Film Focus: 'Voters in America: Who Counts'
CNN’s Don Lemon and actor Jesse Williams discuss the documentary on Florida’s controversial House Bill 1355.
July 11, 2012
Don Lemon and Jesse Williams at a panel discussion on Voters in America: Who Counts
A new documentary airing on CNN this Sunday (July 15) shines a light on pending Florida voter legislation that could keep important minority and youth votes from being cast in the next presidential election. The hour-long special, Voters in America: Who Counts, premiered to Miami audiences at June’s American Black Film Festival, where CNN anchor Don Lemon and documentary narrator Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy) led a panel discussion with producers Geraldine Moriba and Robert Ruff. If passed, the new legislation (House Bill 1355) will eliminate one of the two Sundays during early voting days (popular with minorities and students), enforce a tight 48-hour window for community groups, like the NAACP the League of Women Voters, to submit new voter applications, and make upwards of 80 other changes to Florida’s election laws. We talked to Lemon and Williams offstage to learn more about the film and the bill.
What made you want to get involved with this documentary, and the discussion today?
JESSE WILLIAMS: I had the opportunity to lend my voice to something that would cross generations and also educate myself in the process. It couldn't have come at a better time, with the election coming up. The stakes are extremely high and Florida is an important state.
DON LEMON: My simple answer is I work for CNN. If you want to see the best documentaries on television, they are on CNN. This is an important issue coming up in an election year. People have real issues when it comes to voter fraud and suppression. We'll be choosing the leader of the free world, the president of the United States, so there are fewer things that are as important.
Some have argued that Florida's swing state status is not as crucial as it was during the 2008 election. Do you agree?
DL: Florida is very important, especially when you look at what is happening now with immigration and when you talk about the number of electoral votes it has. One of the vice presidential candidates on the Republican side could come from Florida in [Senator] Marco Rubio. [In 2008] we didn't think, at least I didn't, that the nation could be so partisan and so divided, and it is even more divisive now. It's unbelievable. When you talk about politics, or even report on it, the number of negatives you get from both democrats and republicans is just amazing to me.
JW: It's getting out of hand. It is affecting lives at this point. It's consistently more divisive and has turned into a battlefield. This was an opportunity for us to try and heal that divide, with information and arming people with wisdom. It's not just about the polls, it's about being informed on the many, many moving pieces that are involved in our policy making.
What about the inherent goal of House Bill 1355 to prevent voter fraud?
JW: There is certainly some merit [to the bill]. But it's not about bad guys or good guys, it's about information
What’s the best course of action for inspired viewers of the film?
DL: The best way to do something is to carry your butt to the polls and vote. Everyone should vote; it is a right as well as a privilege.
*Update: CNN's Voters in America: Who Counts has gone back into production and will not air on July 15, but rather in September. Jesse Williams' narration will not be featured.