Why I Walk to the Polls On Election Day
On a morning twenty-five years ago, I woke before dawn and, in the faint early light, watched scores of people quietly walking miles along dusty, rural roads to vote. This was in Hinche, a town in the central highlands of Haiti, and I was an election observer on a team that Bread for the World had co-sponsored to monitor Haiti’s first national election in many years. Despite threats of violence and intimidation, proud people walked resolutely on in the brightening morning.
At the polls, they stood cheerfully in line for long periods, pored through the complex paper ballot, and then, with smiles, proudly displayed their inked fingers showing that they had voted. Suddenly, in mid-morning, word came by radio of violence and killings at the polls in the capital and other cities, and then of the cancellation of the entire election. With sad faces, waiting voters left the lines and quickly disappeared. We tried to offer hope, but fear had changed the atmosphere in an instant.
From that election, there’s a poster in Kreyol in my office that reads: “Pou chak dwa konstitisyon an bay, gen yon devwa. Al vote.” Roughly translated it means: “For each right the constitution gives, you have a duty. Vote!” The Haitian people took that challenge seriously; today too many in our country ignore the duty part.
Since then, I’ve chosen to vote by walking, not driving, to the polls early on Election Day, rain or shine, because of the bravery of the Haitian people I met that day. Thank God our lives are not on the line as we vote today, but the life of our democracy, our nation, and our world is on the line at election time. So in remembrance and gratitude, I invite everyone to join in walking resolutely on once more. "Al vote!"
Larry Hollar is Bread for the World's senior regional organizer for the Eastern Hub.
Photo: A woman walks on a road in Haiti. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)
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