ago, I feel that she is watching me, and I don’t want to disappoint her," he said.
In the documentary, Morris talked to a young Black man who said he votes to honor his grandparents, who spent years being unable to vote, victims of discrimination.
Of course, among Americans 18 to 24, most actually don't vote. In the documentary, one gave his justification for not stepping into a voting booth on election day.
"Even if one candidate looks really slimy and the other looks like a demigod, I don't know what will happen if that slimy one comes to power," he said. "I don't know what issues he will face. But I do know that everything will continue to clunk along."
Morris calls himself an idealist. He doesn't know if voting matters, whether his vote matters, but he said he has to act like it does matter. And he says he was moved by some of the young people he spoke to in making his film.
"I'm not disappointed with young people, I'm really encouraged by them," he said.
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