The New York Times - USA (2020-10-16)

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A2 Y THE NEW YORK TIMES, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2020


Over the last couple of years, Kassie
Bracken has had a front-row seat to some
of the most tumultuous and contested
elections abroad, including in Zimbabwe in
2018 and in Israel in 2019. While she was
covering those races as a senior video
journalist for The New York Times, an idea
took root: to report on issues confronting
elections much closer to home.
“It was a real desire to cover domestic
issues,” Ms. Bracken said. “Thinking about
what Video could do to be more field driv-
en and more enterprise driven for the
election.”
Ms. Bracken teamed up with Alexandra
Eaton, a video producer with a background
in features and design who had worked on,
notably, The Times’s Diary of a Song se-
ries. Last fall, the pair and a team of col-
leagues began work on Stressed Election, a
Times Video four-part series that examines
the complexities of America’s decentralized
election system.
“I thought it would be interesting to get
beyond the horse race and the issues that
people would be voting about,” Ms.
Bracken said, “to look at the mechanisms
of how we vote, the different contact points
for voters and how that impacts faith in
democracy.”
Stressed Election zeros in on battle-
ground states, reflecting larger issues with
voting laws, voters’ rights and disenfran-
chisement. One of the project’s chief goals
is to illustrate how starkly different the
voting process is for Americans depending
on where they live.
“We were attracted to the people whose
job it is to actually manage this process,
kind of the unseen figures of democracy,”
Ms. Eaton said.
The first episode examines voter sup-
pression in Georgia, specifically among the
Black and Latino populations. The episode
features drone footage, from this past
June, of people waiting hours in lines that
snake around several blocks to vote in the
state’s primary election.
The series, which showcases the culture
and citizenry in certain states, also in-
cludes commentary from Times writers —
including Davey Alba, Richard Fausset,
Astead W. Herndon, Jim Rutenberg and

David Sanger — and interviews with local
election directors and county clerks.
By focusing on a variety of informed
perspectives, the Stressed Election team
members said they sought to show the
strengths of a decentralized election sys-
tem, along with the vulnerabilities.
“With so much talk of fraud and how the
election cannot be trusted, actually having
watched this whole series, you’ll under-
stand that election incompetence, or some
challenges in the process, are not the same
as fraud,” said Isabelle Niu, a video jour-
nalist who worked on the project.
This year’s election has become more
chaotic and fraught than expected. The
journalists knew going in that there were
major problems hampering American
elections, but they could not have pre-
dicted how much complexity the pandemic
would add. Voting disparities have become
more salient than ever before.
More than two dozen states have ex-
panded their mail-in balloting. The series’s
second episode, set in Michigan and pub-
lished last Sunday, scrutinizes the state’s
expansion of vote by mail and how its laws
affect efforts to ensure that all ballots are
properly counted in a timely manner.
The pandemic also altered how the
reporting was conducted — journalists
wound up driving vast distances instead of
flying; some interviews were canceled
over health concerns — and muddled an
already confusing voting process.
“An interesting part of this production
has been the fact that the rules are chang-
ing so quickly, so we’re often in the position
of revising voice overs to reflect new
changes in election codes and litigation
right up until publishing,” Ms. Eaton said.
At a time when distrust of the media and
politicians is high, the journalists behind
Stressed Election hope to help people
participate in the election process, even as
they expose its flaws.
“Having more information about how the
elections are run will give more people
confidence that we have decades of built-in
checks and balances and fail safes to pro-
tect the system,” Ms. Niu said. “It’s really,
really hard to rig.”

Inside The Times
THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY

The Times Video series Stressed Election filmed at the Henry Ford, a museum outside Detroit.

KASSIE BRACKEN/THE NEW YORK TIMES

Why Can Voting Be So Complicated?


By JOHN OTIS

Watch Stressed Election at nytimes.com/video

October 16, 1988.Hobbled by injuries to both of his legs, Kirk Gibson pinch-hit in the
ninth inning of Game 1 of the World Series and slammed one of the most improbable
home runs in baseball history — a two-run, two-out blast that gave the Dodgers a 5-4 win
over Oakland, The Times reported. “I couldn’t even do a little jog in my living room,” said
Gibson, whose fist-pumping trip around the bases is one of baseball’s most iconic mo-
ments. It was his only plate appearance in a Series the Dodgers won, four games to one.
Subscribers can browse the complete Times archives through 2002 at timesmachine.nytimes.com.

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