This 108-Year-Old South Carolina Woman Voted For the First Time

Posted by Liz Dwyer

 

Voting for the first time this election? So is 108-year-old Beaufort, South Carolina resident Joanna Jenkins.

In the video above, her cousin, Shirley Lee, says that Jenkins saw "the debates were going on she decided she wants to vote all of a sudden." Jenkins "can't read or write, and does not have a state issued ID," but the Beaufort County Board of Elections managed a workaround and registered her as an absentee voter.

Why didn't Jenkins ever vote before? Modern voter suppression efforts are insane but they're nothing compared to the reign of terror Jenkins and those around her likely experienced for decades. Back in 1904 when she was born, Jim Crow ruled the South and a black man—women didn't even have the right to vote until Jenkins was 16-years-old—trying to vote was risking his life. Once she was old enough to vote literacy tests and poll taxes would have prevented her from casting a ballot—and then there was the very legitimate fear that the Ku Klux Klan might come pay a visit some time in the future in order to teach her or a family member a lesson. Jenkins was a full 61-years-old when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 officially prohibited voter intimidation, but that doesn't mean it didn't still happen.

However long it took, it's inspiring to see how excited Jenkins is to have her voice finally be heard. Let's all make sure we join her in voting today, too.