Color Iraq Purple: Witnessing Saturday's vote from far-flung polling stations

Reporters on the Job: In a place as tightly controlled as Iraq, the aim is to get the unvarnished version of events on voting day. That’s why, after a 4 a.m. wake-up call, I found myself bouncing along in one of the US military’s mine-resistant vehicles (with no suspension) accompanying a group of United Nations and US election monitors to visit voting stations several hours northwest of Mosul – an area disputed by the Kurdish and Iraqi governments.

There were no other reporters at the six polling sites we saw in five communities – and many of the officials wanted to keep it that way.

Most banned photography.

Unlike voting in major urban centers, there seemed to be no ban on family members or election officials going behind the screen to help people cast their ballots.

In some of the sites there were no voters. Since we had to keep moving, it was impossible to tell whether the explanation at the first polling station was valid: Iraqis there like to sleep late. At another station, officials seemed to have shut down voting for lunch as voting supplies were set aside for platters of lamb and rice.

Despite the officials’ antipathy to press coverage, the normal Iraqi courtesy to guests prevailed. “Would you like to dip your finger in the ink?” one polling site manager asked. It seemed rude to refuse. A day later, it’s not purple anymore but is a lovely if rapidly fading reminder of Iraq’s unique democracy. For more on that, click here to read my story about the vote.

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