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John Perry Jr. knows how important voting is. The 72-year-old first cast a ballot in 1969 at the height of the civil rights movement and a poignant time for Black Americans. Perry told CNN that he was inspired to vote from a young age when he had a traumatic encounter with police while playing with friends at a park when he was 17.
“That kind of radicalized me. My hometown was (sic) pretty small Black population. So regularly I and others were the recipients of what I call drive-by racism. They would drive by and roll the windows down and shout out, ‘Go back to Africa,’ ” said Perry, who is originally from Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
The harrowing experience, which left him with a permanent scar over his right eye, led to him becoming civically active, including being involved in voter registration drives and education. Perry doesn’t agree with the new restrictions on voting and said the laws aren’t stopping him, especially as he remembers the struggle Black Americans endured for the right to vote.
“Those people were literally killed, murdered for the right to vote. Sitting in a voter registration line could get you killed, get you fired from your job, your house burned down. So no matter what they’re throwing at us right now, nothing compares to that. Now if we can endure that and overcome that, then whatever the state of Texas, Georgia and all these other states, we can get around that too,” Perry said.
Perry, though eligible for mail-in voting, said he would never take that option. He enjoys going in person. This year, mail-in voting has hit a few snags, including high rejection rates and some ballots even going to the wrong office.
“I like the idea of showing up at a polling place, being physically present for it. I’ve never voted by mail. And I never will,” Perry, a Democrat, told CNN.
Perry voted early, in person at his regular polling place in Fresno, Texas, without issue. Coincidentally, the county where Perry resides, Fort Bend, just renamed its law library after Willie Melton, a civil rights activist who challenged the county’s all-White primaries. The case eventually went to the US Supreme Court and ended the system of all-White primaries in Fort Bend County.