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Bringing Up Voters

The election process. Presidential candidates are all over the news. Canvassers are arriving at our doorstep. One even blocked me from getting 4-year-old's bike out of the house over the weekend. Annoying "researchers" are calling daily during dinner.

And still, I felt a small moment of pride the other night when 6-year-old said, "Mommy, which president are you voting for?" Okay, so he still hasn't quite figured out that they are candidates. And he likely wouldn't be able to pick out Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Barack Obama or Mitt Romney from a lineup. But still, he's interested. Rather than answer, I questioned back. "Did you talk about presidents at school today?"

Turns out the interest came from the classroom calendar. School's out next Tuesday for primary day.

Husband and I jumped on it, jointly inviting him to come vote with us. We've invited him in years past and he hasn't been interested. This year, though, he got a big grin and loved the idea.

And so, we'll be taking him to our polling place (his school gymnasium) with us on Tuesday. I just hope standing in a long line just to watch us tap a computer screen doesn't bore him too much.

Did you take your kids to vote yesterday? What did they think? If you live in a state that hasn't voted yet, will you bring them along?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  February 6, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers , Teens , Tweens
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VA primary is next Tuesday. I will have to take my daughter because my husband is out of town. If the super Tuesday results were so over whelming that one one clear winner, it would be less important. But as it stands, they are too close to call for the democrats. So I will have to bring her. I will put her in a stroller because she will run around a lot otherwise. I don't want to disturb the other voters.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 6, 2008 7:37 AM | Report abuse

My wife and I have 2 daughters who have always gone to the polls with us; 1 for each parent. For the last election, our oldest was no longer considered a kid by the poll workers but not old enough to voter herself. Therefore, the only way that she could accompany me was to have her as my designated assistant...kind of like giving her power of attorney (I'm sure I'll be corrected on this, but that's how the poll worker described it). I, of course, did the actual voting, though. It required forms and signatures and all. But, to keep her in the mind set that voting is important, it was well worth it.

Posted by: Curt J | February 6, 2008 7:55 AM | Report abuse

I take DD with me when I vote, mostly because I don't have a regular babysitter and I'm too cheap to hire someone for voting. She's too little yet to understand what's going on, but I hope that she catches my excitement -- I always feel a little like a kid when I'm voting. It's just such and important and exciting thing.

Posted by: Newsahm | February 6, 2008 8:00 AM | Report abuse

That's amusing; my wife & I actually discussed this last night. Our son won't be born until June, so no primary for him...but rest assured, whichever one of us is able will have him at the polls with us in November!

Posted by: J | February 6, 2008 8:16 AM | Report abuse

I have always taken my kids to the polls. What else would I do with them? They've been too young to leave at home, and it is good for them to get in the habit of voting. They love the "I voted" stickers. How old is too old to count as a kid? That's the weirdest thing I ever heard.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 6, 2008 8:45 AM | Report abuse

I always take my kids with me when I vote. It is important for them to know that you are involved and how the process works so that they are equally as excited when they are old enough to vote themselves.

Last November I had a hard time voting. We moved a few blocks and our voting station changed. My paperwork was not where it should have been and I spent the afternoon schlepping my kids from one place to the next and back again (and then back to the other place again). We were all a little more than stressed at the end of the process. I could only smile when my then 5 year old said, "Voting must be really important, because you've never gotten us in and out of our carseats that many times for one thing before!"

Posted by: Momof5 | February 6, 2008 8:50 AM | Report abuse

To 8:45, 12 is the magic age.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 6, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

My kids have come with me to the polls when they were younger and I almost always told them when it was an election or primary day. Now, 9 and 11, they have a lively interest in the process and have enjoyed watching some of the debates at their Dad's house. My 11-year-old came home Monday and reported she was the only one in her class who knew the next day was Super Tuesday. We lay in bed last night with the radio on to listen as the results came in. I guess I'm raising little political junkies!

Posted by: anne | February 6, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Take babies, because who wants to waste money on a sitter.
Take toddlers, just stuff your pockets with back-up snacks.
Take bigger kids, because ... well, come on! You just take them.

Posted by: Political Nanny | February 6, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse

My parents took me to every election but I had to close my eyes when they picked their candidate but I always got to pull the lever. They wanted me to form my own political opinion. Whenever there was a survey in class about who we were voting for my parents would fill it out and staple it shut.

I ended up becoming significantly more liberal than my already pretty liberal parents. Now that I'm well above voting age we talk about who we are voting for and why. Before that they always told me that it was important to vote and be politically aware but you didn't have to tell people who you voted for if you didn't want to.

I work in politics and haven't missed a single election yet. I guess they raised me politically saavy without telling me I had to have their opinion.

