Tomorrow is Election Day here in the US, and that means many people will be taking time out of their day to go and vote, if they haven’t already. Depending on where you live, that may mean going to a polling place to stand in line, use some machine or other, and cast a ballot; it might mean driving a mail-in ballot to some official collection spot; or else perhaps checking an app for the status of the absentee or mail-in ballot you sent back days or weeks before.
No matter how it looks or who you vote for though, the important thing is to do it, though sadly lots of people don’t, and while understand the frustration some feel in the process, the fact that it can be obtuse at times, or the persistent fears that our votes may not count or be counted for one reason or another, we maintain that it is incredibly important to go out and vote… and especially if you’re a parent, to involve your kids.
For Our Kids’ Future
The first and most important reason to vote as a parent is for the sake of your children, and specifically their future. Bear with us – we understand this sounds very crunchy – but the reality is that whether or not you feel that the elections will have a direct impact on your life, it is certain that the choices made each election will have an impact on theirs. Without digging into the specific politics and policies, it’s a safe bet that each election season, there are some mix of candidates and ballot measures that will impact you children’s schools, parks, play spaces, and beyond for years to come.
Perhaps school funding is on the table, as in many places here in Colorado. Maybe there’s a candidate who is dedicated to making more green spaces for kids to play, or expanding access to school lunches, or improving teachers’ pay. All of these things impact our children tremendously, and us as well.
Another big reason to involve your children in your voting process is to model skills. Even if you largely vote a straight ticket (all for one party or another), there’s a process that you follow to make your decisions, and to cast your ballot. So, this comes in two parts: first, modeling your decision-making process (which could include research, conversations, or even family traditions), and second, modeling the process you use to actually cast your ballot, once your decisions are made.
Modeling research skills is of course important because our children are doing just that every day in school. Demonstrating that research happens at home, too – that it’s applicable in everyday life – lets our kids know that it’s a transferable skill, something that, if developed, they can take with them as part of their learning toolkit for the rest of their life.
Modeling the process is equally important: voting, though not perfect and not quite universal, is an integral part of the function of groups, communities, and nations across the planet. Moreover, by demonstrating the process to our children (who we already know are sponges for everything we say and do as parents), we normalize the practice, and so make it less intimidating for our kids, when the chance arises for them.
It’s (Probably) Not Taught In School
Many parents, even younger ones, still remember some version of Social Studies or Government classes from our time growing up, and those classes almost invariably encompassed some broad concepts of the functions and processes of government, or “civics”. Essentially, for better or worse, voting used to be taught in school, but that is largely no longer the case. Much as with “Sex Ed”, art, and music, civics is (ahem, strangely) considered to be too controversial a topic for schools to be able to “properly” handle it, and so it has been pushed further and further to the wayside.
Whether you feel this is a problem or not, the result is the same: your children will almost certainly not learn about the process unless you teach them. If you care that your children become voters as adults, the best way to ensure it is to model it.
Although you may have thoughts about our politics here at Collage, we care more that you vote than for whom or what you cast your ballot, because at the end of the day, voting makes a difference. For better or worse, in large ways or small, our system of government allows us to have a say in the direction that we move as a society. It is a tremendous and unprecedented amount of power in the grand arc of history, and something for which so many of our ancestors fought and sacrificed dearly.
As such, our votes and our actions around the process are the greatest legacy we leave our children, collectively. Let us leave one we can be proud of.
There are lots of wonderful resources available to help inform your voting process. We would love to cover more, and we may in the future, but for today we would like to recommend Ballotpedia, a fantastic site that gives clear and comprehensive breakdowns of virtually every ballot in the country, in a nonpartisan format.