It has become the shorthand for free, fair and first elections in emerging democracies and in U.S.-conquered nations. First used by Delaware’s Pete DuPont in the June 21, 2005, Wall Street Journal, “Iraqis held their third purple-thumb election last week …” the purple thumb represents the unsaid guarantee that a free and fair election has taken place.
That same electoral hue was later adopted by our President, when he spoke to the UN General Assembly in September 2006: “To the people of Iraq: Nearly 12 million of you braved the car bombers and assassins last December to vote in free elections. The world saw you hold up purple ink-stained fingers, and your courage filled us with admiration.” [
White House press office ]
Yet, the concept of an admired and fair “Purple thumb” election seems to mean nothing in our “We’re Number One! God Bless America!” country; where suppressed turnouts and election day equipment ‘shortages’ and ‘malfunctions’ have become the expected norm on our national polling days.
With the appearance of George W. Bush on the national stage, each presidential election -– upon which the stability of our nation and the world is dependent -– has been guaranteed to feature numerous attempts by his political party to throw every obstacle possible to prevent or discourage voting among certain classes of voters; usually the poor and minorities, particularly African-Americans. [ People for the American Way ]
Yet our current president -– widely noted as ‘the worst in our history’ [ History News Network ] -– called the June 25 Zimbabwe election “a sham,” adding, “The Mugabe government has been intimidating the people on the ground in Zimbabwe.” He termed this “an incredibly sad development.” [ PBS ]
Do you know what’s ‘incredibly sad,’ Mr. President? How about the black voters in north Florida, who in 2000 experienced outright police intimidation, as they approached many precinct polling stations [ Business Network ] …. And the reported examples of manipulated election 2004 results, caused by a deliberate low allocation of voting machines in high minority precincts. [ Fox News ]
In the President’s home state of Texas, the town of Prairie View — home of the historically black Prairie View A&M University — was the scene of a concerted attempt by white local officials to prevent Prairie View A&M students from voting in the 2006 elections. The area’s Waller County Justice of the Peace, DeWayne Charleston, told the New York Times, “The cold war’s not over — they just moved the fence from Berlin to the Texas border,” after he reported local election officials had not recorded thousands of black student registrations he had personally gathered prior to election day.
More often than not, these blatant attacks on U.S. citizens’ right to vote under our Constitution — the one Mr. Bush swore to ‘preserve, protect and defend’ — are successful; leading to another unfair, GOP-skewed final tally.
In 2000, as we all know, the Supreme Court awarded the presidency to Mr. Bush, following an extremely close count; twisted in his favor by a deliberately confusing ballot prone to miss-votes, the aforementioned police harassment in North Florida, and removal of alleged or redeemed felons from the voter registration rolls. [ Palm Beach Post ] All carried out under the jaundiced and cynical eyes of Republican Secretary of State (later Congresswoman) Katherine Harris. [ The Guardian-UK ]
In 2004 the down-to-the-wire ballot tampering took place in voter operations overseen by Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. [ USA Today ]
Who knows what the Grand Old Party will have lurking in the wings this election, seen by many as the most crucial in more than a generation? [ The Guardian-UK ]
That’s why Senator Obama’s campaign and the Democratic Party are hiring attorneys and poll watchers to stake out polling places for evidence of harassment and challenge any precinct voter rejections and/or ballot counting missteps. [ South Florida Sun-Sentinel ]
Tragic, isn’t it, that the ‘greatest nation in the world,’ and the planet’s beacon for democracy cannot assure every eligible citizen that he or she will be able to vote; and can leave tens or hundreds of thousands (millions?) of its citizens with uncertainty as to whether his or her vote was counted.
If any nation on this globe needs purple thumbs, if any one country has a voting system that cries out for impartial international monitors, it is the United States of America. The Land of the Free, and home of the heretofore suppressed voter.
Help make sure this will not happen, not this time, not this election. Find out what you can do at the Verified Voting Foundation.
“The work begins anew. The hope rises again, and the dream lives on.” [ Senator Edward Kennedy ]