Posted by: nevermissedanelection | February 6, 2008 9:36 AM | Report abuse

We definitely talk about it, but our primary election isn't for a while. My almost 6-year old son has announced that he is supporting Barack Obama (rhymes with Mama) instead of John McCain (rhymes with train), and my 3-year old daughter has come out strongly in favor of Pei Wei. (She loves their rice and edamame.) She made such a strong argument that my husband, previously a McCain supporter, is switching allegiance to Pei Wei.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | February 6, 2008 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I don't have kids, but I still find it far easier to vote absentee.

Posted by: WDC 21113 | February 6, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

fr anne:

>...My 11-year-old came home Monday and reported she was the only one in her class who knew the next day was Super Tuesday. We lay in bed last night with the radio on to listen as the results came in. I guess I'm raising little political junkies!

GOOD FOR YOU! I had a great teacher in jr high for US History and Civics who said that if you don't vote, you don't have a right to complain. Later on, I had a boss who would not vote so she "wouldn't get called for jury duty". I long for the day that I see DK (former icky boss) down at the courthouse, in the jury area, when she realizes that they now take the names for jury duty from DMV records! I will laugh long and VERY hard!

Posted by: alex | February 6, 2008 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Absolutely nothing more boring to kids than politics, voting, conventions. They couldn't give a *hit about it. Say the word "politics" and brains just shut down. Just like a lot of adults.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 6, 2008 10:15 AM | Report abuse

Yep, I take 'em with me always. It is an important example to set.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 6, 2008 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I live overseas so my voting is always done via absentee ballot. My 3 year old saw me fill out my ballot at my kitchen table!

We watch the news about the campaign and my son gets very excited when he sees the candidates on TV. "Campaign, campaign!" he says. I'm not sure that he really grasps the concept about what a campaign really is, what the president does, etc.-- but he knows that his parents are very interested in the campaign and the political process (for example, he hears us discussing the issues/candidates at dinner, he sees us watch the news. etc.)

We live in my husband's home country. When there is an election, my husband takes our son with him. I usually come along and watch. We also discuss the issues of my husband's country, although they aren't on the world stage in the way the U.S. election and isues are.

So our son sees and hears both of his parents participate in and discuss the political process in both of our countries.

Posted by: American mom abroad | February 6, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse

I always drug my kids along.

The great thing about getting your kids into politics and elections is that it's something that they can share with everybody. We all get an opinion.

With the SuperBowl over and NCAA not started up yet the timing is ideal for primaries!

Posted by: RoseG | February 6, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Took my 3 year old daughter yesterday. Let her fill in the scantron. She gets it more than I thought she would and its nice that the candidates are readily distinguishable this year, white lady, brown man, old white guys. Its never too early. My husband and I are political junkies since we moved away from DC and she has asked lots of questions as we co-opted her usual television time to watch debates. One big discussion was about how it is about whether we like their ideas, not them as people, and they are only fighting about ideas, they all like each other, because she got concerned when we would say we did not like a particular candidate or they would argue in a debate. She actually explained this to my mother when she told her that she liked Hillary that particular day. "I like her ideas, Obama is nice, but I don't like his ideas as much."

Posted by: attymom | February 6, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

We always explained the importance of voting to our kids. We usually didn't take them to the polling station for logistical reasons, but they knew we voted.

This year, oldest DD is 18 and will be voting for the first time. (Actually, she's already voted by absentee ballot since she'll be away at college.) Big thrill for her. DS misses by six weeks; he doesn't turn 18 until December so he can't vote this year. He's bummed.

Middle DD is taking Government in high school so she's following the process as part of her studies. We had a long talk this morning about yesterday - why McCain's folks deliberately threw West Virgnia to Huckabee because that was better strategy than Romney; why Clinton got more delegates even though Obama won more states (13-8 with NM still undecided as of this writing). Okay, I really stumbled explaining the concept of superdelegates - why they exist, who they are, etc. I was doing fine until DD pointed out that it makes no sense and is completely undemocratic; I had to agree and explained that the reason for superdelegates is "rank has its privileges."

(OT Rant: I hate living in a one-party state. It drives me nuts that my vote in November is essentially meaningless, because the Democratic nominee is going to win Maryland with at least 60% of the vote. So because of the electoral college it makes no difference if I vote Democratic, Republican or don't vote at all. And I'd feel the same way if I lived in a state that the Republican nominee was going to win with at least 60% of the vote. End of OT Rant.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 6, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Back in the day when pulling the lever was what people did to cast their vote, it was a lot easier bringing the toddler into the booth to vote. I have to be careful nowadays because that big button in the new electronic booths are so easy to push and very attractive to a toddler. Both my wife and me have had our ballads casted before we were done selecting our candidates. Oh well!

As far as bringing little ones to the polls, I for one would much rather hear the padding around of little happy feet on the tile floor when I'm waiting to vote than a child strapped into a stroller wailing to get out. Please, parents of little ones, let your child run around if he or she needs to. Don't let voting be a bad experience for the next generation!

