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November 4th, 2008
02:41 PM ET

Half a century old, and suddenly able to vote

Albert Lewitinn
CNN Senior Broadcast Producer

“I voted!”

Those were the first words that came out of an Asian-American woman in her 50’s who stood three steps in line just ahead of me. 

“For the first time in my life I voted!” she exclaimed in broken English.

You could see the look of pride in her face as she walked out from behind the curtain. She had come to the polling station, accompanied by a friend, and was full of nervous energy. She paced in and out of the line, basically jumping. 

When it was her turn to sign in, she proudly stated her name, got the slip from the polling clerk and headed to the booth.

Inside the booth, she screamed, “What do I do now?!” The clerk explained, “You push the red lever to the right and vote.” 

“But how?!”

After several minutes of frustration, and asking for more help, you could hear her say all she wanted to do was vote for President.

She did, and walked out. 

The polling station applauded—not because she finally moved in a line that had grown, but because it is for this woman, who left her home country for a new life in this country, that we have such a democracy… something that gets lost in the din of the two-year-long campaign.  This woman is a testament to democracy.


Filed under: 2008 Election • Voting
soundoff (72 Responses)
  1. GF, Los Angeles

    @ Meg there are people who speak English that still don't know how to vote much less research the people or propositions. I bet you couldn't even pass the exam to become a U.S. Citizen in the first place. She obviously did and has the choice to only vote for the President and disregard all the other issues on the ballot. What an ignorant racist statement....and you pray to God? Does he teach you this hate?

    November 4, 2008 at 10:51 pm |
  2. Mike Rodrigues

    Very cool. Wish I had been there.

    November 4, 2008 at 6:56 pm |
  3. Red

    Why is she voting for the first time, did she just become an American citizen? If that's not the case, then shame on her for not voting not exercising her right to vote and make a difference! That goes for everyone in this country who is over 18 years of age and an American citizen, if this is the first time you've voted, then shame on you, you have no reason to complain about what's been happening for the last 8 years!

    November 4, 2008 at 6:27 pm |
  4. shayla

    maybe she vote for someone that she agree with.u dont kno that u shouldnt judge her just because she was ignorant about the process, it was her first time

    November 4, 2008 at 6:26 pm |
  5. BebeZed

    Pardon, Overtaxed, but your xenophobia is showing...
    Who said she did not do the research? Who said she voted just to say she voted? Who are you to judge?

    Sorry you've gotten so jaded. It IS a big deal for anyone to vote for the very first time... and especially for someone who left their home country for the opportunities that are freely offered in America. My mother was such an immigrant and she can tell you every detail of the very first time she voted in America over a half century ago. It IS a big deal.

    So get off your American high-horse already!

    November 4, 2008 at 6:21 pm |
  6. 3rd time Voter in Va

    Overtaxed,
    How do you know that was her reason for voting today? Or are you just assuming this? Don't be so quick to judge. I think its a wonderful story.

    November 4, 2008 at 6:20 pm |
  7. Charm

    Overtaxed, how do you know this woman didn't research or agree with the candidate she voted for and didn't base her vote on the color of their skin or sex? What a ridiculous assumption on your part just because she's Asian-American. O.o

    November 4, 2008 at 6:19 pm |
  8. Annie Kate

    Its great that this woman got to vote for President. I'm sure she knew exactly who she wanted to vote for based on her perception of which candidate she thought was best. I remember it was exciting the first time I voted – but nothing like this. Congrats to her for being able to finally cast her first vote here.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    November 4, 2008 at 6:07 pm |
  9. Scott from Austin

    Overtaxed,..I'm sorry,..but I have to mention that you seem to be making a big assumption saying that this woman voted "just for the sake of voting"... She obviously had strong opinions about who she wanted to vote in as president, otherwise she wouldn't have emphasized her desire to do so.

