Amir Malik Dogan El, 20, cast his first vote in a presidential election on the first day that polls opened in Washington, D.C. because he felt it was important to make an early statement.

He was among almost 1,095 people who trekked to D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics headquarters at One Judiciary Square in Northwest on Oct. 22, the first day of early voting in the District. By noon, 475 people had voted, election officials said.

“All of my friends are tweeting and talking the election up on Facebook,” said Dogan El, who lives in the Fairfax Village neighborhood in Southeast. “If the Democrats don’t win, African Americans will suffer more while the rich get richer.”

The District, which began allowing early in-person voting in 2010, and 31 states allow voting to begin before Election Day on Nov. 6. Twenty-one states allow voters to file absentee ballots, according to published reports. In Maryland, early voting will begin on Oct. 27. Research has shown that the elderly, women, immigrants and African Americans are more likely to vote early. There were several young people at the early polling site on Oct. 22.

While turnout was light on the first day of early voting in D.C., those who showed up at the polls were enthusiastic. Marshall Heights resident Brittany Dunn, 28, a young Muslim woman who wore a traditional head wrap, said she was voting for the third time. She said her parents told her they did not plan to vote, but she was determined for her voice to be heard.

“I am voting early because I plan to work the polls on Election Day,” she said. “No matter what anyone says, I believe my vote does count.”

For some people, convenience brought them out, like Langston Terrace resident Linda Wilkes, 59. “No crowds and no waiting in lines was my motivation,” Wilkes said.

Several of the people who showed up to vote on Oct. 22 were senior citizens, like Daisy Mitchell, 74, a River Terrace resident. Some older voters waited in wheelchairs, others leaned on canes.

Capitol Hill resident Rita Thomas, an Obama volunteer, said it is critical for supporters of the president to show up to vote. “We can’t take anything for granted,” she said. “No matter what way the media attempts to sway this election, we must get Democrats out there early to detect any possible blocks that may occur.”

Valerie Randolph, 56, of Shaw, said she sends e-blasts to more than 400 people every day containing information about voting. “This election is so serious that it is paramount that people of color and the 47 percent vote to let our voices be heard,” she said.

Mary and Calvin Reid brought their daughters, Jasmine,11, and Jordan, 7, to witness them voting early. “I got so sick of those negative ads about Obama until I just couldn’t wait to cast my vote for him,” said Mary Reid. “We want to be a part of the driving force that puts him back in office.”

Dr. James L. Jones, 79, who has been involved in D.C. politics since Walter Washington became the District’s first mayor, produced a video last month called “Don’t Be Duped or Bamboozled – Get Your Voter ID.” He said he sent the video to the Democratic headquarters in each state with strict voter ID laws with instructions on how they could convene community meetings on the subject.

“If someone waits until Election Day, circumstances might come up that the person might not be able to correct which would prevent them from voting,” he said. “There are too many intervening causes for people to wait to the last minute to vote.”

Anacostia resident Charles Price, 65, said he was thinking about the forefathers and foremothers who fought to get Blacks the right to vote when she showed up at One Judiciary Square.

“Vote we must,” Price said.


Valencia Mohammed

Special to the AFRO