Mildred Madison, 94, insisted that she had to vote early and in person, and to make that happen, her son had to drive her more than 600 miles round trip.
Madison lives in Detroit and has been staying with her son in Zion, Illinois since September 2019 when she wasn’t feeling well. She said she decided to stay put when the pandemic happened and requested a ballot be sent to Illinois.
“I said I had better go back to Detroit and make sure that I vote,” Madison said to CNN. “I’m glad I did because I haven’t seen a ballot yet.”
According to a survey of election officials by CNN, Edison Research, and Catalist, more than 28 million general election ballots have been cast as of Monday. In Michigan, more than 1.3 million people have already cast their votes as of Monday.
While there’s still a chance the ballot may be delivered in the mail but she didn’t want to take any chances.
On October 12, Madison and her son Julian set off for Detroit around 6:30 a.m. and made it to Detroit’s City Hall just before noon. The drive was about 330 miles each way, and they did it all in one day.
Madison arrived and ready to vote. Julian pushed her in a wheelchair to get her to the voting line.
“At least I made it,” Madison said. “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. I’ve been voting in every election, whether it was the city, state, county, or national for the last 72 years.”
Julian 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 ingrained in all of us and to be politically active and to vote.”
Mildred Madison has been active in her community, education, and politics since her children began school in the 1950s in Cleveland. 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 as well. 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,” she 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 year’s 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,” she said said. “It’s not just for the president but start voting locally, statewide, countywide and also on the federal level. They all count because the power really starts right there in your community.”