Posted by: DandyLion | February 6, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse

"white lady, brown man, old white guys"

attymom, FWIW I'm a registered Democrat but that's just plain wrong. It's offensive. "Old white guys" - you mean all the Republican candidates, right? Okay, McCain is 71, but Romney is the same age as Hillary Clinton (okay, he's 7 months older but was in the same class); Mike Huckabee is 8 years YOUNGER than Hillary Clinton. If you were to include the white male Democrats who have since dropped out, John Edwards is six years younger than Hillary Clinton.

Geez Louise - "old white men". Why not "that old hag"?

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 6, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

ArmyBrat: Republicans don't get any respect from the Washington Compost. They're still picking over the bones of the Nixon administration. Every time that Woodward guy puts out another book it's ballyhooed ad nauseum at the Compost. Sure, Republicans are all 'rich old white guys' but the Damocrats have the old drunk Kennedys, John Kerry who married money, John Edwards and Algore living in mansions with hired servants.

There was some Cabinet member who got the ax because he joked about staffing his office with 'a black, a woman, two cripples and a Jew.'

Posted by: Anonymous | February 6, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

"Absolutely nothing more boring to kids than politics, voting, conventions. They couldn't give a *hit about it. Say the word "politics" and brains just shut down. Just like a lot of adults.

Posted by: | February 6, 2008 10:15 AM "

That's why you have to make it fun. We watch the results come in much like sports fans. Apathy in children is likely the result of seeing the same trait in their parents. The earlier you start them, the earlier they will be interested in it. At least that's how we hope it goes for our son.

Posted by: J | February 6, 2008 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Being interested in politics and politicians is on the same level as being interested in used car salesmen, drug dealers, shyster lawyers, deadbeat dads, acid-head rock stars. Why is Hillary running when she represents a state she never lived in? Why is Obama/Osama denying his Muslim background just to get into the White House? I put them all in the same category. On Capitol Hill they all call each other "The Honorable Gentleman from......." There's not an honorable human being in the bunch. Why are you all shocked and surprised when one is caught with his pants down, or drunk driving, or soliciting little boys? Why should you be surprised if a snake crawls on its belly? It's just the nature of the beast. I really feel sorry for their families.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 6, 2008 11:09 AM | Report abuse

"I always drug my kids along."

Posted by: Lugo | February 6, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

ArmyBrat & J,
You try explaining that to a 3 year old. This is about what the kids think and how they epxerience the day. I was talking about the readily apparent differences on the TV screen. I probably should have left it at white men or said old white lady too, but McCain is old and to a 3 year old they are all Grandma's age. But you reveal a bit too much about yourself and your inexplicab le animosity toward Hillary if you think "old hag" is the same as "old white man"

Posted by: ATTYMOM | February 6, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

"I always drug my kids along." (They probably need to be drugged or they wouldn't cooperate in something so boring as voting!)

Posted by: Lugo | February 6, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

To cynical, angry, anonymous, although this is off topic, I feel it is important to correct this intentionally false "Muslim" propoganda wherever it pops up because it is such insidious fear-mongering. It is about parents I suppose. Look at the following websites to learn the true facts about Obama's upbringing and exposure to various religions and cultures.

I think the most accurate thing to say is that neither his father nor step-father had an influential role in his upbbringing and that as a child he was raised in secular households with education and exposure to a wide variety of world religions and as a young adult embraced the urban black community christian church in Chicago.

Posted by: AttyMom | February 6, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

ATTYMOM: I have explained it to a 3 year old, and to a 7 year old, and 11, and 15 (this morning at the breakfast table) and so on. I understand that it can be difficult. (Like I posted earlier, try explaining the full nomination process - particularly "superdelegates" to a 15 year old high school Government student - it ain't easy.) My point was simply what you said - you "probably should have left it at white men or said old white lady too."

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 6, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

If Obama isn't Muslim, then 9/11 was carried off by a bunch of misguided middle eastern dudes.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 6, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

We've lived in both VA and now WI and our son (4) has always gone voting with us. Shuttling him to daycare, then driving back to the polling place and then going to work always seemed like way too much work!

Yesterday he didn't understand why the radio was talking about voting and we didn't get to vote. He's always very excited to come vote with us, it's like a little adventure for him with the lines and voting booths and the secretive air of the place.

When he gets older we'll talk more about our socio-political beliefs and party affiliation. For now we're just leaving it alone since mama can't talk about the current state of the country without teaching her son bad manners and some bad words (like stupid,idiot, incompetent, and corrupt).

When I was 4 I assumed my parents voted for Ford because they were good cars. (Wrong on both accounts!) By the time I was 8 I knew all about Democrats and Republicans and why my parents voted the way they did. So I think it's enough now that he know voting is important, we'll worry about the subtle nuances for the next election.

