The first election I was eligible to vote in was the 2000 election that came down to a couple hundred ballots in the all important state of Florida. I remember having gone to vote with my Mom and staying up to see who won, only to see in the morning that the country wasn’t sure who won. We often hear, “well, my vote doesn’t matter” but that year each vote mattered and that is something that I remember every time I vote.
Since having kids getting to the ballot box hasn’t always been easy but, I make it work every year because it is important to vote. I’ve taken both kids to vote in good weather and bad, as infants, toddlers and preschoolers and it hasn’t always gone smoothly but I do it. And I want people to know that you can take your kids with you to vote.
Tips for Taking Kids to Vote.
Before you Take Kids to Vote
- Make sure you are registered to vote. I know this seems like a “duh” moment but if you’ve recently moved even if it’s in the same county or state you need to register. Not sure if you are registered check here.
- Know your polling place.
- If your kids are old enough prepare them for the experience. Tell them you may have to wait in line and that you need to be quiet and respectful.
- Prepare little kids by explaining to them that being in a polling place or voting booth is like being at the library.
- Read your sample ballot. You should receive a sample ballot in the mail prior to the election. Look it over, know what candidates are running in each race and what party they are in. Regardless of if you vote on party lines or you are an independent it’s good to know where each candidate sits on the ballot. This makes it easier for you to vote when you are in the booth because the candidates are grouped based on part.
- Read the questions at the bottom of the sample ballot. Ballot questions are important it’s how Colorado legalized marijuana and in New Jersey this year the ballot question will decide if North Jersey can have casinos a big deal for those of us who can see Atlantic City from our house. A few years ago I had Jack with me and I was rushing in the ballot box and I forgot to vote for the question because I quickly pushed my candidates and missed it at the bottom of the ballot.
Taking Your Kids With You to Vote
- Try not to go at peak hours, usually before 9 am, lunchtime or after work. I usually try to go mid morning about 10:00.
- Prepare to wait in line. I have rarely had to wait in long lines but know in advance that this is a possibility and prepare for it with whatever your child may need to stay entertained.
- If voting with an infant or toddler I highly recommend putting them in a baby carrier. When I took Grace with me to vote in the primaries I put her in the Baby K’tan . She was comfortable, portable and I knew she wouldn’t fuss. It also kept me hands free to vote.
- You are allowed to take children in the booth with you.
- Have kids treat going to vote like going to the library. It’s usually requested that you be quiet when at the polling place.
Ideas for Making it Easier to Vote with Kids
- In some states you are not allowed to use cell phones in polling places. They make noise and can be a distraction.
- However kids can play with a tablet or watch a movie with headphones on in line.
- Some other ideas for keeping kids entertained. Play eye-spy, bring a book or a favorite stuffed animal.
- If you can’t go at an off-peak time to vote bring a snack or a drink for waiting in line. My son always is “so hungry and thirsty” the moment we are somewhere there isn’t food.
- You can bring someone in with you if you are disabled and need assistance. You can ask a poll worker for assistance.
- Remind your kids that voting is serious business and that they can’t touch the buttons in the booth.
Taking kids to vote should not be something you stress about. The first time I went to vote after I had Jackson, I had planned to wait for John to come home but, when John got stuck at work late I decided to go with Jackson. The people at the polls were helpful and a few women in line graciously let me in front of them. That hasn’t always been the case, 2 years ago I had poll workers yell at me that I couldn’t take Jackson in with me, because he “might press a button”. Know your rights and your states voting laws.
I get that it’s easy to be dissuaded from taking kids to vote with you, that it seems easier just to skip it than to take them with you but, I believe in voting. I believe in exercising my right to vote. And I believe in making my kids a part of this process. I think it’s important to talk to our children about why we vote and why it’s important to vote. After all someday our kids will be voting and it’s our responsibility to raise informed citizens.