Kids Voting Minneapolis

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I spent Election Day afternoon handing out kids’ ballots and I Voted stickers to the kids at my polling place.  It was pretty quiet, but the kids who did cast ballots in the Kids Voting Minneapolis mock election seemed so proud to be voting just like their parents that I couldn’t help but be glad I was there.

According to Kids Voting Minneapolis, about 50% of young people grow up in non-voting households like I did.  I didn’t vote at all until I was in my late twenties, and, as someone who is new to voting, I can tell you that it is intimidating to vote for the first time.  That is exactly why I wanted to volunteer with Kids Voting.  The goal of the organization is to de-mystify the process for kids in an effort to foster an engaged electorate when they grow up.  I believe in this wholeheartedly.

It is important to me that my daughter knows that we are a voting household.  We pay attention to politics, and we participate in elections.  She is growing up in a household in which politics are frequently discussed and debated.  Even so, I realized this year that she had never accompanied us to the polling place.  We’d always voted while she was at school or otherwise occupied as a matter of convenience.  That changed this year.  All three of us cast ballots together this year, and I hope that this is a new tradition will continue for a long time.

voteI also took the opportunity to share more about the election process with my six-year-old with the book Vote! by Eileen Christelow, which I was delighted to learn was actually inspired by Minnesota’s high voter turnout and early voter education!  It is a fun picture book that follows a small town mayoral race from the dog’s eye view.  It covers a lot of information, and it would be perfect for a second or third grade classroom.  For fourth and fifth grade classrooms, try America Votes by Linda Granfield, which even mentions the Kids Voting organization along with the note that “Statistics show that the Kids Voting program actually increases parent voter turnout by nearly five percent.”

Increasing voter turnout? Getting to see the pride of participation?  Encouraging a new generation of civic involvement? These are all great reasons to make volunteering with Kids Voting Minneapolis an Election Day tradition as well.

Why I Vote

I didn’t always vote.

For most of my life, I held strong religious convictions that precluded voting.  My faith community and I took Jesus’ words that his kingdom was “no part of this world” as a literal command to live for the future, to keep separate.  My beliefs have evolved in recent years, and I’ve been playing catch-up in matters of politics, which were once very off-limits. Where I once felt a commitment a small group of people and a far-off future, now my focus has broadened to include an appreciation for the whole human family and the present we share.

Now I’m getting ready to cast my very first ballot for president. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have this say.  I’ve spent months reading up on the candidates for everything from the presidency to the local school board election.  I’ve listened to candidates and supporters speak about their positions, read editorials, and followed various news sources.  Some of the decisions were easy; some were much more difficult.

Frankly, it’s hard to feel like I have enough information to choose in some of these cases.  I suppose I could continue abstaining with the knowledge that there is no perfect candidate or that my vote might not make a big difference.  But it’s more than that.  This is my country, my state, my city, my school district.  This is my chance to say I am a part of that.

My vote is about more than any of the names on the ballot.  It means I am living fully in the present and participating in creating a future for all of us.

Read more #blogthevote stories from kidlit bloggers at Chasing Ray.  Please share your reasons for voting with your network.