I have voted in every election since the day I was legal to vote. My birthday is the first week in November and the year I turned 18 it happened to fall on election day. I’m a committed voter, I even vote in all the less exciting in-between elections. I’m a big believer in upholding our responsibilities as citizens and in teaching civics to our children.
I don’t think voting alone is enough, however. I feel it’s important to vote, but it’s more important to cast an informed vote, and to set that example for our children.
Voting is a privilege and a right, I pay a lot of attention to politics and I have opinions and impressions that are my own. I watch different networks, read blogs, online articles, and watch debates (even through the primaries). I read newsletters, listen to the radio, and make an effort to hear both sides of an issue. I even read all the ballot proposals in that booklet we get in the mail. My history-buff husband gives me great historical perspective on issues and we enjoy in-depth conversations that explore and articulate our ideals and principles.
Our book club wanted to learn more about the candidates and in the last two presidential elections we’ve read books by each candidate. I pride myself on being an educated voter and since they were little, I’ve tried to instill that value into our children.
As toddlers, when the kids were attached to me 24/7, of course, I brought them to the polls. They’d come in the booth with me and I’d let them have the “I Voted!” sticker. As they got older, we continue to take them in to vote with us, I show them the ballot and how to fill it out. This primary season, my eight year old even made the mark to vote for one candidate.
We had our two older kids stay up for the start of the first presidential debate this year and prefaced it with things to take note of: Did the candidate answer the question asked? Did he give specific examples? How do you think each person presented himself? Did you understand their answers? It lead to thoughtful discussion, questions and insights from two future voters.
Throughout the years, all year through, we talk to them about our beliefs and why we believe something, why we are supporting one candidate over another. We always encourage and permit them to disagree with us, to learn and listen on their own, to ask questions and to draw their own conclusions.
Watching some late night comedy and YouTube videos which interview voters in our country can be funny on the surface but ultimately it saddens me deeply. You’ve seen the woman stopped on the street who knows who she’s going to vote for but she doesn’t even know the name of the Vice President of the United States.
My informed vote counts just as much as someone’s uneducated vote, that’s how it works, but it’s my job to be sure my children grow up to take responsibility. We inspire them to seek out information, challenge it, find primary sources and evaluate what they read and hear (even from Mom and Dad) to formulate their own views.