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Eastern Panhandle residents named to West Virginia Voter Hall of Fame

March 20, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- Frances Banks has voted in every primary, general and special election for the last 65 years, and the 94-year-old resident of Shepherdstown, W.Va., still gets energized about the idea of voting.

When asked during a ceremony Thursday what wisdom she would give to young people about voting, she replied, "Get registered."

"I think you can do it by mail now," Banks said.

In an afternoon ceremony before the Jefferson County Commission, Banks was inducted into the West Virginia Voter Hall of Fame by Secretary of State Betty Ireland.

Ireland said the idea of the West Virginia Voter Hall of Fame is to honor longtime voters who have helped uphold the principles of democracy.

Through the honor program, county clerks in each of West Virginia's 55 counties are asked to submit the name of the oldest voter in the county who has voted at least 50 consecutive years, Ireland said.

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"We've had the best time with the folks we've met," Ireland said during the ceremony in the Jefferson County Courthouse.

Ireland presented Banks with a certificate honoring her voting record, and Banks was treated to a reception outside the commission chambers following the event. About 40 friends and government officials filled the hallway.

Banks told Ireland during the ceremony that the first U.S. president she voted for was Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Voting has been a big part of Banks' life.

From 1956 to 1979, Banks worked in the Jefferson County Clerk's office. Every spring before an election, Banks would go door-to-door registering people to vote, according to a press release from the county clerk's office.

"Sometimes, there would be ice and snow, but it didn't matter," Banks said.

Also honored Thursday in separate presentations were Helen Huffman of Morgan County and Thomas Guy Reynolds Jr. of Berkeley County. Ireland presented Huffman and Reynolds with similar certificates.

Ireland said the presentations have served a dual purpose of urging young people to vote.

"They have stayed engaged in the Democratic process and stayed engaged in life," Ireland said of the inductees she has recognized so far.

When Ireland asked Reynolds if he had any message for younger voters, Reynolds, who also first voted for FDR, said they shouldn't do "any complaining" if they don't go to the polls.

Fellow Martinsburg, W.Va., native County Clerk John W. Small Jr., said he remembered Reynolds since he was a young boy and admired him for his commitment to voting and staying involved.

"I always looked up to ya'," Small told Reynolds at the ceremony.

Staff writer Matthew Umstead contributed to this story.

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