My daughter is only 7 years old, but by the time election night 2012 comes around, she'll already have voted dozens of times. She's helped us elect a president. She's cast ballots for school board members and selected town officials. And on November 6, my child will be right by my side again, helping me as I choose between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney.
I'm not committing voting fraud here. Technically she's only helping cast votes on behalf of my husband or me. We're registered voters. She's not. But in my house, voting is something families do together, like baking cookies or taking a ride around the neighborhood to check out the Christmas lights in December. It's become something of a tradition for us.
It's a tradition that's been carried through from my parents' generation. I remember finishing up dinner quickly so we could drive up to the school and stand on a long line in the gymnasium so my mother or father (or both!) could make their voices be heard. If we behaved, the carrot dangled in front of my brother and I was the chance to pull the levers, to be the one who actually cast Mom or Dad's vote. It was a treat, like a candy bar or ice cream only better because this came just once or twice a year. It was enough to keep us at least fairly quiet, waiting for our chance to do something BIG, something IMPORTANT.
It's the reason, I'm fully convinced, why the news that I wouldn't be able to cast a vote in the first election after my 18th birthday (I'd moved to a new state too close to the registration deadline) moved me to quiet tears. Voting is in my blood. Not voting made me feel like a failure.
My politics are wildly different from my parents, and yet, they've succeeded where it matters most. They raised a good American, a responsible citizen. I haven't missed a vote since, and apathetic voters are among my biggest pet peeves.
I don't want my daughter to be that young adult who skips the election because she doesn't care. I don't want my daughter to be that voter who just doesn't see a point. I don't want my daughter to take for granted the right we all enjoy as citizens of this nation.
And so, every November and May (I live in New York where school budget votes are in the spring), the three of us head to the polls together, and we dangle that same carrot. Behave, and you get to vote. Behave, and you get to do something BIG, something IMPORTANT.
She can't wait until the year she gets to do it for real. I can't either ... even if her politics are as wildly different as mine are from her grandparents; at least I'll know I did my job.
What's your family's election night ritual?
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