102-year-old wears PPE to mail her ballot: ‘Most important election of my lifetime’

At 102 years old, Bea Lumpkin has never missed voting in a presidential election. And even though casting her ballot was more dangerous this year, she didn’t let the coronavirus epidemic stop her.

A now-viral photo, shared by the Chicago Teachers Union, shows the former teacher of 35 years wearing elaborate personal protective equipment to send out her mail-in ballot this past Thursday. In the moment, she’s all smiles as she holds up her ballot wearing gloves and a hot-pink coat.

“Ok Bea is a national treasure,” one Instagram user commented on the photo.

“If she can do it we all can!!!!!!!!! Let’s VOTE,” wrote another.

“You GO GIRL! I will too, and I will be doing it in style too!” added a third.

Lumpkin told TODAY that her look was crafted by her grandson, who knew how important voting is to her and wanted her to do it as safely as possible. He even included a fan and filter from a vacuum cleaner.

Lumpkin, who used to teach math, civics and economics, decided that she was going to vote by mail because it was the safest option given her age, she said. All she had to do was walk across the street from her apartment in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. She recently got the exciting news that her ballot had been received, she added.

“Many (elections I’ve voted in) were very important,” she said. “But this is by far the most important of my lifetime because our basic, democratic rights are on the line.”

Asked what issues drove her to the ballot box this year, Lumpkin pointed to public education.

“Public education has a whole has been … underfunded,” she said. “Teachers are overworked … and now are facing the near-impossible job of teaching on the internet without the proper conditions and training.”

She also said she hopes that lots of young people will vote in this year’s election.

“I would like to remind them that they are the decisive vote,” she explained. “This is the chance to take the whole future in their hands and turn it in a beneficial direction.”

Lumpkin, who was born before women had the right to vote, then noted how important it is for women to turn out this year.

“This is 100 years since the 19th Amendment passed, and our women’s rights are on the line also in this election, and I think women understand that.”

Lumpkin’s been “amazed” by the reception to her approach to voting and is pleased to have the opportunity to remind everyone else to vote, she said, adding, “I sure hope it has a good impact.”