Reflections: "The Power of One"
On November 2, 2004 I volunteered in South Chicago as a poll monitor for the Election Protection Organization. It was an exciting day for many reasons, particularly for me, since I had never been involved with the political process of voting beyond my participation as a voter. Election Protection is a non-partisan organization who's mission is protecting the rights of all voters. The day went well, and to my knowledge, no voting rights violations occurred. I did have a memorable experience.
A young man, recently released from prison, wanted to vote. The problem was that he did not have any identification, and so he was turned away from the polls. I saw him leaving without casting a vote, so I stopped him on his way out. I learned that all he had were his parole papers. He was frustrated and said he had no other form of identification since he no longer had his driver's license. After conferring with the office of Election Protection I explained to him that something showing his current address would suffice. A light bulb seemed to go off and he immediately walked out of the door. Now, I wasn't sure if he would return, but an hour later I saw him and much to my delight, he successfully voted!
At that very moment my level of optimism regarding not only the power of policy, but the power of people increased twofold. The work of Election Protection planted the seed for voter's rights. However, a single, seemingly minor act of personal engagement turned their mission into reality. This experience helped me remember the personal side of community and economic development that sometimes we ALL forget. This young man wanted to be a part of history, a part of society, but more importantly a part of his community. And he did it!
Shana Alford, MPP 2006
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