Free transportation gets voters to the polls

To ensure voters such as the elderly and disabled were able to get to the polls Tuesday, several organizations provided free transportation. For seniors like Reuben Rotschild, 72, a free ride made all the difference.

To ensure voters such as the elderly and disabled were able to get to the polls Tuesday, several organizations provided free transportation.

For seniors like Reuben Rotschild, 72, a free ride made all the difference.

“I didn’t want to miss out on voting and help make history, but I knew that my arthritis in my left leg would prevent me from walking four blocks to my polling place,” he said. “So I called Rainbow/PUSH, and they came to the rescue. I was able to vote and I was able to get home safely without a lot of pain from walking.”

Rainbow/PUSH Coalition was among a host of organizations that offered a ride to the polls.

Black America, a non-profit agency located in the Auburn Gresham community on the South Side, also provided transportation. But unlike Rainbow/PUSH, whose free ride service ended at 2 p.m., Black America provided transportation until 7 p.m.-when the polls closed.

“We knew that there would be people getting off work, stopping to pick their kids up from school or day care on the way and would not be able to make it to the polls before closing if traveling by public transportation,” said Marcus Isaac, executive director of Black America. “History is upon us and we wanted to make sure every Black American had a chance to participate in this history making moment.”

Traditionally churches are at the forefront of providing free rides to the polls. But this year, other groups joined the bandwagon. On Tuesday, at least 30 Chicago non-religious organizations provided rides, said Leonard Gilbert, pastor of Sheldon Heights Church of Christ on the South Side.

“While the church served as a polling place, we did not provide transportation to the community,” Gilbert said. “Instead we had concentrated our efforts on voter registration drives in part because we knew so many nearby organizations were providing rides.”

And some churches, like Carter Temple C.M.E. Church on the South Side, provided transportation to its members only.

Still, there was no shortage of rides available. On the North Side, Citizens for a Better Community provided transportation for the third straight year.

Mya Peterson, 41, relocated from downstate Urbana to Chicago in March but still does not know her way around Chicago.

“I was clueless as to how I was going to get to my polling place because I am not familiar with the area,” she said. “That’s when I found out about the free rides to the polls by a neighbor and called for a lift. Not only did I get a ride there but I got a ride back home and I did not have to pay for it. This type of service does not exist in Urbana.”

The Chicago Transit Authority had extended service for buses and trains to accommodate those who attended the Election Night rally Tuesday in Grant Park.

“But they did nothing to get us to the polls. We had to rely on the same old slow service,” said Charles Winters, 56, who is confined to a wheelchair. “I did not know about these free rides because if I did I would have used it. I ended up taking the bus to the polls, and I don’t know which was worse, the ride there or the ride home.”

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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