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. Meg

    Great to know that the fate of our country is being decided by voters who barely speak English and don't understand how to vote, much less understand stand the issues or why they're voting for a particular candidate. God bless America.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:19 pm |
  2. Dan

    I disagree with Overtaxed. While personally I do research the candidates and then vote for the one that I agree with, I think every person has the right to vote for someone based on whatever reason they want to use. I also think that this woman's story highlights how good we have it as Americans, and why people want to come to America.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:19 pm |
  3. Melissa, Los Angeles

    @ Overtaxed where in the article did you get the idea that this woman just voted for the sake of voting? It was her first time and she apparently had problems understanding how it worked (I myself have voted on touchscreen, chad system and now ink-a-vote in my voting life). For a first time voter it is overwhelming learning how to use whatever system is in place.

    You do realize there are people out there who only vote within their party regardless of the candidate?

    November 4, 2008 at 5:17 pm |
  4. CT

    Overtaxed, You should vote when your an American citizen.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:17 pm |
  5. Max in Phoenix, AZ

    This is a great example of how this election (with all views and beliefs aside) has really helped get people in this country excited about something and bridge a lot of gaps to get people talking and out doing things and being proud to be Americans. It's great that we have the right to vote and that so many people are exercising that right.

    As far as "Overtaxed"'s statement above, I see what you're trying to say, but it doesn't say anything about her not knowing what the canidates stood for, nor does it say who she voted for or why. Maybe she researched the immigration policies or healthcare or maybe social security. All would apply to a citizen who immigrated here and is getting close to retiring.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:16 pm |
  6. What?

    Overtaxed- Don't agree with what? Do you know who she voted for? Or how much research she did prior to making her decision? Not based on this story, you don't. So she was excited to vote for the first time and that means she was an uninformed voter? Please.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:14 pm |
  7. CVille

    Overtaxed you are missing the point, "Voting just for the sake of voting"? She was voting because she was obviously moved – beyond her comfort zone, beyond the trouble to register as someone for whom English was not their first language – to excercise her constitutional right to vote for the leadership of HER country. INSPIRING!!

    November 4, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  8. Undertaxed

    Overtaxed, Assuming that she did not research before voting is wrong.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:11 pm |
  9. Steve

    To Overtaxed: How do you know she DIDN'T do the 'research'? Just because she didn't know how to work the machine? Or just because she only voted for President? Maybe that was the only race she HAD 'researched'....the real beauty of a democracy is reflected in her reaction to the right to vote!

    November 4, 2008 at 5:10 pm |
  10. Hopeful

    It was her first time voting in 50 years. Good for her.I just hope she pushed the right button and for whoever helped her in the booth was not a Mccain /Palin supporter...Oops did I say that.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:08 pm |
  11. Trish

    There is nothing in this article that says she was not deliberate in her choice for President-simply that she didn't know what to do in the voting booth. You presume that since she didn't know how to operate the machine that she does not hold an opinion on who is the better candidate.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:06 pm |
  12. Ndino

    Overtaxed, no one asked her who she was voting for or why. So we don't know. Maybe she did do her research and was just genuinely happy to have the opportunity and the right to finally vote. She is obviously a naturalized citizen, so relax. It is one of the last rights we have in this country, and we all should be happy many people are finally taking advantage of that fact.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:04 pm |
  13. Helen

    Overtaxed, I could see where you might think that she voted based on color. But she could have voted for McCain. You just don't know. I think this is an extremely inspiring story!

    November 4, 2008 at 5:03 pm |
  14. Lori

    Overtaxed, I suspect she voted because she had a preference for the person she wanted to be her president. Her excitement over getting to participate in the process doesn't imply that she doesn't know about the issues or candidates. Congratulations to her for making her voice as an American heard.

    November 4, 2008 at 5:00 pm |
  15. Susan

    Overtaxed- how do you know she didn't research who she wanted for President? Not everyone has an opinion on every candidate and there is no stipulation that a voter must vote for each office on the ballot. Using your stament 'You should vote for a candidate after you have researched and agree with them'
    isn't it better that she did vote for the person she had an opinion on instead of just randomly choosing others?

    I think you are leaping to conclusions- why?

    November 4, 2008 at 4:59 pm |
  16. Sonya

    What an inspiring story. This is what makes American great. I'm so proud to be an American today of all days.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:54 pm |
  17. Mathilda

    How do you know she was voting just for the sake of voting? I don't understand. Why do you assume she didn't do her research or agree with a candidate?

