Tomorrow is Election Day — with New Jersey and Virginia headed to the polls to elect governors in high-stakes races. (You can check Vote.org to see if you have an election coming up.) Here are five reasons to consider bringing your children with you to the polls.
1. It lights a candle in the darkness.
The current political situation in our country is frightening. Children aren’t old enough to understand most of what they’re hearing, but many of them know that something is happening that adults in their lives are afraid of. Taking your children to vote can show them that adults aren’t powerless. By voting, we have the power to shift the way our country is governed.
2. It helps teach civic responsibility.
Children learn best from experience. Taking children to the polls familiarizes them with the voting process. They learn the mechanics of ballots, respect for voting privacy and other appropriate electoral behavior. They see both adults they know personally and strangers put time and effort into voting. This teaches children that voting in every election is an important part of being an adult.
3. It gives you a chance to discuss political values with your children.
Voting is important because not all politicians are the same. Your ballot reflects the values you want to see in government. Taking your children to the polls gives them the opportunity to ask you questions. (I once embarrassed my mother by calling out in the voting booth “Why did you mark all the people with ‘D’ next to their name?”) Age-appropriate conversations help kids learn to think about making good political choices.
4. It’s practical.
It can be hard for busy parents to find the time to vote. Sometimes bringing children to the polls is what makes voting possible. (If you bring extra snacks, crayons or bubbles, you may be able to help other parents stay in line with their children.)
5. It inspires others to vote.
Some states and precincts have grossly inadequate voting facilities. Lines may be very long, and people may be tempted to leave without voting. People who see children at the polls are reminded what’s at stake — and may conclude that if you can stay and vote, so can they. Remember that if you are in line when the polls close, you can vote so long as you do not leave. Stay in line, and help others do the same.