Andrew Dys

York Co. absentee voters know their voices count in today's primary

His name is Wallace Martin, and he is a firefighter - 21 years helping people who are strangers.

He leaves his own family to help others.

Today, he has to work a 24-hour shift.

He can't sneak out of the fire station - someone in a fire or car crash might need him.

So on Friday, Martin drove from Rock Hill to York, to the county elections office, and did something great - he voted in the Republican presidential primary.

"There aren't many things more important than voting," Martin said. "I have to work, but I sure am going to vote."

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum got Martin's vote because he "is the most like me - a Christian family man."

It was powerful to watch that fireman vote, and say why, then leave to get some rest before a shift.

It wasn't so much who he choose or why - but that he cared enough about his community, his state, his country to go do it.

Friday was the last day for absentee voting.

Now to the polls

To vote today, registered voters have to go to their voting precincts.

Today is when it does not matter who endorsed a candidate.

It does not matter which candidate blamed the other for lies of half-truths - or blamed the media.

Today, all that matters is the people who vote.

Friday might have been a snapshot of what we can expect today.

On Friday, those who would not miss voting for anything showed up to vote absentee.

Besides Martin the firefighter, a police officer, whose job requires that he be at work today, looking out for the rest of us, voted absentee in York.

A man and his wife who were leaving Friday night to go out of state voted.

Dozens of older people, brought to the elections office in cars with handicapped stickers and placards, voted.

"I'm here to vote!" called out one lady, pushing a walker, who said she wasn't giving interviews or talking about anything to anybody. "My vote is my business!"

Right she is.

Some did share, though.

Women on a mission

Right then, rolling into the parking lot, came a van from Morningside Assisted Living of Rock Hill.

Inside that van were five ladies who have voted since World War II, who grew up in the Depression and know hunger and poverty and lived such long and glorious and great lives of success and joy.

They voted through the Cold War and the Vietnam War.

No illness, no old age, was stopping this quintet from voting.

There were at least two walkers and one oxygen tank and a cane in sight.

It mattered not - these ladies were voting.

Anne Gilfillan and Ashley Trent, workers in the elections office, happily came outside to the Morningside van and brought the forms to be filled out, verified the voters - all that must be done for curbside voting.

"I'm honored to help you," Gilfillan said. "I'm your witness."

Gilfillan was witness to the actual vote, but what she really witnessed was America at its best.

The ladies filled out the paper ballots, using clipboards and pens to mark their choices - as powerful a stroke of pen as any that signified the surrender of war.

Those votes are exactly why wars have been fought.

Freedom to choose leaders, without pressure or explanation about why.

"If you don't vote, you can't complain," said Mary Louise Spillers, 88, who sat in the back of the van next to Bettie Westerlund, 84. The two friends cackled and smiled and proudly voted for Ron Paul.

Each was about 50 or 60 years older than the average Ron Paul voter, and could not care less.

"Ron Paul supports Israel," Spillers said.

Westerlund, a mother and grandmother, said Ron Paul is, "the most Christian of candidates. He has my vote."

In the front seats, abreast behind the driver seat, sat Marjorie King and Lucille Symon.

King said Gingrich is her choice because "I like the things he says."

King has voted since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and that was that.

Symon - 93, but she sure doesn't look it - said she voted for Gingrich because "he has the experience."

The four ladies were asked if they cared about the controversy about Gingrich's personal life, Romney's taxes and riches.

All said no.

"None of us are perfect, and all can seek redemption," Symon said. "I vote for the best candidate. Period."

But Medrue Salerni, who turned 85 Thursday, said she voted for Santorum because Gingrich's character flaws "make a big difference for me.

"What he did was just terrible. Santorum is the more Christian man."

These five ladies then handed over their clipboards with the voter forms on them, and the bus had to leave. Time for Bible study.

But like the firefighter before them, these five ladies voted and Bible study had to wait a few minutes or start without them.

They spoke about not liking the direction of the country, and needing change. They are Republican voters and proud of it - as they sure should be.

The ladies were asked if people a lot younger, who can drive and walk, should vote today at regular voting precincts.

Symon put it bluntly, as she certainly had all her 93 years about any topic, through red lipstick and a smile that lit up the bus.

"To vote is to be an American."

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