    November 4, 2008 at 6:02 pm |
  10. marcat

    Who said she hadn't done the research, "Overtaxed"? The story is about having a voice. The mechanics were about the voting machine complexities for someone new to the technology. I waited in line for octogenerians who had been voting for 60 years to figure out the mechanics. I was proud of them too.

    November 4, 2008 at 6:02 pm |
  11. A Civic Responsibility

    Overtaxed – you have got it all wrong. It is our Civic Responsibility as American citizens to vote regardless of WHY we vote. We all vote based on different platforms – economic, social, candidate's likeability, candidate's experience, party affiliation, etc. Our right to vote, a right so many others worldwide do not share, should be celebrated regardless of the choice one makes on the ballot. To disagree with one person's reason for voting is a further testament to the freedoms offered to us in the United States. It's called democracy and this woman is living proof of its power and beauty.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:56 pm |
  12. Proudly Blue

    Responding to overtaxed-

    That is quite an assumption to make that this woman did not do her research. I have learned from personal experience, that foreigners who gain the right to become citizens, have more knowledge about our country then those of us who were born here. I applaud this woman for becoming a US citizen and for exercising her right to vote. And shame on you for making assumptions, you know what the say about assumptions.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:56 pm |
  13. sprootles

    Um, hello Overtaxed...no one said she didn't research the candidate she voted for.

    Thanks for being snob, though.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:52 pm |
  14. Steve from Fullerton

    There is nothing that states that she did not research who she voted for, she was proclaiming that she was happy for the fact that she voted because she finally had the opportunity to. I think it's a great story and I'm glad that she's appreciating one of the many great things about our country and excersizing her right to vote.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:52 pm |
  15. Simply Stated

    Overtaxed, you don't know what kind of research that woman has done. She was excited to vote because it is a privilege that was not afforded her in her home country. We should all be very excited that we have the right to control our government and choose our representatives. I am a proud voter!

    November 4, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  16. EBC

    'Overtaxed' – you are assuming she didn't know who she wanted to vote for. I admit my own struggle with people having trouble with the English language or people who vote without knowing anything.

    This woman was adamant about voting. If you are so concerned about it, I hope that you have put forth effort into educating people you find suitable for voting. Every citizen whether born or tested, has a right to vote. I agree they should look up the issues, but assumptions are what create problems.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  17. Vickie - Olathe, KS

    Of course you vote for the sake of voting – that's what voting is. You're not required to be a political analyst in order to vote. If you feel that a candidate has something in common with you, then why not vote for them? She's a U.S. Citizen – let her, and Americans like her, voice their opinion and vote for whomever they choose.

    This woman sounds exactly like my mom. My mom, 46, has been a U.S. Citizen since 1994, but this is the first election she's participating in. She was so excited when she got her ballot in the mail, that she called me at work to make sure she was filling it out right. I'm really glad I got to experience this moment with her and all the other first-time voters out there.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:36 pm |
  18. Tom in Tennessee

    "Overtaxed" read something in Albert Lewitinn's voting vignette that I didn't see. I read nothing that indicated the first-time voter hadn't researched her note and made a conscious choice. I have to wonder what made "Overtaxed" jump to such a negative conclusion.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:29 pm |
  19. Bruce

    Overtaxed, how do you know she didn't have a clue about who she voted for? Isn't that a big assumption?

    November 4, 2008 at 5:27 pm |
  20. heather

    overtaxed – you missed the point –

    Congradulations to the people of America that vote because it is their joyful responsibility.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
  21. Melissa Bode

    Overtaxed, after carefully reading over the posting, I wonder what leads you to believe this lady hadn't researched the candidates? With all due respect, the posting didn't say who this lady voted for or what her motviation was.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:21 pm |
  22. Shakin' My Head

    Overtaxed, you missed the point. The lady didn't simply just vote for the sake of voting – if she had, she would have arbitrarily picked one of every choice on the ballot.

    She wanted to vote for the president of her new country, something she had never done before, and she was proud of herself. You should be too....

    November 4, 2008 at 5:20 pm |
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