The last time Mikal Muhammad voted in a presidential election was in 1976, for Jimmy Carter. But this year his anticipation was so great that Muhammad arrived at his polling station in Washington, D.C., at 5 A.M., two hours before the polls were scheduled to open.  

The 62-year-old said he wanted to make sure he was there to be part of history. “Most of the other elections I really wasn’t as interested in as I am in this one,” says Muhammad, who showed up with his 26-year-old son, Julian Cheek, while it was still dark outside. “This is very important to me-just the historical significance of it.”
Anticipating a long wait, Andrea Leonard, 23, arrived at 6 A.M. She brought along a chair and sat comfortably as she waited for the polls to open. She said she’s voting for her future and the future of her children and grandchildren.

“I have a great grandmother who’s 93 years old; she’s coming out to vote today. I feel like if I don’t vote then everything she fought for, civil rights and all that, is just in vain,” says Leonard.  “So it’s like a thank-you, it’s being appreciative and it’s just looking out for our best interests.”

Regina Coates, 27, came with her sister Stacy, 21. The two say they want a change and want to do their part in helping the first African-American become president.

“I was not born back in the 1960’s, when Dr. King was doing the Civil Rights Movement,” says Regina, who works for the National Institutes of Health. “I want to be part of a new civil rights movement.” 

This moment was especially important for her sister Stacy, who voted for the first time today. She turned 18 shortly after President George W. Bush won his second term. “What really upset me was how bad the economy went down when Bush became president,” says Stacy. “I didn’t go to college to get a degree; I worked. So I know how hard it is out here. That’s one of the reasons I’m voting today. My vote may be the vote that changes the economy. Also, I want to see the first Black president.”

After turning in her paper ballot, Regina said she felt a “scare of joy.”
“Previously, I voted because it was my duty, and a lot of people gave their lives in order for me to vote,” says Regina with a smile, “but this one mattered to me more.”

  Regina Coates (left), 27, and her sister Stacy Coates, 21, wait in line to vote at the Marshall Heights Community Development Center in Washington, DC

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