SUMTER, S.C. (WIS) - A Sumter County doctor is featured in a new documentary, which shares the stories of multiple American voters. Dr. Brenda Williams is described as a gospel-singing physician who has helped thousands of rural South Carolinians register to vote.
The documentary, “One Vote,” captures the rich diversity of American voters and how uniquely different the voting experience can be for people across the country. In the film, Dr. Williams is one of just five people being recognized for their roles during Election Day, 2016.
Along with the likes of Warren Buffet, who transports voters in Omaha to the polls via trolley. There’s also a family in Alaska who travels more than 200 miles by dogsled to reach their polling place.
“We would, as children, discuss issues like: voting, racism, prejudice, disenfranchisement,” said Dr. Williams who was born in Savannah, Georgia. She says she learned the importance of voting at an early age and would later become an advocate for voters, even while sharing a Sumter medical practice with her husband for 32 years.
The physician telling WIS-TV that, “We always registered our patients. Just as routine as coming in and taking their blood pressure, and their vital signs, examining them. After all of that was done, we would ask them, 'are you a registered voter?”
Eventually her efforts went beyond the doctor’s office, but, “Not just anywhere in the community, but the lower income housing projects, the jail, the mobile home parks. Areas where people have never, ever been enfranchised,” said Dr. Williams.
When South Carolina passed the voter ID law in 2012 requiring voters to have a photo ID in order to cast their ballots, the Sumter physician said, “That was a problem for hundreds of our patients because they were born and raised in rural South Carolina, rural Sumter County – had no birth certificates.”
She says she and her husband spent tens of thousands of dollars on attorney fees to help their patients obtain birth certificates and ultimately photo IDs in order to vote.
Even today, Dr. Williams says there are still challenges to ensuring everyone can exercise their right to vote.
She encourages voters to, “Pay no attention to the barriers. Let’s vote like we’ve never done before.”
Today, Dr. Williams has moved most of her activism online, using social media to provide information on voting because of the pandemic.
The documentary, One Vote, aims to inspire all voters ahead of Election Day in November. That’s available now on multiple streaming platforms, including iTunes and Amazon.
Dr. Williams is also still providing affordable health care through The Family Unit, Inc.'s Free Medical Clinic on Willow Drive in Sumter.