A 102-year-old Florida woman who stood in line for three hours to vote this past November will sit in a place of honor at tonight’s State of the Union address.
Desiline Victor will be among four African-American guests of the first lady at the annual presidential address to Congress. In addition to Victor, the parents of slain Chicago teen Hadiya Pendleton: Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel A. Pendleton Sr., of Chicago; and 12-year-old Arizona youth activist Haile Thomas, a Youth Advisory Board member with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and Co-Founder/Director of the HAPPY Organization, which focuses on improving children’s lives through service, education and healthy active lifestyles, will sit with Michelle Obama for the speech. Other guests of Michelle Obama include Apple CEO Tim Cook and Medal of Honor recipient Clinton Romesha.
Victor, a retired farm worker originally from Haiti, was born in 1910, arriving in the United States in 1989. She is reportedly the oldest person ever invited to attend a State of the Union address.
She arrived at the North Miami Public Library at 9 a.m. on October 28th — the first Sunday of early voting — determined to cast her ballot, but lines stretched for up to six hours. After three hours waiting, other people standing in the long line complained to poll workers that the fiercely independent but elderly woman, who is known in the local Haitian community as “Granny,” was being forced to stand for so long, according to news reports, and Victor was asked to come back later in the day. When they saw her emerge after her second attempt, “I Voted” sticker pasted on, the assembled crowd of voters broke out into applause, with several remarking that despite the long lines, Victor’s determination encouraged them to stay and wait.
“Ms. Victor represents the kind of heroines and heroes that we had in Florida, who despite the legislative obstacles put in their way, came out in droves and exercised their human and constitutional right to vote,” said Gihan Perera, Executive Director of Florida New Majority, a statewide civil rights group that registered voters for the 2012 election. “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.”
Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature shortened the state’s early vote period from 14 days to 8 in a move many critics, including Florida New Majority and the Advancement Project, a national civil rights group that is bringing Victor to Washington, have criticized as having a disproportionate impact on minority and young voters to cast ballots, since both groups tend to more heavily utilize early, in-person voting.