There’s a move afoot to name a Florida voting rights act after Desiline Victor, the 102-year-old North Miami woman who waited for hours in line to cast her ballot during November’s presidential election.
You may remember Victor, who became the oldest guest ever to be invited to a State of the Union address. She sat in the visitors gallery of the U.S. House of Representatives last month as President Obama singled out her determination to vote.
“She was told the wait to vote might be six hours,” Obama said. And yet, she waited. The other voters waiting in line “erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read, ‘I Voted,’ ” the president said.
Since then, Victor has become the poster granny for voter suppression in Florida. And her story has inspired “Desiline’s Free & Fair Democracy Act,” a state bill that aims to modernize and expand voting opportunities.
I’m all for modernizing and expanding voting in Florida. But before we incur any bronze sculpture expenses, I’d like to tap the brakes on Desilinamia before it gets more out of hand.
For starters, the 102-year-old woman wasn’t voting on Election Day. She showed up at the North Miami Public Library during the first day of early voting, when the lines were especially long. Don’t get me wrong. When you’re over 100, early voting is a great idea. So I don’t begrudge her plan to cast the ballot 11 days before Election Day.
And even though she was told the wait was six hours, she waited for three hours before concluding that maybe it would be best to come back later when the lines were shorter. Which is what she did.
If Desiline Victor had gone through this on Election Day, it would have been a more compelling story. But, ultimately, it’s a tale about a person who chose to go through an ordeal on the first of eight days set aside for early voting, a day that happened to be one of the three weekend days when many working people also tried to vote early.
So here’s my suggestion. Before we slap Desiline’s name on a voting rights bill, let’s borrow her name for something a little more basic. I call it “Desiline’s Let Centenarians Go to the Front of the Line Act.”
This would apply to all lines — bank, post office, supermarket or polling place.
Anybody who is 100 years old or over gets to go to the front of the line. Period.
The last census found that in the whole country there are 53,364 centenarians, which means that there are probably no more than 50,000 in Florida. To avoid problems, the state can give out official 100-year-old clip-on badges to prevent some upstart 98-year-olds from cutting the line.
Sorry, but there has to be a cutoff somewhere.
Frank Cerabino writes for the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post.