Oscars' snafu points out how more thorough vote counting is for Academy Awards than U.S. president
Like many, I observed the snafu heard ‘round the world at the Oscars last Sunday evening, when the wrong film was named best picture. My first thought was that the Russians had hacked the Oscars, or some Trump supporter had infiltrated the process and handed the wrong card to presenter Warren Beatty.
But PriceWaterhouseCoopers reps later said it was just a matter of giving Beatty a duplicate card of the previous award. As he opened the envelope, the 79-year-old legendary actor seemed to sense he had the wrong card but didn’t think to say, “Hey, I might have the wrong card.” He stalled for a few seconds, then decided to show the card to 76-year-old Faye Dunaway, who blurted out, “La La Land,” as the winner in alternative reality. In this reality, Moonlight won.
That’s live TV — sometimes shit happens. I sympathize with them as I sometimes get into similar moments when I just don’t know what to do, and I’m two decades younger. You would have thought that someone from PwC would have realized the gaffe before La La Land directors and cast climbed onto the stage. But it made for entertaining live TV.
Trump predictably blamed the mishap on people paying too much attention to him at the event, like the good narcissist who wasn’t invited to the party he is. But in reading accounts of the controversy, I was mostly struck by how much more care goes into making sure that the correct Academy Award winner is named than the correct U.S. president is named.
A February 27 story in The Guardian detailed how PriceWaterhouseCoopers officials not only count votes of the 7,000 Academy members electronically, but they do paper and manual hand recounts. Check this description of the process:
[PwC officials] Cullinan and Ruiz also gave an interview to the BBC, explaining the supposedly watertight system. They told how they were helped by a small team to count and recount the paper and electronic votes by the 7,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts as soon as the ballot closed on Tuesday. The votes were all printed out and counted and recounted manually. She and Cullinan personally put the results into the envelopes, checked and sealed them, and then memorized the results in case anything happened to the envelopes.
So let me get this straight. The vote counters for this Hollywood awards festival actually print out each ballot and hand recount them to check the electronic results…. WITHOUT a judge or anyone forcing them to do so! How amazing is this?
By contrast, look at what our esteemed election officials do to ensure the votes cast for president are actually counted. Most merely run ballots through a scanner and electronic system, and that’s it. Many states do not even have paper ballots to recount anymore for president. You say you want to recount — or count in the first place — votes that might have been discarded for whatever reason? Fat chance.
As my latest book — Not Our President — shows, Jill Stein of the Green Party — not the Democrats — had to pay several million dollars just to try to recount votes in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania late in 2016. In many cases, those votes were not ever counted in the first place — they were cast aside in arbitrary decisions by mostly Republican election officials, as investigative journalist Greg Palast and others report. Republicans blocked the recount — or count — attempts in 2016, the same way they blocked hand recounts in Florida in 2000.
The bottom line is that it looks like we Americans care more about getting an entertainment award right than we do the presidency. There should be a law that every state in which the vote for president is within, say, 2 or 3 percentage points has to go through a manual, hand recount. But even when there are legal challenges, Republicans block more careful recounts.
More than 1 million votes for president were not even counted, due to Republican voter suppression tactics, in 2016. Some say there were as many as 7 million votes not ever counted. Think about that. At least a million votes get thrown out every presidency election cycle. This would not be acceptable in any banana republic. Yet, we accept it in what is supposed to be the glorified example of democracy to the world. Why?
Sure, recounting the votes of 7,000 people in 24 categories — a total of about 170,000 votes — is a relatively easier process than recounting potentially millions. Many say it would take too much time to actually hand recount each vote in close swing states. But so what? If it takes a few weeks to count these votes, we need to do it. Is making sure we get the right president not important enough to take a few more weeks to recount votes and attempt to include as many legal ballots as possible?
This is a travesty that was supposed to be fixed after a commission was appointed following the 2000 debacle. But that panel did not fix the system, obviously. Through Crosscheck and other Republican vote suppression schemes, the situation has worsened since 2000.
If you want to read more about what happened and what some think we need to do about this, check out Not Our President: The Movement against the Agenda of Tricky Don & Wingman . It will be free through the Amazon Kindle for five days starting March 1.
Backed up with hundreds of footnotes and sources that are linked to Internet pages, Not Our President starts by outlining how Trump and the Republicans employed questionable actions to win key swing states. Those included purging legal voters from the rolls, using state offices for political purposes, giving voters misleading instructions, approving confusing ballots, questionable decisions that favored Republicans by partisan judges, hacking into Democrats’ email systems by Russians, the conspiracy by the FBI to release the “October Surprise,” and more.
The book goes on to detail what average people like librarians and former Congressional staffers, organizations such as the ACLU, and politicians like U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., are doing to restore confidence in the White House and U.S. electoral system. It includes recommendations for further action from people like Michael Moore, Robert Reich, Angela Davis, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Barbra Streisand, and U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. There are something like 300 resources to obtain more information.
The 55,000-word ebook is available to read free through March 5 on Amazon here.