A Goofy Guide to the Strange Democratic Process
‘Electoral Dysfunction,’ With Mo Rocca
By DAVID DeWITT
Published: September 20, 2012
For a film that takes on a serious concern of United States democracy — voting and the effective, if not always overt, encouragement and discouragement of that act as practiced across the nation — “Electoral Dysfunction” pulls off an admirable trick: It’s pleasant. It treats Democrats and Republicans respectfully, and its humor, with the comic Mo Rocca as guide, is closer to Garrison Keillor than to Michael Moore.
This lighthearted, colorful, nonpartisan documentary spends most of its time in the Indiana of 2008, following get-out-the-vote efforts there by both major parties. These scenes are the film’s most appealing, with person-to-person, neighbor-to-neighbor examples of principled grass-roots campaigning.
“Electoral Dysfunction” lives up to its title, exploring problems of nationwide accessibility and fairness — voter ID gets a workout — as well as the dated oddities of the Electoral College. But in its determined politeness, the film sometimes has the flavor of “Schoolhouse Rock!” That works best for a scene when schoolchildren are introduced to the difference between the popular vote and the electoral vote. Says one child whose side lost, “That’s not fair at all.”