Not even a global pandemic could stop this 102-year-old from voting in this election

Bea Lumpkin, 102, cast her vote in the 2020 election by mail, decked out in personal protective equipment. She told CNN this election is one of the most critical of her lifetime.

(CNN)Bea Lumpkin is 102 years old and has never missed an election as long as she's been eligible to vote.

Not even a global pandemic could stop her from voting in this one.
Lumpkin, a former Chicago public school teacher, dressed in personal protective equipment from head to toe to drop off her ballot for the 2020 presidential election at the mailbox last week. The Chicago Teachers Union, of which she was a member, shared the image.
At her age, Bea's at high risk for becoming severely ill if she contracted coronavirus. But she would never have missed her chance to vote. She urges every registered voter in the US to exercise their right, too.
"The most important reason to vote in this election is that there's so much at stake, more than any other vote I've cast, because of the great challenge to the survival of our democracy," Lumpkin told CNN.
If she could vote this year, so can anyone who's registered, she said. And the retired educator knows better than most the value of voting. Here's why Bea Lumpkin, proud voter and centenarian, says it's so critical to vote in 2020.

There's a lot on the line

Many of the issues Bea cares about are especially relevant in 2020: health care, racism and climate change among them. She believes in health care for every American; she wants to see reforms in law enforcement to end brutality and racism in policing; and she warns of the destruction wrought by climate change, such as the wildfires that burned down her son's California home.
She's also very over living through the pandemic, and she disagrees with the ways in which science has been undermined by the President and other federal officials charged with leading the pandemic response. She once taught biology, she said, and she's a "great respecter" of the advances scientists have made since her birth.
"I'm sick and tired of this pandemic, and we'll never get rid of it unless we follow the experience of so many other countries, of the advice of science," she said.
She misses her daily trips to her local YMCA, where she'd work out everyday before the pandemic. She misses hugging her grandkids and seeing her friends and getting out of the house every once and awhile.
Her hairdo has also suffered as a result of the pandemic, she says.
"I wear my hair short, and it's so long now -- it's going down my back!" she joked.
2020 is also, she points out, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women (mostly White women, at the time) the right to vote. A lifelong feminist, Bea encourages women to vote not only to mark that anniversary but to protect their rights.
"Women still have so many additional reasons to vote because in this election, all rights that women have won in the hundred-odd years I've been on earth -- they're all on the line," she said. "But then, this fight for our rights is much older than we are -- it's even older than I am."

Voting by mail was simple, she says

In a typical election year, Bea would vote early, usually at the YMCA where she worked out daily pre-pandemic. But this year, it was safest for her to vote by mail, she said.
Her ballot was received within 48 hours of submission, a process she tracked online, she said. It was a quick and simple way to vote, and she's wearing a big "I Voted" button this week to celebrate.