Desiline Victor (pictured center, seated) is a determined 102-year-old woman who stood in line for three hours at her North Miami polling place during the elections to ensure that her vote was counted. Even after her exhausting wait, she was told by pollsters to return later in the day to cast her vote for Barack Obama, and Victor’s determined spirit did not break despite the frustrating road blocks that were presented before her. Now, as the First Lady Michelle Obama’s guest on Tuesday night, Victor will finally meet the man she voted for as the President delivers the State of the Union Address before the nation. NewsOne caught up with Victor before her “night of a lifetime” event.
Born in Haiti in 1910, Victor, a naturalized citizen and retired farm worker, wanted to take advantage of Florida’s early voting system that took place last October.
When the centenarian arrived at the polling place on October 28th, she was told that the wait time was an unfathomable 6 hours. “I decided to get to the voting place early because I thought voting would be simpler,” says Victor. Despite her age and uneasiness after standing for long periods of time, Victor was determined to stick it out and not allow the exhausting wait time at her local library to deter her from casting her vote for Obama.
After three hours in the unbearable heat and on her feet without the assistance of a walker and without once sitting down, some voters complained to polling workers that Victor appeared unbalanced. The North Miami resident was approached by one of the staffers at the polling place who suggested she return later in the day, assuring her that there would be no wait time for her. When Victor made her way back to the library, she had an hour’s wait time to cast her vote for the man.
“I wanted to vote for Obama because I love him; he is my son. I don’t call him my president, I call him my son. I supported him for president because I felt he better had the interests of low-income people and the elderly, particularly with regards to Medicare. I also wanted to vote because I truly believe that every vote counts. If I would not have cast my ballot and Obama lost, then I would have felt so guilty,” Victor says.
When Victor, who became a naturalized citizen some 24 years ago, emerged from the library, she was met with cheers and thunderous applause from other voters and spectators. Little did Victor know that in her perseverance, she became a role model for all others to admire and learn from.
Victor was approached by the Advancement Project, a civil rights group that does voter protection advocacy work, along with the Florida New Majority, a statewide civil rights organization. Both organizations, who advocate for election reform, were responsible for bringing Victor’s heroic act to the attention of the First Lady.
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Judith Brown Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, told NewsOne that tens of thousands of other Americans did not get to vote, after facing similar problems at the polls, “Citizens who take responsibility to carry out their civic duty are still not guaranteed their right to vote in this country.
“And while Ms. Victor’s determination to make her voice heard was heroic, she should never have had to wait in line for more than three hours to do it. These problems could be fixed with federal voting standards, including early voting and modernized registration, to ensure that elections are free, fair and accessible.”
Gihan Perera, executive director of Florida New Majority, sums it up best by stating, “What needs to be done now is to honor those efforts by restoring the public confidence in our voting system and ensuring that democracy works for all.”
Meanwhile, Victor, or “Granny,” as she is called by all who know her, is getting gussied up in her new outfit for Tuesday night’s activities, which include a visit to the White House for a reception before the President’s speech.
Victor, who says she feels a strong connection to President Obama is beyond excited about finally meeting the man she voted for back in 2008 and again last year, “I feel happy and proud. I never expected that I would get to actually touch Obama, I just love him, he is my son.”