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Getting kids involved without polling places: I voted!

Ballots_on_bike_cropI remember going with my mom to the polling place when I was a kid; there was one right at the end of our block, at 25th and Madison, so watching the people stream by all day was so exciting. I couldn't wait until I was old enough to vote. Now my six-year-old is just like me: only there's no polling place. My husband and I voted after bedtime on Friday and the only evidence was our sealed, signed ballots on the table the next morning, whisked away by my parents to drop off at the elections office.

So, how can we invest our children with the excitement of civic involvement in our vote-by-mail state? Here are a couple of things we've done (and plan to do):

  • Electoral maps. There will be electoral maps to color at Backspace for the election party tonight; and last night Everett insisted I fill in every state as blue (he's loyal, that kid) on the New York Times electoral map, a fun interactive map that lets you run different scenarios while you wait.
  • Mock election. Asha at ParentHacks has a fun idea with imaginary candidates who espouse candy policies and bedtimes.
  • Get your freebies. Though election law now says they can't ask if you voted (nothing of value can be exchanged to induce someone to vote, or to refrain from voting), Starbucks is giving away a free tall coffee in honor of voting, Ben & Jerry is giving away free scoops from 5 to 8 p.m., and Dunkin' Donuts is giving away star-shaped pastries.
  • Campaign with every last second. Moms Rising has several "get out the mom vote" campaigns, like offering to be backup childcare for friends who want to vote, and making last-minute calls to remind moms to vote. Maybe the best way to adapt this to Oregon is to offer to drop off ballots for your friends who haven't yet voted, or to stage a "voting playdate" where you bring your ballots, vote, and hand them over to one mama to hand-deliver to a ballot drop-off location.

How will you get your kids enthused about your civic involvement today?


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I was wondering the same thing. This is my first non-booth election. My oldest son LOVED to pull the lever to open and close the curtain. He was just getting old enough to push the button for the candidates (when he was younger, I was always worried I would point to "my" candidate, and he would *accidentally* push the wrong button. Do over, please!)

We have spent some time talking about the election, and he even made it through some of 2 of the debates without talking.

I think we're going to spend some time in front of the t.v. tonight--a treat in itself--coloring in the states and eating popcorn.

We talked about the election on the way to daycare today. What is it? Who/what is the president? What is city council? (We saw Amanda Fritz with signs and balloons on our corner.) What is government? We voted as a family after dinner last week and the kid was asking/watching. There are a couple of election themed PBS shows on this afternoon that I TiVo-ed to watch after dinner. I also printed out a map to color. When talking about Obama, my son thought he looked lonely. Or maybe sad because his grandma died. Very sweet.

If you're near the county elections office on SE Morrison St, it can be pretty neat to watch people line up to drop off their ballots. Especially so between the hours of 5-8, when most are getting off of work... you'll see lines of cars, people, bicyclists all with a common purpose. It really gives the sense of community and urgency.

My 11 y/old has been bugging me to fill my ballot out already, since it arrived in our mail box 3 weeks ago (I miss going to a polling place and seem to have replaced that with dropping off my ballot on the last day). She wore her Obama shirt and button to school today, and will carry her notebook with the Obama sticker on it from class-to-class. She was disappointed that she wouldn't be with me to slide my ballot in the drop box.

We'll watch the results reporting tonight with friends and the kid has election-related homework to complete.

She has really been into this election (she's been an Obama fan from way back) and it's been great to hear the types of thoughtful, intelligent questions she's had. She can't wait to be a "real" voter!

My 4 year old woke up earlier than me this morning and when I came downstairs he and my husband were already up watching CNN. Anders informed me that "today is a very special day=Election Day!" After I filled out and signed my ballot last week, he also signed the front of the envelope with his initials (hope that doesn't compromise my vote in any way!) and all three of us walked up to the drop box to turn in my ballot. It was a fun, easy little ceremonial activity and a good opportunity to talk about the importance of voting and what it means. At 4, I think he understands a good bit!

My husband biked with the kids to the election office on SE Morrison this morning on the way to school. We normally turn in the ballots at our local branch library, but thought it would be fun for the kids to go to the actually destination this time around. My daughter was sad we didn't accidentally get an extra ballot that she could fill out for fun.

I told my 3 year old that today was Election Day, the day we decided who would be in charge of North America, who would be in charge of making sure our bridges and roads are taken care of, etc. He looked at me and said "and the trains and ships!" I asked him if he wanted to vote about what kind of bridge should be built for the ships to sail under downtown. He got very excited so I whipped up a ballot on my computer (one box for "big bridge", one box for "small bridge.") We wrote his name on the "official ballot", he checked "big bridge" and we put it in an envelope with his name on it and stopped at the election office on our way to preschool. I took him inside to look around and then we dropped all of our ballots through the slot on the side of the building. The best part was walking up to the building while he shouted "this is MY VOTE." One of the best mornings I've had in a long time.

Yep, in Georgia I took the kids with me to the polls so they could see the process. In Oregon, they just have to see us sitting around the table reading all those statements on the measures. The fill in bubbles look like standardized testing to them. I will let them stay up tonight to see the returns come in.

My 5.5yr-old watched me fill in the little bubbles on my ballot as we sat at the dining room table a couple of weeks ago. We talked about the president and about some of the ballot measures. She helped me put my ballot in the envelopes and carried it as we walked up the street to the ballot box where she dropped it in. We also did all this for the primary and it was exciting when, shortly after, I introduced her to the mayor-elect at a neighborhood event. She thinks it's cool that the mayor lives in our neighborhood.

This morning when I told her it was the last day for everyone to vote and we will know tonight or tomorrow who is the next president. She said she was frustrated that she couldn't vote but that "I voted for Barack Obama in my heart."

I'm teaching my daughter that foolishness is doing the same thing over and over again (participating in electoral politics) and each time expecting different results.

Oh, Virginia, your post made my day! What an awesome moment for you and your boy!

Virginia -- I loved your post! What a fantastic idea and a great way to get your son involved! I'll be copying your idea next time!

My daughter is too young for much more than listening to her parents rant, but I did watch my sister fill out her absentee ballot with my nephew. He was well-informed (in addition to the Obama excitement, a family friend was running for governor of VT) and there was lots of discussion. He was pretty excited for the whole thing, and for the rest of the week talked about who "we" voted for. There were a couple moments when he remembered better than my sister who they had put down for some of the local elections. He was totally invested and came with us to the neighborhood pub to watch Obama's acceptance speech at midnight.

For a good voting booth story, a friend in Vermont was in the booth with her two 4 year olds, and they were bickering away at her feet. Mom said, "If you guys don't stop, I might get distracted and vote for John McCain." Her little girl wailed, "No, you're sposed to vote for OBAMA!" and the kids straightened up. For at least long enough for her to vote.

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