Your Vote. Our History

Meet the voters of Election 2008. Read their history-making stories.

Fred Grigsby, great-grandfather of Pat Bates (pictured below) casting his vote decades ago.

Pat Bates

Los Angeles



I grew up with a picture of my great-grandfather, Fred Grigsby, casting his first vote. I never knew exactly when it was taken, but the image captures a powerful moment in history. In it, Granddad has on a suit, a tie and a hat. He was so old and infirm at the time that he walked with a cane in one hand and a crutch in the other. In the picture, he is casting his vote in a cardboard ballot box. He had tried many times before but was always denied. His son, Howard, said authorities seized Granddad's credentials when he was first eligible to vote. The postmaster, who was also the election supervisor, refused to return them, and he was not able to vote for many years. It wasn't until he was well into his 80s that he prevailed and was finally able to cast his first ballot.

Granddad Fred was a farmer in South Carolina. The son of a slave, he was born five years after Emancipation. With only a fourth-grade education, he made sure most of his 12 children went to a missionary boarding school several miles away. His hope was that his children would become educated and hopefully one day be able to vote.

In that spirit, I didn't ride the wave of voters going to the polls on Election Day. Instead, I rode to Norwalk, Calif., on Saturday, the only location in Los Angeles County offering early voting, and waited six hours, with about 2,000 other people, to cast my ballot. I had to pay homage to my great-grandfather who waited way more than six hours to vote.

We waited in line with a nurse from a hospital burn unit, a college student who took the train from Cal State Monterey, a radiologist, a paralegal and several others.

The radiologist behind me said she planned to spend her Saturday waiting to vote, so it didn't matter how long it took. She was there for the long haul and would wait it out. The college student who had taken the seven-hour train ride to cast her first vote, had lost her iPhone by the time we were leaving. "It's OK," her aunt said. "She can get another iPhone, but she can't get another chance like this." I looked at the new people in line as we headed for the parking lot. The ones who had been with us were headed for their cars with their umbrellas closed and their chairs folded up, all hungry but satisfied. Tired but not weary.