HOUSTON — Not being able to vote, is not ancient history, not something Annie Johnson Benifield had to read in a book, her father, a son of a former slave, was first allowed to vote when he was in his 50s.
“The past is not so long ago for me,” Johnson Benifield told KHOU 11. “Being the second generation in my family born out of slavery. My father was a first generation born out of slavery, and he lived to be 90 years old and he voted in every single election until his passing in 2004.”
Johnson Benifield shares the family stories with her government and politics students at Lone Star College-Tomball. KHOU 11 followed her around at a drive-thru voter registration site, one of many she was working as part of her League of Women Voters of Houston volunteer job. Johnson Benifield is the VP of Voter Services for the Houston chapter.
“My dad was drafted in World War II where he had no say, he had no ability to advocate for himself, to cast a ballot to select a political leader,” Johnson Benifield said. “to determine his faith and we were fighting for freedom and democracy around the world. At least that's the avocation that that's what was happening. But at the same time, he had no say in that process. And then as a 50 plus-year-old man, he was born in 1912, he didn't get a chance to cast a ballot until the 1968 presidential election, in direct response to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
Three League of Women Voters area chapters joined forces with the Harris County Libraries and more than two hundred volunteers to put on a large drive- through voter registration event Friday.
The traditional ways LWV has been registering voters for years, have been made impossible this year by COVID-19, including what used to be large naturalization ceremonies, school and other events.
Johnson Benifield hopes the Leagues’ efforts won’t be in vain, she wants to register as many people as possible so they can be heard.
“Seeing tremendous change happen in our society as a result of people getting the right to vote in terms of participating in the political process,” Johnson Benifield said. “That's saying you have a say, you know, you can't really complain if you don't put something into the process. And voting is one way, it's the most visual way in which people can actually participate. It's the most common form of political participation is the way the government receives this legitimacy in terms of casting a ballot. You're willfully giving your consent to the people you're representing to make decisions about government and politics. And so that is tremendous in itself.”
The deadline for voter registration in October 5.
You can find helpful information about registration and elections in general VotetTexas.gov.
The League of Women Voters of Houston also has a voter guide, as well as other information.