This article appeared in the November 14, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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One voter’s determination, and her plan for Dec. 6

Courtesy of Natalie Harris
Natalie Harris poses with her son and granddaughter after her graduation ceremony on June 11, 2022. She earned a bachelor’s degree in human services from Saint Leo University in Savannah, Georgia. The Monitor's video coverage of Georgia ADAPT led to Ms. Harris getting a ride to the polls on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022.
Clayton Collins
Director of Editorial Innovation

She had the right to vote. She had the will to vote. All Natalie Harris needed was a ride to the polls in Georgia’s Gwinnett County, northeast of Atlanta.

Ms. Harris has used a wheelchair since a nightclub shooting in New Jersey left her paralyzed 27 years ago. Her specially equipped car broke down two years ago.

Then there’s the long, steep hill climb to her nearest bus stop. Voting by mail? “I just didn’t trust it,” she says. Also, “I want to go out ... on Election Day and vote. It gives me that feeling of being included.”

It’s a hard-won feeling. In years past, “I never thought of the importance of voting because I was too busy fighting to survive,” she says.

In early November she was considering a paid paratransit service. But her sister had seen a sign for a free ride service. Ms. Harris booked it.

The driver who showed up explained to her that his van did not have a power lift. He offered to physically pick up her chair. A day away from a surgical procedure, Ms. Harris didn’t dare risk it. The driver stayed with her for more than two hours, calling around – while she did, too – for options. Her frustration grew.

“I went in the house and said, ‘I am so sick and tired,’” she recalls. She called a local news outlet. To her surprise, a reporter called her back and promised to see what she could do. What the reporter found: a Nov. 3 video by the Monitor’s Jingnan Peng, which led to the station calling Zan Thornton of Georgia ADAPT, a statewide disability rights group that also runs a free ride service on a mission to leave no would-be voter stranded. 

“We going to the polls!” Ms. Harris recalls shouting when Thornton and their spouse, Elizabeth, arrived with FOX 5. “I call them my new buddies,” she says. She has already reserved a ride with them for Georgia’s Dec. 6 Senate runoff.

“This right here? Them coming out to get me after doing their civic duty? It leaves me speechless,” Ms. Harris says. “And I have a lot to say.

“I’m willing to fight for democracy. I’m ready.”

This article appeared in the November 14, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 11/14 edition
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