    November 4, 2008 at 4:54 pm |
  18. Jackie in Dallas


    Who is to say she didn't research the candidates? Maybe she did, but it isn't unusual for people to vote on only those issues that interest them. That's why a lot of races go unopposed, and a lot of bond issues pass/fail that ought to fail/pass!

    As a veteran, and as the daughter of a veteran, I'm proud that my service, and the service and sacrifice of millions allowed that woman her moment of freedom!

    November 4, 2008 at 4:53 pm |
  19. Paul M

    Overtaxed, I'm sorry but I don't agree with you. My dad always said if you have the oppertunity to vote, do so. You may not have someone you want to vote for but you can bet that there will be someone you want to vote against. Oh and by the way you claim to be overtaxed. Well I can assure you that you don't pay half as much taxes as you should.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:52 pm |
  20. Loving it

    This is awesome! Congratulations to the lady. Somehow one of the candidates inspired her enough to get out and vote! That's what it's all about. Vote! Vote! Vote!

    November 4, 2008 at 4:51 pm |
  21. Sigh

    Overtaxed, dude – try to pay attention.

    The article does NOT say that the woman doesn't know WHO she voted for. It said she didn't know HOW to vote because she'd never done it before. It sounds to me like she took her privilege very seriously and knew exactly who she wanted to vote for.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:50 pm |
  22. Emily

    Overtaxed, how do you know that she DIDN'T research and agree with her candidate?

    November 4, 2008 at 4:49 pm |
  23. Louis

    What about this story makes you think that she didn't know about the candidates?
    Just because she doesn't know how to vote doesn't mean she doesn't know who she is voting for.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:48 pm |
  24. jlpc64

    this is a SCARY STORY!!!!
    I doubt she casted a reasonably inteligent vote in the 1st place...did she have any understanding of the issue or candidates? doubt it 🙁

    November 4, 2008 at 4:48 pm |
  25. Name

    Overtaxed .. you would be just that in a McPalin White House

    November 4, 2008 at 4:46 pm |
  26. Kathryn

    Where does it say that this woman didn't think about her vote? It's not uncommon to only vote in the presidential election. My polling touch-screen system even has an option for 'president only' voting.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:45 pm |
  27. Olli

    I voted for the first time in my life today, too, at age 47. I became a citizen in May. Words cannot describe how good it felt to be able to vote! It seemed like I was taking that one last step in a long journey.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:44 pm |
  28. Keith

    Overtaxed – The great thing about our system is no one else gets to decide what criteria you use to cast your vote. Besides the story doesn't say what criteria she used just the fact for the first time in her life she got to vote, something many of us take for granted.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:43 pm |
  29. Chris Salzmann

    Overtaxed, I read the story several times and nowhere does it say she didn't know who to vote for; only that she didn't know how to register her vote. Maybe you need to read the story before commenting that someone's voting for a candidate because of sex, or race. Just my observation.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:42 pm |
  30. Dylan


    what article did you read? I didn't notice anything suggesting a lack of research. People are proud to vote and should be. How they came to their decision on who to vote is another story.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:41 pm |
  31. Scott from Indianapolis

    Well, I for one celebrate EVERYONE exercising their right to vote. I don't like people voting out of ignorance, but I have strong faith in the Democratic process and those that vote out of ignorance will at some point realize the power of their voice and mature in that process!

    November 4, 2008 at 4:39 pm |
  32. Lauren

    This story just made all of the frustration I went through for 3 hours this morning all worth it. I can't imagine living in a society where I can't have a say, no matter how small, in who governs my country. And to have witnessed such a monumental first for someone...I hope the people around her soaked it in and said thanks to whatever higher power fated them with the opportunity of living in this country.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:38 pm |
  33. Pat

    overtaxed, where did it say in the story that the women did not research the candidates and choose the one she thought was most qualified? Where did it say she voted "for the sake of voting" like you assume? Try reading the story again...

    November 4, 2008 at 4:37 pm |
  34. Wayne


    Where are you getting this from? The story is not clear about what level of research this woman conducted before voting.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:36 pm |
  35. Lou in Des Moines

    My 19-year-old daughter just phoned me, so excited. She had just voted. As she was finishing a poll worker asked if it was her first time to vote, and she said "yes." Then, to her amazement, everyone within earshot started applauding! How wonderful that in this election people are recognizing the value of every single voter!

    November 4, 2008 at 4:36 pm |
  36. Cynthia

    It was my first time voting too so I can share the excitement of being a naturalized citizen voting for the first time in such historical elections. I did do my research on the candidates and everything! It's been months since I have been looking forward to this day and it's finally here! I am so proud to be an American!

