On Oct. 20, FRONTLINE, Columbia & USA TODAY NETWORK Reporters Investigate ‘Whose Vote Counts’ | Columbia Journalism School
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On Oct. 20, FRONTLINE, Columbia & USA TODAY NETWORK Reporters Investigate ‘Whose Vote Counts’

As America chooses its next president in the midst of a historic pandemic, a new documentary investigates whose vote counts, whose might not and why.

The culmination of months of collaborative reporting from FRONTLINE (PBS), Columbia Journalism School, Columbia Journalism Investigations and reporters from the USA TODAY NETWORK, "Whose Vote Counts" premieres Tuesday, Oct. 20 on PBS, at PBS.org/frontline, on the PBS Video App and on YouTube.

In the documentary, Jelani Cobb, New Yorker writer and Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism at Columbia Journalism School, reports on allegations of voter disenfranchisement, how unfounded claims of extensive voter fraud entered the political mainstream, and the emerging and important role of absentee and mail-in ballots.

With director June Cross, the Fred W. Friendly Professor of Media and Society at Columbia, and producer Thomas Jennings, Cobb scrutinizes one of the first elections held during the pandemic — Wisconsin’s April 2020 primary, which saw long lines, claims of disenfranchisement, and an unprecedented number of absentee ballots. The film places the election within the context of America’s history around voting rights and suppression, and discovers lessons for the country as a whole as the November election approaches.

"Whose Vote Counts" also draws on an analysis conducted with Columbia Journalism Investigations and USA TODAY NETWORK reporters that finds:

  • Absentee ballot rejections this November are projected to reach historic levels, risking widespread disenfranchisement of minority voters. 
  • The coming wave of absentee ballot rejections is not due to voter fraud but instead the byproduct of 200 million eligible voters navigating an often-confusing process where simple mistakes can cost a vote.
  • Not everyone is equally likely to lose their vote: In 2016 and again in 2018, rejected absentee ballots fell along racial, ethnic and wealth divides, with white, non-Hispanic wealthier voters landing on the opposite side of the disenfranchised.

For the full story, watch "Whose Vote Counts" starting Tuesday, Oct. 20. The documentary premieres that night at 10/9c on PBS stations (check local listings) and YouTube. It will be available to stream at pbs.org/frontline and on the PBS Video App beginning at 7/6c.



"Whose Vote Counts" is a FRONTLINE production with 2over10 Media in association with the Columbia Journalism School. The correspondent is Jelani Cobb. The writers are June Cross, Jelani Cobb and Thomas Jennings. The producer is Thomas Jennings. The director is June Cross. The senior producer is Frank Koughan. The executive producer is Raney Aronson-Rath.

About Columbia Journalism School
For more than a century, the school has been preparing journalists in programs that stress academic rigor, ethics, journalistic inquiry and professional practice. Founded with a gift from Joseph Pulitzer, the school opened its doors in 1912 and offers Masters of Science, Masters of Arts, a joint Master of Science degree in Computer Science and Journalism, and Doctor of Philosophy in Communications.  It houses the Columbia Journalism Review, the Brown Institute for Media Innovation, the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. In addition to the Pulitzer Prizes, the school administers many of the leading journalism awards, including the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes, the John Chancellor Award, the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism, the Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, the Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award, and the Mike Berger Award. Journalism.columbia.edu

FRONTLINE, U.S. television’s longest running investigative documentary series, explores the issues of our times through powerful storytelling. FRONTLINE has won every major journalism and broadcasting award, including 95 Emmy Awards and 24 Peabody Awards. Visit pbs.org/frontline and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube to learn more. FRONTLINE is produced at GBH in Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Abrams Foundation, the Park Foundation and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation. Additional funding for "Whose Vote Counts" is provided by the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation.


USA TODAY NETWORK, part of Gannett Co, Inc. (NYSE: GCI), is the largest local-to-national media organization in the country, powered by our award-winning newsrooms and marketing solutions business. With deep roots in local communities spanning the U.S. with more than 250 local media brands, plus USA TODAY, we engage more than 140 million people every month through a diverse portfolio of multi-platform content offerings and experiences. For more information, visit www.gannett.com.