Vote Like A Girl: Susan W. Turnbull

JWI Board of Trustees Member Susan W. Turnbull shares one of her most memorable voting experiences, Election Day 2004. She wrote the following essay for JW magazine's #VoteLikeAGirl series. 

By Susan W. Turnbull

I’ve had some busy Election Days, but nothing tops November 2, 2004.  

I had been campaigning for John Kerry in Florida for ten days with a group of celebrities that included Larry David, Carole King and Mandy Patinkin. It had been an incredible experience stopping in delis, condominium community centers, synagogues, volunteer offices up and down the East Coast, and at early voting polling locations.  It was a heart-warming and energizing experience.  

Because I hadn’t planned on being away on Election Day, I needed to fly home to vote.   I woke up in Palm Beach around four in the morning, met Mandy Patinkin in the hotel lobby, and drove him to the coordinated campaign office before my flight home.  

When we got to the office, he told me I had to come inside. When we did, he jumped on a desk and said he had an announcement. He then started singing “Happy Birthday” to me. The two dozen volunteers who had assembled to start their day immediately joined Mandy.  I cried!  I couldn’t believe I was actually leaving and was going to miss spending the day with Mandy and the Florida volunteers who had poured out their hearts and had been traveling with me for days.

I remember thinking to myself on the plane home, “we’ve got this one.” After landing, I immediately went to the polling place where I had been voting for over 30 years to greet my neighbors and do my part at my home precinct with the local precinct leader.

When I went in to vote, it struck me that for the second time in my life, I personally knew the presidential candidate I was about to mark my ballot for. He was someone I believed in and had worked with for close to a year.  And, incredibly -- he knew me. Not only was I able to vote for the candidate I supported, but if he won, I would also be with him that night in Boston. What a privilege – win or lose.  

I voted, went home, re-packed my bag, and my husband and I flew to Boston to spend election night with “our team”.  When we arrived, we were anxious and excited.  Obviously, the rest of the evening wasn’t much fun. Within hours, it became clear this wasn’t going to be the party we had anticipated. But even disappointed, I knew that I had a life-long memory and experience that most people can’t even imagine.  I had been present to witness history, visited three states in one day, and had a birthday serenade from a star!

Oh, and that celebratory party we’d been hoping for? My husband and I got it four years later in Chicago’s Grant Park. 

Susan W. Turnbull served as chair of JWI's board of trustees from 2009 to 2013 and remains an active member of the board.