    November 4, 2008 at 4:36 pm |
  37. John Moser

    I got a little misty-eyed reading that. I love the United States.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:36 pm |
  38. Tess

    Overtaxed–I think you missed the point, she WAS voting because she WANTED to vote for HER CHOICE for president and she happened to be excited about it along with tens of millions of Americans that are turning out in record numbers today to vote in this historic election. Her story mirrors the story of many Americans that are exercising their right and responsibility to vote and impact their future.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:35 pm |
  39. George

    To Overtaxed:

    I do not believe the point of this post or the woman was to vote just because she could. She finally felt like a part of the process and that her views mattered. I'm sure this woman voted for the candidate she thought would best represent her. I, too, today got to vote for president for the first time, and I did so. I felt very proud when I placed my optical scan ballot in the machine to be counted later. And again when I put on the 1.5 inch diameter sticker stating "I Voted Today!" That is what today is about, and this woman felt exactly as I did, proud that her voice is finally being heard and her views actually matter.

    Yes there are people who, like you say vote simply for the sake of voting, and I agree that this is not the correct way to vote, however every vote should count no matter the motive and this post does not represent that idea of voting just to vote.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:33 pm |
  40. Blessed and Willing to Pay Taxes

    Dear Overtaxed:

    There is nothing in that story which states that the woman described voted simply for the sake of voting. There is also nothing in the story that indicates that the woman did not research and agree with the candidate she voted for. There is further nothing in the story which describes the woman's skin color. It appears as though your own views and beliefs have caused you to make such assumptions, prerhaps because of your aversion to minorities and immigrants. Please fully read and understand a situation before you judge others.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:33 pm |
  41. TC

    This story brought tears to my eyes. This is what this country is all about folks.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:33 pm |
  42. aDEMinAZ

    Really, Overtaxed? I can't believe you can find fault in the midst of such an inspiring American voting story. You have assumed this woman (who makes me proud to be an American) didn't study up on the candidates, didn't watch the debates or any of the endless hours of coverage? Are you also assuming who she voted for? And, if you thought she voted for your candidate would that make a difference in your opinion?

    I'm a proud democrat, but I am full heartedly proud of each and every American citizen that takes the time to exercise their right to vote today. It's our right, it's our duty and we owe it to every citizen past & present to have EVERY voice heard.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:32 pm |
  43. 2pacolypse Now


    What the hell are you rambling on about? The woman voted for the first time in her life as an American. It doesn't matter who she voted for it matter that she found this election so tantalizing and spellbinding enough to make her decide to cast a ballot. That is democracy in action. Get A Grip.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:29 pm |
  44. Erin

    Overtaxed, I'm not seeing where it says she just voted for the sake of voting. It says that all she wanted to do was vote for the President. That doesn't mean that she didn't research or agree with the candidate she chose...

    November 4, 2008 at 4:29 pm |
  45. Kate

    Overtaxed, did I miss something in the original article?!? I don't recall her saying that she was voting "just for the sake of voting"! She was just excited that she was now a U.S. citizen and could vote for the first time in her life! (And believe me, if she was from China, that would be a HUGE privilege for her!!) Why on earth would you ASSUME that she hadn't researched and/or agreed with a candidate?? What a tacky posting, after a wonderful, heartwarming story about a new citizen! You should be ashamed!

    November 4, 2008 at 4:28 pm |
  46. Sue R

    Overtaxed – you are making an assumption that she did not research her vote. The author did not imply that at all.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:26 pm |
  47. Rick Morayniss

    As a Canadian, I had the same experience when we went to the polls 3 weeks ago. A man in front of me was voting in a free election for the first time in his life. Growing up in a democracy, we take the ability to vote for our leaders for granted. Thankfully, we get reminded of those that arn't as lucky as we are.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:25 pm |
  48. Overtaxed

    I'm sorry but I don't agree with this – for someone to vote just for the sake of voting is not right. It's just like voting for a candidate solely because of the color of their skin or their sex. You should vote for a candidate after you have researched and agree with them.

    November 4, 2008 at 4:08 pm |
  49. Brendan

    Such a moving story. Sometimes I lose faith in people, then I hear stories like this, and I'm speechless.

    November 4, 2008 at 3:04 pm |
  50. Emily from Pasadena

    WOW. How exciting it must have been for her! I turn 18 on November 17th so I barely missed the mark. 🙁 I can't wait until the day I get to vote. But today is an exciting day, everyone should embrace the opportunity.

    November 4, 2008 at 2:45 pm |
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