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First lady will host 102-year-old determined voter

  • Article by: SUZANNE GAMBOA
  • Associated Press
  • February 12, 2013 - 3:00 AM

WASHINGTON - A delicate centenarian from Florida will sit with first lady Michelle Obama during Tuesday's State of the Union, symbolizing the ferocity and determination of a voter and giving testament to problems with America's voting system.

Desiline Victor, 102, of Miami, endured a weather-delayed flight to Washington on Monday in order to get to town for President Barack Obama's address. She will be among the guests seated with Mrs. Obama, an opportunity she called "a beautiful thing."

Victor's gentle appearance belies the resolve she mustered in October when she went to the polls on the first Sunday of early voting in Florida. That day, she had to make two visits to her voting precinct, and waited three hours on the first attempt, in order to cast her vote for Obama.

Her determination, despite the physical strain, inspired others to remain and endure up to six-hour waits.

"She just wants everyone to know she wants everyone to vote," said Victor's nephew, Mathieu Pierre-Louis, who translated her words from Creole. Her vote, she said through her nephew, is special. She said she loves Obama and will tell him so if she gets the chance.

A farmworker from Haiti, Victor was born in 1910. She arrived in the U.S. in 1989 and was naturalized in 2005. She first voted in the 2008 presidential election and cast her ballot for Obama.

A slew of states, including Victor's home state of Florida, implemented new voting restrictions in the two years after Obama's historic first election, in which black and Hispanic turnout reached record highs. The laws reduced early voting days, instituted rules requiring voters to show accepted forms of photo identification and curtailed some voter registration activities.

Obama again enjoyed overwhelming support from minority voters in his victory over GOP rival Mitt Romney last year.

Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, a group that advocates for civil rights, said Victor's story underscores the need to fix the voting system to ensure, among other things, that it accommodates elderly voters.

"It's clear Ms. Victor's story is a story that shows the tenacity of a voter to overcome barriers," Davis said. "Unfortunately there were dozens who didn't get to vote because of problems."

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