The Power of the Purple Thumb
I was reading an article on Hugo Chavez from the BBC (via Drudge) and the possibility that he might lose the election to his challenger, Henrique Capriles. Couldn't happen to a nicer socialist - Chavez has essentially destroyed entire industries by a combination of nationalization, seizing the engines of economic growth, and cronyism profiteering. But that wasn't what really caught my eye.
It was a purple thumb. This picture of a young lady in England who has just voted in the Venezuelan election. She is giving a clear thumbs up on her vote and, one presumes, the right to vote. And clearly in the picture was a purple thumb. The purple thumb has come to symbolize a free and fair election. Once marked, the person can not go back and vote again, limiting voter fraud, a real problem in most of the world - those parts that bother to hold elections. Too many people take democracy for granted and forget that it is a fragile system that exists in a minority of countries.
We don't have purple thumbs here in America, the birthplace of modern democracies. As a matter of practical fact, we lack any means of determining the validity of a voter. In the election that elevate Al Franken to the Senate in 2009, 1100 felons, ineligible to vote, voted anyway. Cases of voter fraud with people voting in two states have been documented in Florida and New York this year. In the spirit of bipartisanship, Florida now has active investigations into both Democrat and Republican organizations for voter fraud.
At the same time that the complaints of tainted voters and outright fraud are increasing, efforts to increase accountability have run into roadblocks disguised as judges. The usual argument follows the lines of "it's a hurdle designed to constrain the minority/poor/elderly vote." Yet, in a test case in Philadelphia, Viviette Applewhite, 93 years old and wheelchair-bound lost her case that it placed an undue burden for her to obtain a Sate-sponsored photo ID. One day after losing the case, Viviette went to the DMV and got her identification. As it turned out, she didn't even have to leave the nursing home she was at - she already had an ID that was compliant with Pennsylvania law. According to CNS,
Ironically, Applewhite probably didn’t have to make the long trip to the DMV at all, Cooper said.
“She actually did have a form of ID that would have allowed her to vote,” he told CNSNews.com. “She did not have a state-issued equivalent to a driver’s license, but at the care facility where she’s been living, they had an ID card for her that they used to make sure that she was getting her medicines, and all that – and she actually could have used that.”
Vote By Mail
Here in Washington State, along with Oregon and under consideration in a growing list of other states, we no longer go to the polls. We have vote-by-mail instead. Voters under the age of 35 in this State may have never gone to a poll - individual counties began to switch to the vote-by-mail method starting in 1993 when the state allowed permanent absentee balloting to occur. Eventually every county except Pierce County had made the switch. The State legislature passed new requirements in 2011 to force Pierce to adopt the same standard as the rest of the state.
Since I moved in from another state - California to Idaho, Idaho to Washington - plus my age, I remember going to the polls. I remember voting in Maryland and the voting machines. Punch cards in California and, after the Florida debacle, taking care not to leave a hanging chad.
I remember taking my children with me, telling them that what I was doing was the most important civic duty a citizen has. Giving them my little "I Voted!" sticker and, because we had three girls, asking the poll attendants for an extra one so each girl got the sticker. Educating the next generation of voters on the importance of civic responsibilities.
Now, if they were still at home, they would be justified in thinking that the right to vote, the most sacred of American rights, the right that supports all the rest, is slightly more important than paying the bills. It comes in the mail and gets set to the side, disremembered and neglected until the due date. Then, a frenzy of scribbling in boxes, and placing this most important document in the mail.
Does it get to the election office? I don't know.
Does it get counted? I don't know.
Did someone else also vote in my name? I don't know.
When Americans can no longer trust in the voting process - suspect that their vote was lost in the mail, devalued by people voting multiple times, dead people still on the rolls, illegally present immigrants with voting cards - they themselves will not feel constrained by the rules. One belief that must be shared by the members of a representative republic such as ours is that their vote does truly count.
So my solution is simple. I want what that Venezuelan girl has. What this Iraqi girl has. I want proof that I voted and that my vote was counted.
I want a purple thumb.