82-year-old Texas woman dies days after voting for the first time
It's Election Day in the United States, when everyone has the chance to make a difference, instead of just complaining about politics to their like-minded friends on Facebook. The 2018 midterms have already seen record-breaking voter turnout, as citizens from all over the country decide the future of Congress. And this includes many first-time voters, like 82-year-old Gracie Lou Phillips.
Gracie stayed away from the polls for decades because she was busy raising her seven kids. Also, she and her husband had misconceptions about voting. They believed they didn't have a voice, and worried that getting called for jury duty would interfere with their jobs. She worked as a beautician, her husband worked in construction, and they had their hands full.
However, the political vitriol during the contentious campaign season changed her mind. "She finally registered to vote for the first time in her life," granddaughter Michelle Phillips told NBC5. "She kept telling everybody 'I’m voting. I’m going to vote this year and my vote counts.'" After registering, Gracie became gravely ill, suffering from pneumonia and sepsis, and transitioned into hospice care. But she wouldn't let that stop her.
Thanks to early voting, Gracie's voice could be heard. Last Thursday, the octogenarian went to the polls for the very first time, at a church near her home in Grand Prairie, Texas. She was unable to leave the vehicle, due to her portable oxygen tank, so the poll workers brought her a ballot. A video recorded by her family shows her in the car, proudly holding a souvenir pen sticker.
Gracie's family told The Washington Post that when she returned home, she was so happy she "danced a little jig" around her walker. Then she sat down, raised her fists in the air and said, "I voted!" "She was very proud," said her son-in-law, Jeff Griffith. "She wanted to drain the swamp. She voted straight-ticket Republican."
Early Monday morning, Gracie died surrounded by her family. "She said, ‘At least I voted,'" Jeff told The Post. "It was one of the last coherent things she said to us." Her family told NBC5 that they hoped Gracie's vote would inspire others. "To have someone literally need oxygen to breathe, pure tank of oxygen to breathe, put it in her car and ask to go on what may very well be the last week of her life, that shows the dedication and priority that people need to look at," said Michelle.
Regardless of whether you're hoping for a "blue wave" or a "red wave," it's important to participate in elections. American democracy isn't perfect, with its ridiculous gerrymandering, shameful acts of voter suppression and puzzling electoral college. But it's the only system we've got. And if Gracie Lou Phillips can make it to the polls during the last days of her life, then you've got no excuse.