U.S. filmmaker blasts ‘flawed’ district rezoning

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U.S. filmmaker blasts ‘flawed’ district rezoning

LOS ANGELES - With less than a month to go before crucial mid-term elections, one American filmmaker is throwing a spotlight on what he says is a fundamental flaw at the heart of his country’s electoral system.

First-time director Jeff Reichert’s “Gerrymandering” takes aim at the way polling districts are carved up by politicians - both Democrats and Republicans - to help them secure re-election.

The documentary notably accuses Barack Obama of using the so-called redistricting process to his electoral advantage in Chicago in 2001, seven years before he moved into the White House.

“We’re the only Western democracy where politicians get to draw their own lines,” Reichert told AFP. “There’s no aspect of American political life that isn’t touched by the redistricting process.

“Why bother stuffing ballots when they can just draw districts? [The film] exposes the most effective form of manipulating elections short of outright fraud.”

Obama’s Democratic allies and Republican foes are battling over a once-in-a-decade prize in the Nov. 2 election.

The elections will decide which party controls key state legislatures and governorships - which typically carry out the task of redrawing a state’s congressional districts.

And the timing is crucial because the redistricting process will begin early next year based on the recently completed once-a-decade census figures.

“The system itself is the villain,” said executive produce Bill Mundell. “The system provides a perfectly legal way - this isn’t fraud - for politicians to fix elections for sometimes decades at a time.”

The movie, which includes interviews with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, takes its narrative thread from a campaign for redistricting reform in the western American state, which was successful in 2008.

But it also includes case studies including one on how the young Obama allegedly benefitted from redistricting in Chicago in 2001, transforming a working class black area to one including the wealthy Gold Coast district.

“If he hadn’t changed his district at that time to create that new powerbase, he wouldn’t have gone to the Senate. And if he hadn’t gone to the Senate he certainly wouldn’t be president right now,” said Reichert.

For many critics in America and abroad, the biggest scandal involving the U.S. poll system was in 2000 when George W. Bush beat Al Gore to the White House after weeks of farce-like wrangling decided finally by a Supreme Court ruling. But for the makers of “Gerrymandering” - a word coined in Boston in 1812 when local governor Elbridge Gerry redrew Massachusetts’ election districts - redistricting is a more fundamental problem.

Reichert is quite open about the political intent behind the 77-minute documentary, which has been sent free to 660,000 residents in California.

“We made the movie because we wanted to educate [the public] and then, one step further, to galvanise them, to involve themselves in the process,” said the filmmaker.

“Gerrymandering” will be released in the U.S. on Oct. 15.


AFP
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