In a former life, long before kids and even before marriage, my husband and I worked as “paid political operatives.” Working on political campaigns was our profession. We were inspired by candidates we believed in, who would go to Richmond or Washington, and would cast their votes the way we would if we were there. We cared about candidates that ran on issues – and we still do. We were then, and still are, struck by how blessed we are in America to have the privilege of voting for our leaders. Representative government in a democracy allows us to have an impact on how we live our lives. Simply put, the ability to vote is a gift.
Our children have grown up delivering yard signs, stuffing envelopes, going to rallies and fundraisers, and most importantly, walking into the voting booth with us as we vote so that they can truly witness democracy in action.
In an era when politics have become so polarizing as to approach a toxic level, teaching our children the importance of voting takes on new significance – and it needs to begin at an early age. Here are four good reasons why:
1. Voting is the way that we get to have a say in what happens.
Our vote gives us a voice. One vote is a whisper. All the votes together are what make the voice. When we vote, we are actually telling lawmakers how we feel about education, public safety, health care, and social security. We let them know whether their priorities are our priorities.
2. One voice, one vote really does count!
Remember that there is strength in numbers and when we vote and get our friends and family members to vote, we can truly make a difference. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson was elected President by one vote in the House of Representatives after a tie in the Electoral College. Countless congressmen and governors have won their seats by less than five hundred votes.
3. Voting is a way to honor our history.
There were several who stood up for the right for all men, regardless of their skin color, to have the right to vote back in the 1870s. On Election Day in 1920, millions of American women were allowed to vote for the very first time. Wars have been fought over this privilege. When we vote, we are honoring those who fought so hard so we could do so.
4. Our children are depending on us to represent their voices too.
Because our children can’t vote, we have to do it for them. That’s how we make our concerns about schools, safety, housing, economy, education and other issues heard. When we vote, we are looking out for our kids, and their futures. Who doesn’t want a better and brighter future for our children? That’s part of our job.
Some folks say that their vote doesn’t matter, that they have to choose between the lesser of two evils. Some people say they are just too busy. A government by the people and for the people just cannot work without the people. This November, you have the opportunity to have a voice in how our country is run. Talk to your children about the issues. Keep up with the campaigns through the newspaper and the Internet. Help your kids keep an open ear to others’ opinions and engage respectfully with friends. Whether you support one political party or another or you just vote for the person, get out there and vote – and let your kids see you do it if at all possible. Teaching our children about this precious privilege that we Americans have is well worth our time – and theirs!
Everything you need to know about voting (where to vote, what to bring, and more) is right here at elections.Virgina.gov.
Real Mom Betsy Beamer lives in western Henrico with her family, including her husband, Jim, (whom she met on a campaign!) and their two daughters.