Posted by: MadisonMama | February 6, 2008 11:39 AM | Report abuse

I think the best example to set as parents is just to always vote yourself. My parents never took us to the polls with them, but they considered voting extremely important and never missed an election.

I think that example carried over, because my siblings and I are now the same way: we never miss an opportunity to vote.

I wish the rest of the country felt the same.

Posted by: CJB | February 6, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

For as long as I can remember, my mom took me with her to the polls to vote. She'd tell me which buttons to press and then when to press the green VOTE button at the bottom. I've since grown up with a love for the political process. I turned 18 sixteen days after the midterm elections the year that the registrar came to my government class and I was so MAD that my best friend got to vote that year and I didn't.

I don't understand people who think that voting is "boring." You educate yourself (depending on where you live and what's on the ballot it can take up to an hour) and then you push buttons. I left work yesterday, voted, picked up my dry cleaning and was still home in 30 minutes. Yeah, I live in a small town and yeah, waiting in line can be boring, but people wait in line for a lot of things. Voting is your chance to take an active role in choosing the people who make the decisions that will change your life. I don't understand how that can be boring.

Posted by: Jenn in NJ | February 6, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I am very excited to vote this year. This will be the first time as a citizen that I can vote in a big election. I voted 2? years ago for my representative in Congress.

I just found out today that I can vote in whatever primary I want to in Virginia because we don't declare our affiliation. So , I will be off to vote on Tuesday.

Depending on my schedule, I may or may not go with the kids and husband (he can't vote). If I only have to to work one job then we can go together otherwise, it will be all I can do to squeeze time in for the vote without having to deal with schlepping other people there.

Posted by: Billie | February 6, 2008 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I've almost always taken my daughter with me to vote and explained that it's an important part of being a citizen. When she was seven, she and I helped give out Democratic campaign literature and she was a little shocked at how some people would turn and walk away from her. This led into a discuss of strong feelings about political issues. She knows that she'll be able to vote when she's 18 and that she doesn't have to choose the candidates that her father and I choose.
@anonymous, 10:50 AM: That would be James Watt.

Posted by: Angela | February 6, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

When the boys were preschoolers, they went to the polls with me or DH. Once they got to be school-age, they were in school while we voted, but they still are very aware. We never miss an election. In the past, I've volunteered for local candidates' campaigns, and once ran a voter-registration booth at a non-political event, so the boys know that our family considers voting to be the *minimum* level of involvement.

It's been a very long time, but I think I remember going to the polls with my mother when I was very small. I guess it's a family legacy.

Posted by: Sue | February 6, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

The boring part is listening to months and months of lies, mudslinging, false promises, more lies, backbiting, denegrating your opponent, then flip-flopping on what they'll do when they get into office. The easiest way to vote is just close your eyes and push a lever.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 6, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse

"If Obama isn't Muslim, then 9/11 was carried off by a bunch of misguided middle eastern dudes.

Posted by: | February 6, 2008 11:38 AM "

I really hope you're just attempting to instigate argument. Otherwise, as the embodiment of the definition of a fool, I certainly hope you aren't procreating.

Posted by: J | February 6, 2008 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I used to vote with my Dad until I 14.

DD has always come with us to the polls. Of course there are long lines, but long lines exist at the bank, CVS, grocery store etc.

We will vote together on Tuesday and I hope our candidate will be in the White House in January.

Posted by: shdd | February 6, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

"She knows that she'll be able to vote when she's 18 and that she doesn't have to choose the candidates that her father and I choose."

Angela, I love this comment! My parents always taught me that I had to vote for who I wanted based on my criteria and judgment; I had better not vote for somebody because my parents liked him/her, or because my friends did, or whatever. They used to quiz us at the dinner table about how we felt about issues and who we supported, and most importantly, why. They believed that "the educated voter is the best voter" to parody the commercial phrase.

We've always raised our kids the same way. You can support anybody or any position you want, but you'd better be able to defend your position and provide a good explanation as to why that's how you feel.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 6, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

No kids yet, but for me, voting tends to involve covering my eyes with one hand and stabbing at the screen with the other. Not sure I'd want my kids to see that.

Posted by: Tom T. | February 6, 2008 3:58 PM | Report abuse

My mom and I still vote together. Im trying to convince my husband that he needs to vote as well, but he's a shmuck about it.

Posted by: Kat | February 6, 2008 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Yes. I have always taken my son to the polls with me. I was extremely proud that he never asked who to vote for, but asked HOW do you decide who to vote for. I explained about deciding what issues are important to you, to listen to the speeches but also read the materials, go to the websites (he is 6 so websites are normal source of information to him) and then make your decision from there. I hope to teach him that voting is a responsibility so it never crosses his mind not to vote. He will tell anyone much like his mom - if you don't vote, you have no right to complain!

Posted by: Mom in Ellicott City | February 13, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse

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