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Senior citizen crosses U.S. to register voters.



While most people her age are playing cards, enjoying retirement, and watching over their grandchildren, one woman is making the most of her golden years with community service. On a stop in Memphis during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration weekend, Doris "Granny D" Haddock made a speech about King's legacy, attended a hip-hop voting summit, and registered groups of voters before moving on to the next city on her cross-country tour.

Granny D gets out the vote.

Haddock is traversing the United States in a bus and spreading the message about voting and democracy. The 94-year-old widow, a mother of two and great-grandmother of 16, left Boston in October on a mission targeting working women to get out and vote. She hopes to visit 36 states before returning to her home in New Hampshire in time for the November election.

Haddock targets segments of the community not being reached by other voter-registration outreach groups. While in Memphis, she and her two-person staff worked with residents of public-housing developments along Vance Avenue, answering questions about voting and the importance of that right.

"We found a lot of young men who couldn't vote or thought they couldn't vote for life because of criminal records and felony convictions," said volunteer and writer Dennis Burke. "There's a lot of misunderstanding that exists out there, and there is not enough being done to answer those questions."

Haddock also spent time with the reform organization ACORN and the local Democratic party to address voter apathy, which she feels is caused by party disorganization and voters becoming disenchanted with the process.

"I feel that gradually we're giving over our democracy to corporations and losing our democracy," she said. "People have gotten discouraged and think that their vote doesn't count. And if they aren't voting, then people are losing their power."

For Haddock, this voting-rights campaign and the sacrifice to a cause are nothing new. In 1999, she began a walk across the United States to highlight campaign reform and "soft" money regulations. Traveling from Dublin, New Hampshire, and walking 10 miles a day for 14 months, she made it to Washington, D.C., in February 2000.

Although she considers herself a Democrat, Haddock said her 15,000-mile journey is a nonpartisan effort. After leaving Memphis, the delegation headed to St. Louis on its way to the swing states. Since beginning her journey, Haddock said she has signed up about 3,000 volunteers to assist with voter registration.


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