I Voted in Belize: And The Once Mysterious Purple Finger

Yesterday was Municipal Election Day in San Pedro and for the country. I voted for the first time since being sworn in as a Citizen of Belize last August. And walked away with the purple finger that I’ve always been envious of on past election days. But let me back up a bit…

The purple finger from voting
My purple ink dipped finger to prove I voted – and that I can not vote again

Here are the rules in Belize for Municipal Elections: City and town councils dissolve on the last Sunday of February in every third year, with the election called for the first Wednesday in March in every third year.

We were headed to the poll stations in town, open from 7am to 6pm, to pick 6 town councilors and the mayor. We had received some rules/regulations from the town council. No liquor on election day is the law of the country. In the past, there have been some San Pedro-only amendments – liquor was okay at restaurants only and at hotels but this year, the law was being enforced.

Flags lining the beach by the voting area
Flags for both parties lined the beach

No alcohol would be sold or served. I bet most countries in the world have (or still have this law) on the books. Probably even some counties in the US. Also no firearms! Both seem like reasonable rules to me.

Rules for voting - no firearms, no cameras or phones
No liquor on Election Day

US Citizens registered with the US Embassy in Belize also got this warning that I found a little bit strange. For a second, I thought maybe it was a warning about Super Tuesday’s voting in the USA. But no…it was about Belize’s elections. I guess they try to be overly cautious?

But it was hard to imagine what the issue would be here in San Pedro… the danger of being caught up in a celebratory parade? Yes, that can be annoying if you have somewhere to be. Or maybe they were worried about a rowdy bunch of tourists who would be angry about no rum punch? No walking or driving at night seems a bit like overkill.

I actually asked a policeman about it later that day…he said that things can get a bit rowdy or heated in Belize City or Orange Walk. Not dangerous but might be uncomfortable to visitors. Huh.

When my family visited a few years ago, they got caught up in a PUP Parade in San Pedro and even got a free t-shirt. They still sing the PUP song to this day when I visit. They loved it.

Warning from the US States department about elections

I went to vote at about 1030am and the scene was quite subdued – not as many people, flags and posters as the last election (in 2020, the municipal election and the national election were at the same time)

There were policemen and women stationed every couple hundred feet. The roads around my polling area were cordoned off and some party booths were set up.

Similar to the US, it was more “why the other party” needs to go rather than what “we” will do for you.

UDPs ballot

Unlike the US, there is pretty open talk (at least amongst voters, on social media and even with the opposing party) of “going to the pork house” after you vote. The party in power has the money and…well…

This is from the social media accounts @belizeanriceandmemes (which, I must say, is a handle I wish I thought of)

Belizean meme about collecting money for election

I can only tell you that I did not visit any houses after voting. And Pork House would be a great name for a bar.

The San Pedro high School
The San Pedro High School was my polling area
A-G at the High School

I entered and A-G was further broken down into about 8 different classrooms. I found mine (Ch-D) and showed my Voters ID to first of about 8 poll workers that were sitting in the quiet room. The election worker loudly announced my name to the room.

She asked me to dip my right fingertip into the deep purple ink (up to the first knuckle), gave me a tissue and a paper ballot. I went behind a small cardboard partition, picked my 6 councilors – just Xs or checks with a pen – and my mayor. I folded the ballot in 4 as directed and dropped it in the box in the middle of the room. That’s it.

I thought I would vote with the purple finger or use it to mark my ballot when completed but the ink was only to mark me! A serious permanent ink that is almost impossible to get off for a reason. So you can not vote twice – try to vote for another person…

I had no idea that Election Dye or Ink is used in many countries for just this reason. It has silver nitrate in it so that it sticks to your cuticles and can take weeks to shed off with new skin. This Wikipedia page on the ink is super interesting to me. It was first used in Colombia in 1957.

Bleach was most effective at removal but this morning, it remains on my cuticle.

Election ink after cleaning with bleach

At 6pm, the polls closed and Middle Street San Pedro was closed for a bit to transport the ballot from the 2nd polling station (at the RC School) to the High School for counting.

A few hours later, Mayor Wally and his PUP Councillors were declared winners. The counting continues but it looks like a landslide.

Congratulations to Wally and his team and to all who ran. There were lots of great candidates to choose from.

Now let me get back to scrubbing my finger 🙂

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  1. Dennis Roderigues on March 7th, 2024 at 10:15 am

    How many years did it take to get your residency ? Curious because I have been in Belize since October of 2018, but still have not got my residency ? What can I do to speed things up ?

    • San Pedro Scoop on March 7th, 2024 at 4:52 pm

      I moved here permanently in 2007, got a work permit 12/07 and then 12/08 and then 12/09. I think it took almost 2 years to come thru. But yours is taking way too long. Have you called to make sure that they still have the paperwork? The “lost between administrations” thing is a doozy!

  2. Tim Doyle on March 7th, 2024 at 10:40 am

    Congrats Mayor Wally

    You now have 3 years to address many things…. one being Secret Beach, one of many treasures of Ambergris Cay. Leave unattended and it will become a DUMP!
    Put in Zoning codes, mandate trash removal, sanitation improvements, music control, beach access and use only a few of many considerations to fix.
    Mandatory compliance is real easy to do. Reach out and I will share. Hint, Mayor of Chicago Richard Daley and Meigs field.
    Mayor, you have many things to do and have accomplished much yet Secret Beach is a treasure and ignoring this will be wasted treasure.

    • San Pedro Scoop on March 7th, 2024 at 4:51 pm

      I agree that we need some regulations over there. 100% but there is no zoning or real building regulation in the country at all. And no one wants to alienate a potential vote. It’s the land where beach furniture goes to die.

  3. Dawn Burton on March 7th, 2024 at 10:48 am

    Wow,we need a purple finger system like that here in the states.

    • Glenn on March 7th, 2024 at 12:06 pm

      Right on!

    • San Pedro Scoop on March 7th, 2024 at 4:50 pm

      Is there a double counting issue? It definitely lets you know who has voted!

  4. Scott Simmons on March 7th, 2024 at 11:32 am

    Big congrats on participating in your first election in Belize – a subdued by still proud moment for you!

    • Scott Simmons on March 7th, 2024 at 11:34 am


    • San Pedro Scoop on March 7th, 2024 at 4:49 pm

      Exactly! Thank you.

  5. Pat Wagner on March 7th, 2024 at 3:48 pm

    Congratulations on participating in your first election in Belize!

    • San Pedro Scoop on March 7th, 2024 at 4:49 pm

      Thank you 🙂

  6. SPmQQseBZ on March 9th, 2024 at 7:41 pm

    red or blue…doesn’t matter who wins the election…. the ENVIRONMENT is the loser.