It was an exciting day on Tuesday, November 6, not because we were eagerly awaiting the results of an election that would determine the president for the next four years, but because of how excited the kids were to be involved in the process. I am unable to vote, but my husband made sure to take the kids with him to the polls when he went so they could see first-hand how it’s done. Then we all watched TV as the results came in.
My husband took our oldest son with him to vote in the 2008 presidential election as well. Sonny was 4 1/2 years old. It was cute. They got up early and dressed quickly in order to arrive at the polling station when it opened at 7 o’clock. My husband even let Sonny punch the ballot for Obama. Then they went to breakfast together.
This year he picked both boys up from school and stopped at the polling station on the way home. Doobie got the honor of punching the ballot for the presidential candidate this time, and Sonny punched the choice for one of the state propositions. They came home proudly wearing their “I Voted” stickers.
The television was on the whole afternoon and evening broadcasting election results as they came in. The kids stayed up later than usual to watch with us. Doobie quickly lost interest, but Sonny stayed engaged the whole time and cheered and booed as the results were announced. He quickly understood the concept of electoral votes and how a candidate needed 270 electoral votes in order to be declared the winner. He learned about swing states. He heard discussions about exit polls and surveys. It was quite the civics lesson for him.
I loved seeing Sonny get so excited when California went to Obama and he won 55 more electoral votes. When finally all three networks that we were watching had declared Obama the winner, Sonny reluctantly went to bed. He was very happy to see the morning paper when he came to breakfast the next day.
Sonny and Doobie’s school even held a presidential election the week before. Students had to make time during recesses over a couple of days to go to the library to vote. Sonny proudly voted, but Doobie didn’t get a chance to (because he was too busy playing). Sonny actually got frustrated with Doobie for not remembering to vote. It was a great lesson in how it’s up to people themselves to make time to vote. Voting is something that people need to choose to prioritize, and unfortunately many people don’t do that.
What we hope will happen by exposing our kids to the voting process early is that they will think of voting as something totally natural and normal to do. We want them to eventually become adults who are knowledgeable about the issues affecting our country and active in the process of choosing leaders and possible solutions. We want them to be excited about having the right to vote when they turn 18 and to take that responsibility seriously. Doobie’s very first election after he turns 18 will actually be a presidential one (in 2024!). It will happen only about 2 weeks after his birthday. What an exciting way to begin exercising his right and responsibility to vote. We hope he’ll think so, too.