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Opal Elliott: My First Time Voting

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The first time I voted was in 1968 when Richard Nixon was running against Hubert Humphrey. I was a young woman married to my husband who was in the Army in Vietnam. I was living at home with my parents in Philadelphia while he served overseas.  It was an intense time  in the country, as the nation was polarized about the war and so was I. There were protests everywhere, including in Philadelphia.  I remember watching the horrific pictures of the war in the evenings with my parents and thinking how unjust and awful this war was but also praying that my husband would survive the war and we would be united again.

I was no stranger to the voting world as my mother was very much an activist working with the person in our community who was considered an alderman. She would go throughout our neighborhood during voting times and knock on doors telling people to come out and vote.  They would even hand out ballots with check marks on who to vote for based on the particular Party .

My parents had immigrated from the Cayman Islands and they took their American citizenship seriously, and believed it was important to make a contribution.

Discussions about politics in our family surfaced when my father would come home from work. Sometimes my sisters and I used to say, "Stop already!" My mother was quite a community ambassador and I think it’s only fitting that all of her children took up the gauntlet to be active in our communities wherever we lived. 

The importance of voting was ingrained in our family. My oldest sister and her husband who lived in Philadelphia were poll watchers going around the country at election times to ensure the voting process was legal and adhered to. The former mayor of Syracuse, NY, where my son used to live, told us that she owes a great debt to our son for his work on her winning campaign, as did one of the state senators. And now it’s only fitting that my young niece who lives in Brooklyn, NY  signed up to be a poll watcher this year in the presidential election. So the voting tradition and activism in our family continues!

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