Synopsis: The documentary takes a look at the history, and current activism against voter suppression; barriers to voting that most people don’t even know is a threat to their basic rights as citizens of the United States.
Stars: Stacey Abrams, Carol Anderson, Andrew Young, Eric Foner, Luci Baines Johnson
Director: Lisa Cortes & Liz Garbus
Running Length: 102 minutes
TMMM Score: (9/10)
Review: I’m not sure if you know it, but this is an election year. Oh wait, you DID know? Good, because we’re at a critical juncture in our country so what happens in November will determine quite a lot in the next four years. Whatever your affiliation is, your vote matters and it’s your right and responsibility to research the candidates, what issues they believe in, who they choose to have stand with them, and how they plan to serve their constituents for their term in office. Remember, especially in the case of the President, you are electing not just the Commander in Chief but essentially their entire administration which will affect decisions around the environment, education, the arts, and the economy. It’s never been more important than right now to recognize the value your vote has…and understand how fragile those rights are for some.
The new documentary All In: The Fight for Democracy is arriving in select theaters now and on Prime Video in late September with clear-minded, precise timing. Stunningly timely with images and discussions of themes of events that happened as recently as May 2020, directors Lisa Cortes and Liz Garbus gather a range of scholars, politicians, and pundits to discuss the history of voting in the U.S. and the various ways it has been undermined publicly and privately over time. They wind up with a skillfully delivered civics lesson that everyone in this country should see and understand before they head to their polls this November.
The best way to start an examination of a systemic problem is to use a case study and the filmmakers have a great one that anchors their film: 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. The Abrams campaign to defeat Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp to become the first black governor attracted national attention early on when she called into question the voter suppression tactics employed by her opponent…who also happened to be overseeing his own election in his then-current role. Abrams would eventually concede the election after a lengthy period where many held out hope enough ballots would be counted to declare her the victor. However, she always insisted (as she does in the film) that had it not been for a number of suspicious coincidences of voting issues (long lines, broken machines, incorrect poll information, lack of polling stations, etc.) in poor black neighborhoods, the results may have been different.
Abrams story is sadly not unique as illustrated in a number of similar, often heartbreakingly tragic, events relayed by historians that discuss the disenfranchisement of minority populations over time. Chinese immigrants, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, the list goes on…all have clear-cut examples of states that pass regulations that appear to specifically target these communities and excel at finding ways to prevent them from voting. The proliferation of the voter ID requirement has led to hundreds of thousands of legal voters being denied the right to vote – in the film one elderly black woman shows more than half a dozen IDs she brought with her to vote but was denied because they didn’t meet the requirements. There are also states that purge voter lists if someone doesn’t vote for a set amount of time, making it difficult to re-register. As Abrams points out, if you don’t shoot a gun for a number of years you don’t lose your 2nd Amendment right, so how is this different?
While there are a few examples of interviews with members of the opposing sides, make no mistake that the film has a definite left-leaning slant and that’s to be expected but not written-off. That being said, what’s being discussed is a bi-partisan issue more than anything. No one interviewed is saying that the voters with rights being suppressed are from one particular party but on the other hand, it’s hard not to see the evidence of gerrymandering in poorer communities that have a direct impact on a specific parties long-held majority in a state. Mostly, though, this is a facts-first, opinions second sort of deal and the truths speak for themselves: there is a serious problem with supporting the rights of all voters in the United States of America and anyone that truly cares about ‘making America great again’ should be actively making efforts to fix that. Especially for the young people who will be casting their first votes in this election cycle – many of these new voters could be denied a vote because they don’t have the proper ID which could affect their future voting pattern.
All In: The Fight for Democracy serves as a refresher course for those that forgot what they were taught about the hard-won 15th and 18th Amendments, which granted men of color and women the right to vote and hopefully a sobering cause for reflection for anyone that up until now wasn’t aware of what has been happening in the country. At the end of the film, a number of famous faces remind viewers what they can be doing in advance to make sure they are prepared for election day and I urge all to check out the links below and share them with your family/friends. Stand up and be counted. Vote. Vote. Vote.