Lissa Hakim is all smiles after voting at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. (Photo: Earl Heath) 

By Earl Heath, Contributing Writer

In 1977 after graduating from Ferrum Junior College (Virginia) I went on to pursue a B.A. degree. I enrolled at what then was known as Slippery Rock State University in Western Pennsylvania.  

“The Rock” as it’s known is located some 50 miles from Pittsburg in an isolated Butler County where it’s green in the summer and has the snow white woods and mountains in the winter. Some famous graduates include Vivian Stringer- Hall of Fame Basketball Coach, Dr. Cheryl Bailey – Executive Director of New Women’s Soccer League, Rickey  “Squeaky” Porter-Pro football player and Dr. Elaine Hozdik-Former head of International Studies at FGCU. 

I was new on campus when I befriended a graduate student named Valarie Sansone. For three of four days we talked and laughed and shared life stories between classes. There was no cell phone, no texting and no emails. All our conversations were done in person. 

On one Saturday evening she wanted me to go with her to an on-campus meeting. When we got there about 200 people were in this ballroom type venue.  

Valarie got up on the stage a said how important it was to vote. Then a couple more speakers got up on the stage and talked about voting and registering. I had no idea of her involvement in this event. 

Next we all watched a film that took place in the early sixties and in that film we saw John Lewis and others marching for voters rights. In one segment Andrew Young was first in line trying to get access to Atlanta City Hall trying to vote. 

Young was slapped across the face and hit with a night-stick repeatedly. When that happened the entire room moaned and cringed. It was a life changing moment for myself and others in the room. After the film we all talked among each other.   

After leaving the event I was home and thought of Andrew Young for hours. He was doing something unique. He absorbed every hit of that baton for the entire race.  

The following Monday I drove twenty miles to Butler, PA and registered to vote. There was no on-line registering, no go to the local library to do it and you couldn’t go to any local post office.  

In February of 1870 the 15th Amendment was ratified and “prohibits the Federal Government and each state from denying any person the right to vote based on a ‘citizens race, color, or previous servitude.” 

The problem occurred when many southern states refused to acknowledge that and thus all the marching and protesting in the fifties and sixties.  

The Voting Rights Act was signed into law by under President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. The law superseded all state laws that didn’t.

In 2020 there were more people registered to vote and more people voted than any other time in the country’s history. There are more places to register and more places to vote. 

 Registration is due in part to people like LeBron James, Stacey Abrams, Steve Harvey and ad blitz’s by The NFL, The NBA, Pro soccer, hockey and other professional sports teams. All this helped increase the number of legal registered voters. 

“We really want to promote American citizens learning about issues and learning about candidates in their local elections,” said Dr Cheryl Bailey. A board member of the League of Women Voters a non-partisan group that helps educate.  

Large entertainment and sports facilities like the Forum, SoFi Stadium, Stables Center, and Dodger Stadium just to name a few helped decrease long lines and help voter’s social distance during the time of COVID.  

“Hosting a vote center at the Banc of California stadium allows us to meet health standards while allowing patron a chance for in person voting options,” said Los Angeles County/Clerk Dean Logan. 

The Pantages Theatre in Hollywood saw a high number of people cast their ballots. If you voted there you were rewarded with an “I Voted” sticker with the Hamilton silhouette background. 

“I am done,” said Lissa Hakim. “It’s a great feeling after you cast your ballet.” The transplanted New Yorker was all smiles as she stood in front of the legendary Pantages on Hollywood Blvd.  

California mailed over 22 million ballots and approximately 12 million were returned by mail before Election Day. 

Social media was filled with photos of people standing long lines, celebrating after ballot casting. 

Big names like Shaquille O’Neal and Snoop Dogg were first time voters. 

There were over 70 million ballots cast for each Presidential candidate Joe Biden and Donald Trump. That means people care they feel that they have a important value within them. 

With voting at an all-time high in this years election and monumental venues used to cast vote. 

 We can see that voting has come along way since those days at Slippery Rock.