For Halloween, Gunther Peck and his family planned to carve pumpkins. But his 12-year-old daughter had a different idea. How about they make a spooky sign? So the family got a big sheet, some glitter and colorful paint. They hung the banner over the entrance to their home in Trinity Park.
It said, “Vote! Before it’s too late.”
At eight o’clock the next morning, Peck, a Duke public policy professor and volunteer for Durham for Organizing Action, pulls into the Durham bus station in a teal decade-old Subaru Forester. It’s abuzz with people carrying briefcases, others pushing strollers, most wearing puffy coats and knit hats as they stride toward their bus. He grabs his clipboard, stuffs his keys in his jeans pocket and walks to the circle where the buses line up.
Most people avoid making eye contact with the enthusiastic, bespectacled professor. It’s clear that he wants something from them.
“Hi, sir, are you planning to early vote?”
“Ma’am, early voting is going on right now. Here’s some information about where and when you can vote and what’s on the ballot this year.”
“I already voted.”
He does a lap around the bus station. No takers.
Finally, Bobby Haynie, a veteran with a salt and pepper beard and only a few teeth left, approaches Peck and announces he’d like to vote.
Peck, who has a rugged look but warm eyes and a gentle voice, explains the deal: he’ll drive Haynie to the Board of Elections to cast his ballot and then drop him off wherever he wants.
Haynie agrees and gets into the passenger seat of Peck’s car. The 69-year-old is wearing a San Antonio Spurs cap and white sneakers.
During the ride, Haynie peruses a sample ballot while Peck explains what’s at stake, from judicial positions to constitutional amendments.
“I’ll tell you why I’m here,” Peck says. “Our voting rights are in danger. There is a proposed amendment to the constitution requiring a photo id that would make it a lot harder for many citizens to vote.”
He’s been volunteering to drive people to the polls during early voting. Over the course of the 18-day period, he’ll drive dozens of Durhamites.
Haynie says he tries to vote every election. “It’s my civic duty.”
He understands civic duty. He was drafted and served in the army in the ‘70s. Since then, he earned a degree from North Carolina Central University and now works at a real estate development company downtown.
After he votes at the Board of Elections office, Haynie ambles back to Peck’s car. He keeps his “I Voted” sticker tucked inside the pocket of his well-worn, mustard-yellow jacket.
As they pull out of the parking lot, Peck asks, “What was your best vote? The one you’re most proud of.”
“The back page — all of the amendments,” says Haynie. “I didn’t think they need to start screwing with the constitution.”
(Top Photo of Gunther Peck and Bobby Haynie by Katie Nelson)