If you live in Lowndes County, Alabama, and are of voting age, it’s a safe bet that Perman Hardy has spoken with you about voting at some point in the past 25 years.
As one of the thousands of sharecroppers who worked white men’s land in Lowndes County over the years, 59-year-old Hardy recalls picking cotton after school growing up. She eventually finished her education, bought her own home, and had a successful career as a home health nurse.
But for the past two-and-a-half decades, Hardy has dedicated much of her free time to another pursuit: trying to ensure that every single person in Lowndes County shows up to the polls for every election in Alabama. A native of the unincorporated community of Collirene, she has done about as much as one person possibly could to boost turnout in the impoverished, majority-black county with a population of just 10,458 people.
“That’s my goal is to make sure everyone votes. That’s always been my goal. This is what I do every election,” she said as she steered her forest-green Chevrolet Tahoe through Collirene, a rural area that was once home to several cotton plantations that employed generations of slaves and sharecroppers.
“We’re in an epidemic poverty county so it’s so important for us to vote today,” she told AL.com. “I took some people today who’ve never cast a ballot before.”
On Tuesday, like she says she does every time Alabamians head to the polls, Hardy spent more than 10 hours driving registered voters to polling stations who did not have transportation or were otherwise unable to make the trip without help. Over the course of the day, she personally drove more than 50 people to polling sites across Lowndes County.
Most of the people Hardy transported Tuesday were black supporters of Democrat Doug Jones, which contributed to his win in the Black Belt county, where 3,779 people voted for Jones and just 988 voted for Republican Roy Moore, a margin of 79.1 percent to 20.7 percent. Black voters played a decisive role in Jones’s victory in the hotly contested Senate election, with 96 percent of African-Americans voting for Jones, versus the 30 percent of white voters who backed him Tuesday, according to a Washington Post poll.
‘Such a crucial moment’
On Tuesday morning, Hardy took sisters Almedia and Pamela Rush from their mobile home to the church where they both voted for Jones.
“I feel it’s important because of Roy Moore. I don’t like his policies; I don’t like the things he be talking about,” Almedia Rush said. “I always vote. One vote makes a whole lot of difference.”
Hardy picked up one pecan picker from an orchard, took him to his polling station, then dropped him back off at work after he voted. She spent five minutes Tuesday afternoon convincing 79-year-old Jones supporter Susan Mae Holcombe that she should…