Obama Frames Voting Reform Around 102-Year-Old Hero

The sheer determination of a 102-year-old Miami woman brought the U.S. government to its feet Tuesday night.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama recognized Desiline Victor, a retired farmworker who voted last fall after enduring a wait that would have discouraged most voters.

Lawmakers and other Washington VIPs rose to their feet and craned their necks to see Victor, sitting in the back row of the First Lady’s box.

“When Desiline arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours,” the president said. “And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say. And hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line to support her  – because Desiline is 102 years old. And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read, ‘I voted.’”

Victor’s problem was rooted in long lines on the first day of early voting in Florida. But new state laws in some areas that require a photo identification are making it harder to vote. As many as one in five Americans 65 and older do not have a photo ID.

Obama used Desiline Victor’s story as a springboard for announcing the formation of a nonpartisan commission to help iron out voting problems in the United States. “When any Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot,” he said, “we are betraying our ideals. … We can fix this, and we will.”

 

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