This 94-year-old travelled more than 480 kilometres each way just so she could vote
Published Thursday, October 22, 2020 7:35AM EDT
Mildred Madison, as seen in high school in 1944, has a long history of activism and politics. (Courtesy Mildred Madison Family Photos/CNN)
When a Michigan 94-year-old didn't receive her absentee ballot, she took her civic duty to the next level.
Mildred Madison insisted that she had to vote early and in person instead, but to make that happen, her son had to drive her more than 965 kiloemtres (600 miles) round trip.
Madison, who lives in Detroit, has been staying with her son, Julian, in Zion, Illinois, since September 2019, when she wasn't feeling well. She decided to stay put when the pandemic happened, and requested a ballot be sent to Illinois, she said.
"I said I had better go back to Detroit and make sure that I vote," Madison told CNN Monday. "I'm glad I did because I haven't seen a ballot yet."
CNN reached out to the Detroit Department of Elections for comment but has not heard back.
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More than 28 million general election ballots have been cast as of Monday, according to a survey of election officials by CNN, Edison Research, and Catalist. In Michigan, more than 1.3 million people have already cast their votes as of Monday, according to Catalist data.
While there's still a chance the ballot may come in the mail -- and Madison said the voting office said they had sent the ballot -- she didn't want to take any chances.
The mother-son duo set off for Detroit around 6:30 a.m. on October 12 and made it to Detroit's City Hall just before noon, she said. The drive was about 530 kilometres (330 miles) each way -- and they did it all in one day.
Donning a black mask with the word "vote" on it, Madison arrived ready to vote. Her son pushed her in a wheelchair to get her to the voting line.
"At least I made it," Madison said with a laugh. "I made it and voted for the people I wanted to vote for, and I hope they win. But I felt satisfied that I was not going to miss voting."
Not missing a vote is a big deal to Madison.
"I've been voting in every election, whether it was city, state, county or national for the last 72 years," she said.
Julian Madison said he knew driving to Detroit was a possibility when the ballot didn't arrive in the mail.
"I have four kids, they all vote. All of my mother's grandchildren vote," he said. "That was something that was engrained in all of us and to be politically active and to vote."
Julian Madison said his mother taught him to respect women and vote.
"I definitely try to do both," he said. "I think it's important to do that."
Mildred Madison has been active in her community, education and politics since her children began school in the 1950s in Cleveland, she said.
She got her start in the PTA. At one of the meetings, she met a mother who said they were going to start a League of Women Voters unit in their area "because they don't have that many black women in this league," Madison said.
Madison became the chair of the league's education committee and later served on the League of Women Voters of Detroit, too. She went on to run for office many times, winning seats on the Cleveland Board of Education, the Ohio Board of Education and the Cleveland City Council.
When she became the first black president of the League of Women Voters in Cleveland, she worked to bring the final presidential debate between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter to the city.
"I was able to bring that debate to Cleveland in 1980. That was a great experience to be able to have big hands in the debate," Madison said.
Madison has a long history in activism and politics and she's still at it, even in her 90s.
The nonagenarian is working on her memoir and she hopes to one day open the Mildred Madison Center for Civic Engagement to teach young people the value of voting and being active in the community.
And this election is a big one -- words that carry a lot from someone who has been voting for 72 years.
"I think this is the most important vote that we've ever had," Madison said.
"We must vote. I agree with Michelle Obama when she said go early, stand in line if you have to, take your lunch, your breakfast or lunch or whatever, do that. But make sure that you vote."
It's not just the presidential election that Madison wants people to worry about. She wants people, young and old, to vote in every election.
"You just start at 18 and keep on going to until the very end and try to vote in every election. They all count," Madison said.
"It's not just for the president but start voting locally, statewide, county wide and also on the federal level. They all count because the power really starts right there in your community."