Netflix series explains US democracy

By Stephanie Sical

Netflix’s “Whose Vote Counts, Explained” is a three-part mini-series that explains the history and injustices of elections in the United States. The mini-series focuses on how the voting system works and what can be done to fix the flaws that haunt it. The series is part of the larger Explained franchise produced by Vox Media Studios.

High-profile celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Selena Gomez and John Legend narrated a few episodes because they liked its message. In each episode topics like voter suppression, campaign spending and how the system seems to give some groups less powers than others are talked about. The show combines detailed and easy to understand graphics with interviews with politicians, historians, activists and others to provide more in depth information on the topics being discussed. 

The mini-series does a great job of connecting the history of voting and elections in America to issues still present in our electoral system, like why Americans vote at a much lower rate than most other developed countries. One of the most common reasons given is people don’t think their vote matters. Vox does an outstanding job of explaining the history of voting and how back when the U.S. Constitution was written, only white, property-owning males were allowed to vote. The voting pool expanded when the Fifteenth Amendment was passed in 1870 allowing black men to vote and in 1920 when the Nineteenth Amendment was passed women were allowed to vote as well. In 1971, the Twenty-Sixth Amendment was passed, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.

The documentary featured people of different political parties like New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former Ohio Governor John Kasich. While both individuals have different ideologies, they both believe in the right for all Americans to vote and to make voting an easy process. 

There is a moderate amount of violent and scary content as historical events are discussed. There are videos and pictures of police brutality against African American people, but it’s not graphic. Upsetting news stories are mentioned, but footage itself is not scary. For example, during the segment about the Sandy Hook shooting, the footage shows adults crying. Sex is not a focus, but in one episode a fleeting and obscured cartoon image of male genitalia is shown as the narrator says “adult content.” The overall idea of the series is that the election process in the U.S. is broken and disproportionately affects non-White Americans.

“Whose Vote Counts, Explained” gives viewers a history lesson on American franchisement along with an illustration of what is taking place in America today. The genius editing and celebrity narration help communicate a complex topic like voter rights to a younger audience. The mini-series is not the only project that dives deep into the U.S. voting system. Hollywood celebrities have been coming out to encourage people to vote lately, with “register to vote” posts on social media platforms. It’s clear that there’s a more collective and concerted effort than ever to get people to the polls and hopefully, change things.

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