This is a film that is more than simply the sum of its parts. It combines powerful content, high-quality camerawork, effective graphics, and a haunting musical score. The film is clearly the work of someone with extensive experience in the field. In fact, Dorothy Fadiman has been making documentaries for the last 30 years, and has many awards to her credit.

Stealing America is a quiet film, and most of the action takes place away from the bombast of politicians. Floundering democracy is the true protagonist here. The corporate media do not come out well – film clips of commentators on Election Day remarking on how smoothly everything went are interspersed with long lines of voters standing in the dark for hours, waiting for a turn to vote. When the networks began to call the election for Bush, inner city voters were still in line – some standing there for as long as thirteen hours – trying to take part in an election that had already been declared.

The use of close-up camerawork diminishes the distance between the viewers and the figures onscreen. We are drawn into their conversations, and almost feel like participants in them. The mood is very intimate and intense, and achieves so much more than conventional, staged interviews. People talk frankly and emotionally, they cry, and they get angry. The result is very effective. I have watched this movie three times, and I always get teary and choked up.

Erika Luckett, who has collaborated with Fadiman on a number of past projects, is responsible for the haunting background music. Her renditions of American patriotic classics in a sadder, minor key dovetail seamlessly with the film, subtly underlining and enhancing the content. The use of the repeated percussive sound is a musical analogy for actions and consequences, the stone thrown in a pond that creates multiple ripples. While it has sinister ramifications in the “What Happened” section, it begins to take on a note of hope in the “Taking Action” segment, mirroring the film’s message that citizens’ action can succeed in bringing about change. After every viewing of the film, snippets of the soundtrack bounce around in my mind for hours and even days, maximizing its impact far beyond the initial viewing.

The vast majority of the documentary concentrates on constructing the case of Who, What, Where, and How. It details what happened in 2004 in Ohio and elsewhere. Vote flipping, electronic glitches, and long lines are a few of what Harvey Wasserman calculates as 30 to 40 different and diabolically clever methods that were used to disenfranchise voters. Fadiman calls on the big guns in election integrity – Greg Palast, Lynn Landes, Brad “BradBlog” Friedman, RFK, Jr., Bob Fitrakis, Harvey Wasserman, Mark Crispin Miller, Avi Rubin, Bruce O’Dell, and Jonathan Simon. Tossed in the mix are many personable, concerned citizens like precinct captains, election protection volunteers, and IT specialists.

After Fadiman carefully constructs the case for election fraud, she moves into the next chapter of the film, entitled “Facing the Truth.” This is the critical transition between taking those ugly facts and assimilating them. Helen McCloskey talks about the two different methods of disempowering voters – technologically, by vote flipping, machine breakdowns, and vote purging, and psychologically, by showing people that their vote simply doesn’t matter. These are two sides of the same coin. Mark Crispin Miller discusses what it means if we accept the fact that massive vote fraud took place. And how, once we accept this premise, we simply cannot go back to business as usual. We can’t pretend to have a democracy when we don’t. This realization leaves us full of fear, anguish, loss, and anger. Bob Fitrakis speaks about how he’s continually told to “get over it.” He protests, “Get over what? Fundamental human rights? Love of this country and the Constitution? The mas sive disenfranchisement of people because of the color of their skin?” He answers dismissively, “I don’t think so.” From here, the tenor of the film begins to change. Bruce O’Dell points out that if “they” think that the American people will sit idly by and do nothing, then “they’re” making a big mistake. Once people get beyond their disbelief and grief, they will be motivated to fight to take our country back.

At this point, the tempo of the music quickens and we enter the final chapter, “Taking Action.” Although this section only comprises the last 10 minutes of the film, it is powerful enough to flip our emotional Richter scale from very depressed to upbeat and hopeful – the mark of an artist who is master of her craft.

Here, we are treated to examples of citizens bringing about change. Kip Humphrey, an IT specialist from Texas, studied the vote-flipping phenomenon and discovered that it happened in every single county in his home state, in 13 states overall, and that 90 percent of the flips favored Bush. He concludes that it was a deliberate feature rather than an unintentional “glitch” since it was not an isolated configuration, happened over such a large area, and encompassed various, independent vendors. He responded by getting together with his son to pool their e-mail address books. They wrote a call to action for simultaneous rallies in various state capitals to protest the stolen election. From 70 emails, they got more than 3,000 protesters in 41 capitals, a fabulous rate of return by any measure.

Pat Leahan is the soft-spoken Director of the Las Vegas, New Mexico Peace and Justice Center. New Mexico was plagued by election meltdown that called out for a complete overhaul. When she began to tackle this project operating under the assumption that she would have to work alone, she felt extremely unnerved and overwhelmed. Once she realized that there were others who shared her goals, she was immediately reassured. She recalls thinking, “I don’t know about lobbying or writing bills…Oh boy, how are we going to do this?“ One member of the group she brought together suggested putting out an email to see if there were like-minded people elsewhere in the state. The day they got a “hit” from Los Alamos County, Leahan knew they had found the missing piece, and one thing just led to another. “When you unite across the state, you can get a lot accomplished.” The look of satisfaction and pride on her face when she makes this statement is priceless.

At the end of the film, we are directed to for ideas on how to get involved. There are two sections, Learn More, and What You Can Do. This is in keeping with Fadiman’s traditional activist agenda. Her message is that it’s not too late to jump in and get involved. It’s something we must do for ourselves, for one another, and for our children. She is currently writing a book called Producing with Passion: Making Films That Make a Difference. She should know; Stealing America: Vote by Vote is already having an impact on those who see it.

The genius of massive election fraud is that it overrides the people’s will by entrenching in power people and policies without resorting to overtly aggressive tactics like tanks patrolling Pennsylvania Avenue. When I heard Jonathan Simon make this very ominous yet fitting statement, it reminded me of the way you cook a frog. If you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water, he will immediately jump out. But, if you put him in a pot of cool water and gradually raise the temperature, his survival instincts will be dulled and he’ll be supper before he knows what hit him. In the case of our country, what I’m trying to tell you is that the pot’s on the fire, and our democracy is in grave danger. There’s much to be done, so let’s hop to it.

Joan Brunwasser of Citizens for Election Reform is a citizen activist working hard to restore and preserve free and fair elections. Her main focus is distributing "Invisible Ballots" through her lending library project. Since mid September 2005, she has loaned the DVD to 'borrowers' in 37 states, DC, Puerto Rico, Canada, Holland, England, Ireland and Japan. She has now enlisted 2,048 individuals and groups in her project and is always looking for new contacts. Her latest target is the local press, local elected officials and other community movers and shakers. She is the Voting Integrity Editor for Op Ed News. Tax-deductible contributions can by made to support her work through You can contact Joan at