RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A 76-year-old Richmond woman wants the community to know it is never too late to vote after she cast a ballot for the first time Tuesday.
“I feel like a child, I got a brand new toy. I have never voted," explained Jean Ward. "My grandmama didn’t vote. I’m voting to start voting for the elders and the younger generation coming up.”
Ward says a criminal record kept her from voting, she says she was convicted of a felon as an accessory to a crime.
Recently with the help of Janei Lofty, a Community Network Manager for Enterprise Community Development, Ward was able to get her voting rights restored.
“Ms. Janei helped me," she said. “Everybody that’s got a felony, get somebody to help you, get your right’s back, your vote counts."
Enterprise Community Development worked with residents of the Highland Park Senior Apartments to register to vote, and after speaking with Ward, the two began the process of restoring Ward’s voting rights.
“She received her letter from the governor’s office saying her rights were restored - we were so excited, but when she showed me, it was after the deadline to register their vote," said Lofty.
They decided she would wait until the next election season to vote, but Monday, she realized Ward never received important registration information. Lofty and Ward called the registrar in Richmond to see if anything could be done to help Ward cast a ballot in the presidential election.
“She called me 45 minutes later and told me was able to vote today,” said Lofty. “She called me, the property manager, her daughter, her grandson, she called everybody. When she called me and told me, I felt like I won the lottery.”
Lofty says it was an honor to have helped her through the process and see Ward cast a ballot.
“I see her as a future advocate for other folks - pulling someone else along with you,” she explained.
Ward and her neighbors made their way to Fire Station #15, their polling place, in VanGo transportation, which was donated by Maria Terrell of VCU Gerontology, and her husband.
“It is important to respect everyone’s right and do what we can," said Terrell. “This is what Election Day is all about, what our voting process is all about, everyone coming out together to cast our votes, it is the American way.”
There was a small delay in getting Ward a ballot, but she was eventually able to cast a provisional ballot. She was met with cheers and congratulations as she was handed an “I Voted” sticker.
“It is never too late. I wish my mama and grandmama were here to see it. My grandmama couldn’t vote - they were slaves, I remember the stories,” Ward explained. "We need to get out and get more people to vote, and I am very happy, and I did a deed today by the grace of God.”
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