Kids, voting, and citizenship

I remember the day my parents were sworn in as citizens of the
United States – it was a proud moment for all of us and I vividly recall going with them the first time they were able to cast their vote.

It’s a precious, this right of ours, to have a say in who will govern and how we will be governed. Yet, it’s shocking that only 61% of eligible voters turned out for the presidential election in 2004. And in 2002, the last mid-term election, only 39.5% of eligible voters turned out to vote.

Why is this? The California Voter Foundation conducted a study in the summer of 2005 to understand why people didn’t vote and found that “Among infrequent voters, the two most important reasons for not voting were “I’m too busy to vote” (28 percent) and “There are no candidates that I believe in” (20 percent).” The CVF has several recommended strategies on how to increase voter turnout, ranging from greater awareness of absentee ballots to encouraging friends and family to vote.

I have one other to add: Take your kids to the polls. I’ve been taking my kids to the polls, having them help me make sure that I transfer the right votes from my sample ballot cheat sheet (available from smartvoter.org) to the official ballot. They even help my put the ballot into the machine that “eats” it. I also discuss issues I think they can understand, such as Measure A in San Mateo County which enacts a sales tax to support parks and recreation services.

But there’s one thing I won’t let them help me with – and that’s filling out the ballot (they think it’s actually fun drawing thick black lines on the ballot!). That’s a privilege and right which I want them to look forward to, the day when they become voting members of their community. Until then, they’ll have to settle for the gratification of “I voted” stickers and I’ll know that I have done my part – for the time being – of raising the next generation of citizens.

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~ by charleneli on November 7, 2006.

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