BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Angela Johnson did something Tuesday that she’d never done before. She voted in her first election. She woke up this morning with no plans to vote. But then her son begged her to do it.
“He was like ‘promise me, promise me that your’e going to go vote',"said the 49-year-old during an interview at Emmett Street Missionary Church. "I mean out of all that people that tried to get me to go, after him saying that, I felt like I had to go."
And she did. Johnson was one of hundreds of people who voted at the church. Emmett Street transformed its basement into one of the 12 polling station in Battle Creek. Nearby Kalamazoo had many more.
“Get up off the bed, out of the couch, off wherever you’re sitting and go out to the polls,” said Army Veteran Michael Jones. “Make your voice heard. Every vote counts.”
Like Emmett Street in Battle Creek, hundreds of people voted at Mt. Zion Church in Kalamazoo. Jones, who served in the Gulf War, volunteered to direct voters as they walked through the church's gymnasium doors.
“I’ve done phone banking. I’ve done door-to-door,” said Jones. “This time I wanted to be in the actual election room where they doing the voting.”
Jones spent the morning greeting all types of people: black, white, Latino, young children and the elderly. Some were dressed and ready for work while others were in sweats ready to return home. All of them, though, there to cast a ballot.
“Today feels like a big release from just the mess that’s been the last half of a year,” said 28-year-old Laurel Premo. “It feels like a big release for all of us to actually be able to have put our opinion down in a real way as oppose to just kind of spewing at each other on social media.”
Premo said she grew tired of all the campaigning and attack ads. She's been looking forward to this day for quite a while to participate in electing the next president and local leaders.
“If people don’t like what's going on in Washington, we can change it by coming to vote,” said Precinct 24 Delegate Creed Stegall. “But it starts in our own community, whether it’s the prosecutor, with the way crime is, the sheriff, our state representative.”
Stegall, 66, brought his little granddaughter Stella along with him to Mt. Zion Church. He’s voted in several elections, he said, and has galvanized others in the black community to do the same. It's important to vote because a lot of people fought and died for the right to vote, some of which he said he's seen.
“As a youth I worked with Dr. Martin Luther King in the Poor People’s campaign in ’68,” said Stegall. “We marched all over the United States to get the right to vote.”
Jones believes it’s a privilege to vote. He fought in other countries, he said, were people get killed for casting a ballot. Exercising your right to vote is bigger than the candidates.
“I know you’re frustrated because of the negative campaigning,” said Jones in regards to undecided voters. “Disregard that. Focus on the rights that you have before you as a United States citizen.”
Johnson said she's glad she voted. Many people in the past have tried to get her to do it, but none if worked. Now, she'd do it again and feels compelled to get others to do so too.
“Now I can be one of the ones that say ‘come on, go vote,” said Johnson smiling. “I mean, after all this time when they were trying to talk me into doing it, now I can do it to somebody else.”