When precincts open on Election Day, U.S. citizens over 18 will have the right and responsibility to vote.
When our country was founded however, only white men with real property or wealth were allowed to vote. But now, no matter your gender or race, citizens of this country have a say in who gets elected. Despite this amazing opportunity that many in other countries are not afforded, plenty of Americans don’t vote.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 61.4 percent of Americans eligible to vote actually did so in the 2016 presidential election.
What are our young people learning about our country when we don’t take the responsibility of voting seriously? Do your children understand the meaning of democracy? Have you discussed the election and the importance of voting with your children so they will understand that it is everyone’s responsibility to vote when they are old enough?
Dalet Qualls became a U.S. citizen in April of 2018, and she’s looking forward to the privilege of casting her vote.
“I have been working on becoming a citizen of the United States for at least seven years,” says Qualls. “I had to be a resident for five years before I could even begin the process. I’ve watched many elections take place that I have not been allowed to take part in. The fact that I can actually vote in the next election almost doesn’t seem real.”
When asked what she thought about the low voter turnout, Qualls said she felt like it was a waste of privilege.
“We are really good about speaking our mind and complaining, but when it comes time to letting your voice count, the low turnout at the polls speaks volumes,” Qualls says. “I feel like all of us are responsible for exercising our right to vote. I’m not just speaking for myself, I’m planning for my children’s future.”
It is important to teach our children that voting is not just a right; it is a responsibility. Clearly, children younger than 8 might find choosing a leader to be confusing and even a little scary. However, older children could benefit from this teachable moment in time.
Here are a few tips for talking with your children about upcoming elections.
Talk about your values, what you believe and why you hold those beliefs.
Ask them what they have heard about the election, the candidates and the process.
If your children are older, get them to research each of the candidates running for a particular office, then discuss what they learned about them. This is a great way to teach young people how to be critical thinkers instead of taking what they hear in commercials at face value.
Hold an election in your home. Give your kids the chance to share what made them decide to cast their vote for a specific candidate.
If possible, take them with you when you go to vote.
“I hope people never take for granted the privilege we have to vote,” Qualls shares. “There are many countries where people don’t have this opportunity. Many men and women have fought for this right, and paid the ultimate price for it. May we never take it for granted.”