Person of the Week: American Voters

People went to great lengths to exercise their right to vote this year.

Nov. 7, 2008— -- On Election Day, 124 million Americans went to the polls to cast their votes and participate in the democratic process.

The U.S. Constitution gives American citizens 18 years and older the right to vote. For some, it was their first time. Many others were seasoned veterans.

"I don't think I could live with myself if I didn't partake in the election," said one Atlanta voter.

For the past 21 months, voters have been vigorously courted: to register to vote, to choose a candidate and to go to the polls.

In his acceptance speech, President-elect Barack Obama saluted the millions of Americans who made the effort -- especially one voter in Atlanta.

"She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old," Obama said in Chicago's Grant Park on Tuesday night.

"She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons: because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin," he said.

"And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can," he said.

"The races are coming together more now than ever, than I ever knew," said Ann Nixon Cooper, reflecting on the historic moment.

There were first-time voters like Vicente Osorio of Arizona. The 101-year-old, originally from Peru, became an American citizen this past April and voted for the first time on Tuesday.

"Muy necesario votar," he said in Spanish, explaining his happiness after voting. "Mucho contento."

Michael Johnson, a senior in college at the University of Texas, voted for the first time too.

"It is something you learn about and study about and to actually take a part in it, it was kind of a new and I would say very exciting feeling for me," he said.

Some seasoned voters were open to change. Jon Curley from Charlotte, N.C., was convinced by his wife to canvass with her. A Republican, he switched his vote after speaking with people from the other side of the aisle.

"These are folks I would not normally have the opportunity to sit down and talk with simply because we just don't cross paths," Curley said. "But it was such a great experience. The same issues that were of concern to them were of concern to us."

And then there's April Pursley from Independence, Ky., who didn't allow an impending delivery keep her from voting.

"My husband's been waiting here for about an hour and my water just broke," Pursley said. "So I drove from home and came here to vote."

April raced from the voting booth to the delivery room and gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

Whether you touched a screen or pulled a lever, it is the act of voting that maters.

"It has shown me that the American people have reestablished the belief in the vision of America as a place where anybody can succeed," Curley said. "It has clearly has re-inspired me."

"I plan on voting in every election for the rest of my life, because I want my voice to be heard," Johnson said. "I have an opinion and it's going to matter."