- Politics, Investigation, and History
Few subjects are more urgently in need of examination than the Electoral College (EC). It took center stage in the 2020 election, from “alternate electors” to the events of January 6. Yet, this uniquely American method for electing a president remains a mystery to the vast majority of Americans.
Perhaps what lies at the heart of this confusion is the EC goes against the core democratic principles of majority rule and political equality. There is no other democratic political system in the world or the United States – federal or state – where the candidate receiving the most votes can lose.
Does the EC still serve our democracy today? One Person, One Vote? raises critical questions at a moment when our democracy has come under threat, shedding light on a complicated, opaque system that denies Americans the right to elect their president directly.
- Show treatment
One Person, One Vote? (OPOV?) is a multi-faceted exploration of the EC. An often misunderstood and uniquely American method for electing a president. At a moment when Americans question our democratic institutions OPOV? pulls back the curtain on the EC and the diverse motivations of its electors – ranging from noble to absurd.
OPOV? bookends its narrative arc with original, never-before-seen footage of the events of January 6, 2021, the day Congress convened to count the EC votes certified in the 50 states.
Act 1 introduces the EC and its first two presidential electors from the Republican and Democratic parties in Colorado. Derrick Wilburn is a charismatic conservative Black Republican and activist, who proudly wears an “Uncle Tom” t-shirt and runs an internship program that promotes diversity in the Republican party by placing BIPOC interns with Republican officials in D.C.
We also meet Polly Baca, a revered party elder from the Colorado Democratic Party. She is an energetic Latinx who has served as a state senator, member of the state House, and participated in every presidential election since 1968. Polly is a serial elector. She uses her position to advocate for the abolition of the EC and actively campaigns for the National Popular Vote Bill (NPV) on Colorado’s 2020 state ballot. The NPV is an interstate compact when adopted by enough states, would guarantee the presidency to the national popular vote winner. Few know, 15 states and Washington, D.C., have already signed onto the NPV, possessing 196 of the 270 electoral votes needed.
Our electors’ journeys are intercut with glimpses of America’s past as OPOV? explores the origin story of the EC. Today most understand the EC was created to protect small states, but there was an arguably bigger division among the Framers when the EC was devised – slavery.
Immersive animation and spoken word-style performances of the Framers’ words – shot in stark black and white – reveal their motivations and the contentious negotiations that shaped our presidential electoral process. A popular vote by the people was passionately argued by prominent figures, but in the end, Northern delegates surrendered to the demands of slaveholding states as they advanced an aggressive ultimatum – give them strong pro-slavery concessions or they secede from the Union.
Opponents of slavery are appalled by their demands but ultimately buckle under the pressure to keep the Union intact – and so the 3/5 Clause is penned – count the whole number of all free persons and three-fifths of the enslaved population to determine a state’s number of seats in Congress and number of votes in the EC. And thus, the Electoral College is born.
In Act II, we meet the second set of electors. Patricia McKracken, an 18-year-old transgender student in Audio Engineering at the University of Denver. She’s a self-proclaimed communist and Green Party member who is young and very new to politics, but her impressive intellect and civic engagement is one to be admired. Patricia doesn’t feel she’s qualified to be an elector and doesn’t agree with the EC but feels a duty and responsibility to participate in the process.
Kit Maclean is our fourth and final presidential elector. He is an elector for Kanye West recruited to his position by a young GOP operative participating in an initiative to siphon votes away from Biden. Kit’s sarcastic, dry humor leaves some guessing if he’s serious, but like Patricia, Kit feels he lacks the qualifications to be an elector. On the surface, Kit’s story provides comic relief but underneath reveals the obscure opportunities the EC creates to monkey with the electoral process.
Historical sections in Act II explore the shocking historical impact of the 3/5 Clause folded into the EC, which became a vehicle for empowering southern slave owners to elect members of their class to the presidency. Almost all of the presidents until the Civil War were slaveowners or pro-slavery. Thomas Jefferson won his election by eight electoral votes, a majority made possible through additional electoral votes yielded from the 3/5 Clause. A Boston Newspaper read, “Jefferson rides into the temple of liberty on the backs of slaves.” The effects of the 3/5 Clause are so obvious that Jefferson is referred to as the “negro president,” and electors garnered from the clause are referred to as “negro electors.” Jefferson is a stunningly wealthy slaveowner who, during the eight years of his presidency, did everything he could to further the interest of American slavery and fight anything against anything that would harm it while denying equality and fairness to even free Blacks.
Act III brings us to November 3rd, 2020. Election Day. After a tense campaign season, businesses in downtown Denver are boarded up, preparing for possible riotous protests. As results roll in, OPOV? intercuts between each of our electors. Polly is isolated at home during the pandemic as Derrick, Patricia, and Kit host election night parties. They end their night in tense uncertainty, as several states remain too close to call nationally while Biden’s win is confirmed in Colorado. Polly notes she will now get to vote in the EC while Derrick realizes his time as a presidential elector is over. Days later, Biden’s win is announced amid angry, venomous protestors claiming election fraud, juxtaposed against jubilant dancing erupting in the streets of downtown Denver.
The film dramatically culminates with the cacophonous events of January 6th, when Congress counts the electoral votes certified by states to declare an official winner. OPOV? provides an intimate POV of this day overlaid with poignant reflections from our participants on the role they believe the EC played in bringing us to that moment.
By the time the credits roll, OPOV? offers viewers a complex and nonpartisan understanding of this historic institution created in a bygone time while highlighting the connective tissue that links then and now, so urgent and timely questions we’re grappling with today are not separate and apart from our past but directly informed by it in the present.
- in post-production
- Maximina Juson ... Director, Producer, Cinematographer
- Prod. Co.
- United States
- Years of Production
- Prod. Partners
- Sarah Olson, Tracie Holder, Women Make Movies
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