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Houston woman shares inspiring story on how she became a voting rights advocate

This story was originally published in KHOU.com

HOUSTON — All month long, KHOU11 is sharing the stories of local women leading the way in honor of Women's History Month

One Houston woman has made it her life's mission to fight for voting rights and she is currently the president of the local chapter of The League of Women Voters.

“Voting rights is a passionate thing because I think every citizens’ voice should be heard," said Annie Johnson-Benifield.

When you meet Johnson-Benifield, you can’t help but notice her passion. 

“Participating in the political process I think should bring joy to people," she said.

For her, it does. The significance was passed down from her parents. 

“My dad was the first generation in his family out of slavery. My grandfather, was born a slave," said Johnson-Benifield.

Her father was drafted in World War II, but neither he nor her mother was able to cast a ballot until after The Voting Rights Act passed in 1965. 

“She had voted in 52 presidential elections over the term time, she had actually got a chance to cast a ballot from 1968. In every presidential contest and to 2020. That was amazing to me," she said.

The last ballot her mom cast before passing was 2020. 

“She received her absentee ballot the day before the election. So, they filled it out and my sister drove 150 miles to Alabama, to turn in that ballot.” 

Since 1984 when Geraldine Ferraro ran for Vice President to 2020 when Kamala Harris was elected Vice President, women have been showing up to vote more than men.

“Even though they're making up 50% or 51% of the population? Why is there such a low number in terms of representation in the legislative bodies in the executive bodies, across the nation?" said Johnson-Benifield.

She says rather than voting, newer generations often turn to expressing their views online.

“In one of the unfortunate consequences that people think that using social media to air you embed your frustrations and grievances, that does not translate into political policy, that does not translate into legislation.” 

What does translate she says is your vote. Something she and her husband have dedicated their life’s work to and something her dad taught her not to take for granted. 

“He was able to grow up in America and accomplish things, and now he has a daughter, who is president of The League of Women Voters in Houston, I bet he would probably just never imagined that could happen," she said. 

Johnson-Benifield says her story is the perfect example of democracy and what can happen when we all stay engaged.