Parenting: The privilege of voting

November 5, 2010 8:15:26 AM PDT
As a young girl, I remember going to what was then The Sacred Heart School at the corner of Haverford and City Avenues every Election Day to vote with my parents.

At that time, the booth had lots of little levers that you clicked down for the candidates you wanted and then one giant red lever that you pulled across to open the curtain and register your vote.

One of my parents would let me go inside the booth with them and I would wait with great excitement while they made their little clicks, until the big moment when I got to pull the giant red lever and we'd walk out of the booth together.

By the time I was old enough to vote, I was going to school in Illinois and so, for my first four Election Days, I voted by absentee ballot back here at home. It wasn't until I graduated from college and began my first television job that I voted "in-person."

I don't remember what the voting booths were like in Iowa, but I clearly remember participating in the famed Iowa caucuses. Basically, you and your neighbors all gather one night in a public place (in our case, it was the Bettendorf High School gym) and form groups aligned with each candidate. Then the groups with the most people tried to persuade people from the smaller groups to join them.

You go through several rounds of this until there's a clear winner, and the delegates from your election area are then committed to the winning candidate. It's a real hands-on way of participating in the political process.

Once the Buckman Boys were born, either my husband, Terry, or I would bring them with us into the voting booth at our local library, just as my parents had done with me. The little levers from my childhood have given way to computer buttons, and the red lever that I loved pulling as a little girl has been replaced with a red button, that makes a satisfying series of beeps to let you know that your vote has been registered.

Needless to say, the boys all loved being the one to push the red button. They also liked the fact that the library volunteers always have a bake sale on Election Day and once our voting was done they usually got a cupcake or brownie or some other sort of yummy treat.

As they got older, they began to ask questions about whom we were voting for and why and as the elections have approached over the past few years, we've had quite a few political conversations at the dinner table.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, last month my oldest son, Jason, turned 18. Even before his birthday, without any prompting from his Dad or me, he registered himself to vote. On Tuesday, which was a day off from school, he drove himself to the library and voted in his first election. I have to admit I felt very proud when I went to vote after work on Tuesday and my neighbors who were working at the polling place all told me he had been there and voted for the first time.

I don't know who Jason voted for ? though I do know his 90-year-old Grandmom called him Monday night and tried to persuade him to vote for the candidates she was supporting (and yes ? at 90 and 92, my parents still never miss an election).

My middle son, Billy, is currently in an election campaign himself, running for Freshman Class Treasurer at his high school.

And so, I feel that we've done a decent job of passing down one of the important messages of American citizenship to our children. I think they appreciate the fact that they have a right to vote and they understand that it is also an important responsibility.

Unfortunately, many young people do not seem to be getting the same message.

According to statistics released by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, approximately 20 percent of U.S. citizens under the age of 30 voted on Tuesday, down from nearly 55 percent in the presidential election in 2008 and 23 percent in the 2008 presidential election.

But the great thing about elections is they happen every year. If you know a teen who'll be old enough to vote by next November, here's a great link to Rock The Vote where they can register and get all sorts of other information about voting.

And even if your children aren't close to voting age yet, it's never too early to start talking with them about how amazing it is to live in a country where we get to choose our leaders and about how important each of their votes will be once they are old enough to exercise this precious right and responsibility.

Read more Parenting Perspective blogs by visiting the Parenting Channel on 6abc.com.


Load Comments