Long wait to vote pays off
When she set out to cast her vote last year in North Miami, Desiline Victor had no way of knowing the journey would lead all the way to the White House. Tuesday night, Victor, a 102-year-old Haitian immigrant, sat in the House chamber as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama. Victor voted for the president, but it was not easy. On her first visit to the polls Oct. 28, the first day of early voting, she waited in line for three hours. Poll workers eventually advised her to come back later. She finally cast her vote that evening.
In his speech, President Barack Obama said we should follow Victor's example.
"When she arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours,'' Obama said, "And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say.''
"She's the American voter story of 2012," said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project civil rights group. "She had the tenacity and the commitment to stay in line, but we know there were tens of thousands of others who didn't get to vote." When the White House contacted Dianis' organization looking for people who might represent the face of the problem, she provided them with several possibilities. That's what led to tickets to Washington and a new outfit for the event for Victor. She will also visit the White House for a reception before the speech. The whirlwind trip has taken Victor out of her element. She had to buy a coat, since a heavy winter jacket isn't usually needed in balmy Miami. And here, she's "Ms. Victor" instead of "Granny" — what everyone calls her back home.
Obama announces voting rights panel
President Obama announced a new nonpartisan commission to examine the problem of those long voting lines. "We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes our most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote," Obama said. "That's why, tonight, I'm announcing a nonpartisan commission to improve the voting experience in America." Democratic election lawyer Bob Bauer and former Romney campaign attorney Ben Ginsberg will lead the commission.
Guests affected by gun violence
The guest list for this year's State of the Union address was heavy with people whose lives have been upended by gun violence. They included Lt. Brian Murphy, the police officer who was shot last summer responding to a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin; Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel Pendleton Sr., the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old girl who was shot last month in Chicago; and Katlin Roig, a first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Organizers said 31 members of Congress who support new gun control legislation also banded together to give the one ticket for the speech they each get to people affected by gun violence. Stephen Barton, a victim of the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting who lives just a few miles away from Sandy Hook Elementary School, was a guest of Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). Many people in the House, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, herself wounded in a shooting, and Vice President Joe Biden, wore green ribbons in honor of the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Who stayed away?
Energy Secretary Steven Chu was the Cabinet member designated to sit out the speech Tuesday night and be the "designated survivor'' in the event of a catastrophe at the Capitol.
Of these two, who has the crazier hair?
Everyone's favorite Mohawk-sporting NASA employee posed with first dog Bo before Tuesday night's speech. Bobak Ferdowsi, whose hair went viral while he worked on NASA's Mars Curiosity landing last summer, was one of several innovators attending the address as a guest of Mrs. Obama. He tweeted this photo Tuesday night and wrote: Bo excited for #sotu just like me! Headed to the Capitol!!!!
Information for this report came from Times staff and the Associated Press, Washington Post and New York Times.