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Voter, 106, can’t be kept from polls

Elizabeth Hinton, 106, cast her ballot at the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School in Dorchester.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Elizabeth Hinton, 106, cast her ballot at the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School in Dorchester.

Elizabeth Hinton adheres to a few simple rules in her life.

Her clothes must be fashionable and well-fitted, she never eats seconds, and when it comes to voting, she does it in person.

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And Tuesday was no different for the 106-year-old, who slowly pushed her walker into the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School auditorium in Dorchester to vote in her 22d presidential election.

With the help of her niece, Helen Robinson, Hinton navigated the two-page ballot Tuesday, smiling and nodding when Robinson asked whether she wanted to vote for Barack Obama.

Slight and barely 4 feet 8 inches tall, Hinton has some hearing loss, and her speech has slowed, but Robinson, who is also her caretaker, could tell that her aunt was proud to vote again for Obama.

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“She’s from a different generation. . . . She was just amazed,” Robinson said of Hinton’s excitement about voting for Obama in 2008 and again Tuesday. “She wanted to get out here and vote. She’s a true citizen in that way.”

Hinton, who grew up in Plainfield, N.J., participated in her first election when she was 21, seven years after the 19th Amendment allowing women to vote was passed, Robinson said. That made Hinton eligible to participate in the 1928 presidential election between Republican Herbert Hoover and Democrat Al Smith.

Hinton, known to most as Aunt Bessie, moved in the 1950s to Everett , where she met her husband, Richard, a World War II veteran. Robinson remembers the couple used to walk to their polling place.

“It was like, ‘Of course I’m going to vote.’ It wasn’t a question,” Robinson said. “There was no question in either of their minds that voting was the thing to do.”

Having lived through wars, the Great Depression, and the Civil Rights Movement, Hinton has managed to remain optimistic about everyday life.

“She always believed in not holding on to things, so that she never worries,” Robinson said, as Hinton nodded from her couch. “ She just doesn’t worry.”

The second oldest of five children and the only girl, Hinton defied the sensibilities of her generation and adopted a confidence that Robinson described like this: She may have cooked dinner, but her husband did the dishes.

In the 1950s and 1960s, she worked as a seamstress at Boylston Street dress shops frequented by wealthy women. Hinton always had an eye for style and well-tailored clothes, and that can make it challenging to select outfits for her, Robinson said.

At home with Robinson, Hinton passes time reading old cards and letters her friends and late husband sent her throughout the years. Hinton also reads the newspaper every day, especially stories featuring Obama and Governor Deval Patrick .

Where absentee voting may be an option for some, Robinson said she knows it is not for Hinton.

“I’ve never asked her because I just knew that she wanted to go to vote,” Robinson said. “We’ve taken her out in the snow to go vote. If people only knew if someone who’s 106 gets out there and votes, everybody should think they can do it.”

As for her secret to longevity, Hinton gave a smirk before signaling to her grand-niece, Maria Robinson, that it was OK to reveal another of her simple rules.

“She has a gin and tonic every day,” Maria Robinson said.

Katheleen Conti can be reached at kconti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKConti.
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