Special Report

America Votes

Elderly black voter does not take the right for granted

Carolyn Mason

As 77-year-old Carolyn Mason sat in her kitchen filling out a mail-in ballot in October, she did not take for granted that she did not gain the right to vote until she was a young adult. 

Mason of Mullins, South Carolina, was not there when the landmark Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, she was in Fort Benning, Georgia. As an Army wife, she and her family bounced between bases across the country until 1972, when she returned to her hometown and voted for the first time. 

“Until I heard about voting, I didn’t know too much about it,” Mason said, “So evidently we had a reason we couldn’t vote, because if I had known, I’d have been voting since I was 18 or 19.”

Voter suppression now works in discreet ways: underfunded education, misinformation, and intimidation are all contributors to low voter turnout in minority communities. For Mason, along with millions of other Black Americans, the ability to vote did not magically appear when the Voting Rights Act was passed. Rather, it took years for her to learn about the importance of voting and her eligibility.

“I voted after they put us where we could vote,” Mason said, “And then I might have waited a few years after that before I started. But at one time, it was just for people that was in a higher class than we were.”

Mullins has a substantial class and racial divide, with Black residents being disproportionately impoverished and underrepresented in local politics. Today’s  presidential election has only furthered these divides, causing many Black Americans to pledge Democratic loyalty now more than ever. 

For Mason, her support of the Democratic party lies mainly in socioeconomic issues, as she grew up in a working-class, Southern family. 

“I am straight up Democrat because I was born a Democrat,” Carolyn said, “They care about where I come from. I had to be a Democrat cause I didn’t fit in no category where we was rich.”

Mason voted in the Presidential as well as local elections, which have moved to the forefront of Mullins politics recently. Driving through the town, lawns and empty lots are littered with campaign signs for community politicians, many of them Black Millenials. The dilapidation of the once-thriving tobacco industry in Mullins, along with shutdowns of small businesses and the ever-growing class divide, has pushed Mullins voters to make their voices heard. 

“I heard that the mayor that we had was leaving, and he didn’t want to do it no more,” Mason said, “And our brother decided he would run. I voted for him because I felt like he would help us, and he wanted to do the right thing.”

As for the Presidential election, Mason shares similar sentiments, and there was no question as to whether she cast her ballot for Joe Biden or Donald Trump. Biden’s political affiliation, and the reputation of his opponent, automatically gained her vote.

“I voted for [Biden] because he, it sounds like he could be more helpful,” Mason said, “I voted for him because he was a Democrat. And you know, these black people, their  poor. And I’m in that race. So if he can help me, I needed him to run for president.”




Other Stories in Special Report: America Votes

America Celebrates the Election

The staff of Pavement Pieces November 11, 2020

New York celebrates historic win

Thomas Hengge November 8, 2020


Tori Luecking November 7, 2020

Biden win brings relief

Addison Aloian November 7, 2020

The energy of Election Day in New York City

Tori Luecking November 6, 2020

Boarded up, buttons for sale and a Republican viewing party on Election Day in NYC

Michelle Diaz November 6, 2020

Pennsylvania race narrows

Courtney Guarino November 5, 2020

Arab Americans of Dearborn vote Biden

Quratulain Tejani November 4, 2020

Amid national tension and uncertainty, Joe Biden scores big in Michigan.

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi November 4, 2020

Three black women, three walks of life, one presidential election

Jada Okoye November 4, 2020

Voting in Clifton, New Jersey

Kaity Assaf November 3, 2020

Taking the temperature of voters

Journalistic Inquiry November 3, 2020

Students wait and watch

Lana Green November 3, 2020

Students strategize on mail-in or in-person voting 

Lana Green November 3, 2020

Following American politics from the other side of the pond

Lexi Hobbs November 3, 2020

Union Square polling site sees lower turnout, but passionate voters

Yunlai Silvia Gui and Yi Lily Yang November 3, 2020

Early voter visits Texas polling site Election Day to support sister on the ballot

Zoya Hasan November 3, 2020

Voting For The Lesser Of Two Evils

Kirill Bykanov November 3, 2020

NYU student flies over a thousand miles to vote

Addison Aloian November 3, 2020

Two coasts, two Biden votes

Bry Leberthon November 3, 2020

Young voter from Maryland can’t find meaning in the vote

Vanessa Handy November 3, 2020

 Bilingual coordinator in Yonkers, N.Y. helps Spanish-speakers vote

Maria Jinu Kulapurathazhe November 3, 2020

Americans in China Watch and Worry

Jennifer Ren November 3, 2020

To some voters in Stuytown, the president is “deplorable”

Michael Morris November 3, 2020

Election Day

Photojournalism Class Project November 3, 2020

Soho Trump supporter cast his vote

Mengyang Zeng November 3, 2020

Voting in Lower Manhattan

Paola Michelle Ortiz November 3, 2020

New Yorkers on edge as the city prepares for a turbulent election night

Emily Welsch November 3, 2020

Denise Scudder says the stakes are high for Black Voters

Calen Razor November 3, 2020

In 2020, Election Day may rhyme with unrest. At least, that’s what officials fear

Edith Rousselot November 3, 2020

Brooklyn polling site sees small crowd on Election Day

Alessandro Malave November 3, 2020

First time voter ponders America’s future

Marie Louise Onga Nana November 3, 2020

Masked, Boarded Up, and Subdued: Election Day in Times Square

James Pothen November 3, 2020

NYU student casts ballot for Biden-Harris campaign 

Angela Choe November 3, 2020

New Yorkers are ready to VOTE

Photojournalism Class Project November 3, 2020

West Village streets quiet as voters brace for outcome

Abby Rupert November 3, 2020

Virginia Prepares for a Turbulent Election

Julia Gregory November 3, 2020

The Message of “Law and Order” Resonates with TriBeCa Mother

Michael Campanella November 3, 2020

Latino voter chooses Trump

Emma Shores November 3, 2020

Poll worker keeps it moving

Norah Hogan November 3, 2020

NYU sophomore casts ballot for Biden at dorm polling station

Sofya Akcayoglu November 3, 2020

A reluctant voter makes a choice

Shivani Chauhan November 3, 2020

Smoke clears over Bay Area as voters take to the polls

Karina Gamez November 3, 2020

Fears of violence in the aftermath of Election Day have citizens uneasy

Mikayla Rivers November 3, 2020

First time voters in Long Island worry about election outcome 

Christina Strippoli November 3, 2020

The pandemic can’t stop Generation Z from voting

Jaeguk Lee November 3, 2020

Trump Tower mail in voter for Biden

Shea Grant November 2, 2020

For some, early voting means long lines and lots of rain

Vaishnavi Naidu November 2, 2020

Harlem sees rain showers, fast lines ahead of Election Day

Hanna Gebremichael November 1, 2020