'537 Votes' Review: HBO docu is stark reminder of consequences of political actions before and after elections

HBO's latest documentary, '537 Votes' by filmmaker Billy Corben is a look back at what went down during that fateful election year and how one Cuban boy led to Al Gore's political demise


                            '537 Votes' Review: HBO docu is stark reminder of consequences of political actions before and after elections
George W Bush and Al Gore (Getty Images)
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We are less than a month away from the 2020 Presidential election which is heating up each day as President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence run for a second term against former Vice President Joe Biden with Senator Kamala Harris as his candidate for Vice President. It is at this time that everyone is being urged to go out and vote and reminded that every vote counts. In a country of millions, does that hold true? If there is one thing that proves it does, it is the 2000 Presidential elections.

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In 2000, the race to elect the 43rd President of the United States became the closest in the country's history and was marred by a counting dispute in Florida. Florida, a swing state, had a major recount dispute that took center stage in the election. The outcome of the 2000 United States presidential election was not known for more than a month after balloting because of the extended process of counting and recounting Florida's presidential ballots. It was only in December that year that George W Bush won Florida’s electoral votes by a margin of only 537 votes out of almost six million cast which led to him getting a majority of votes in the Electoral College and therefore, victory in the presidential election, defeating Al Gore.

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HBO's latest documentary, '537 Votes' by filmmaker Billy Corben is a look back at what went down during that fateful election year and how one Cuban boy led to Al Gore's political demise. That boy was Elian Gonzalez, who was found nestled in an inner tube floating at sea three miles from Florida's Fort Lauderdale coast. Elian's mother had perished while trying to bring him to America and as his father back in Cuba demanded his return, an international custody dispute ensued. The then-President Bill Clinton decided to send Elian back to Cuba, in spite of protests by Cuban Americans who felt that Elian's mother's wishes should be respected and have him in the United States.

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That was but one event that led to Cuban Americans in Miami, Florida casting a "revenge vote" against Al Gore, but even so, many other factors went into play that ultimately cost Gore the elections. One was outdated punching vote machines -- this led to around 10,000 ballots not being counted after the county of Miami-Dade decided not to recount the votes -- and the other was the Bush-Cheney's campaign's intense work to rig the election count in Bush's favor. 

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The documentary comes as a timely look at the consequences of political actions during elections -- of current candidates, as well as others in political power. One person the documentary focused on was former Mayor Alex Penelas, who though a Democrat, ended up abandoning Gore when it came to campaigning among Florida's Cuban-Americans. But it is not just the preceding events that the documentary looks at. In closing, those featured in the documentary lament that had Al Gore become the President, America may not have gone through 9/11, the two wars (in Iraq and Afghanistan), the 2008 recession, and that America would have well been on her way to fighting against climate change.

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But "if only" situations are very precarious and there is, of course, no way to tell with certainty what would have happened. The documentary does, however, relate the current political situation in America to those 537 votes that led to George W Bush becoming the President and it works as a stark reminder against the Trump camp to motivate voters to get out and show their support for Biden and Harris.

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 '537 Votes' premieres on HBO on October 21 at 9/8c. The documentary will be available for viewing on HBO Max on October 22.