logo of soon-to-be-released movie "I Voted?" by Jason Grant Smith
When Alvin Greene won a primary election in June 2010, it wasn't just us Palmetto State people who were surprised as hell.
The shock that an unemployed, non-honorably discharged veteran awaiting trial for obscenity charges could somehow beat a well-known political figure, and without having done any type of campaigning, shook from coast to coast -- including the West Coast home of Jason Grant Smith.
But he didn't respond in the format chosen by us South Carolinians, many of whom just argued (and drank) and debated (and drank) while trying to figure out just who the hell was this Greene guy, and how the heebie jeebies did he wind up taking 60 percent in the primary.
Instead, actor/writer/director Smith actually sought answers, which he's now finalizing into a documentary titled "I Voted?"
The movie, covering not just Greene's surprising upset but the overall imposition of electronic voting machines, recently completed its filming and is now in the production phase.
Smith intends to release "I Voted?" in time for the 2014 election season.
image from "I Voted?" by Jason Grant Smith
What was the trigger? "I couldn't understand how it was that in our 24-hour news cycle, nobody could figure out what happened," he recalls from the multiple news reports circulating immediately after Greene's shocking upset.
"David Axelrod (nationally-known campaign advisor) was on "Meet the Press' shortly after Greene's nomination and he couldn't explain it. Obviously, something bizarre was taking place and I wanted to try and understand it."
He landed in South Carolina with camera in hand two months before the 2010 general election searching for answers to those questions we all still have.
From Greeneville to Charleston and much in between, he spoke with candidates and political activists. He asked county election officials and voting machine critics. Smith questioned local media, and even got insight from national media icon Dan Rather.
"While traversing South Carolina, I tumbled into the byzantine rabbit hole of American elections," he describes, "a mechanism rife with technical, legal, accessibility, and people challenges."
But while South Carolina's well-known for using questionable electronic voting machines that offer no paper trail records to confirm their results, 15 other states use them, too. As a result, Smith had to widen the focus.
"I had no idea that 24 percent of the country uses touch-screen systems that are paperless and cannot be audited or recounted," he says.
"To me, that's a big deal. And I cannot comprehend why this isn't a bigger deal to the rest of the electorate."