During our primary election, the polls were very empty. My oldest son didn’t understand the lack of participation. He recently studied the struggles for voting rights in this country and he told me throughout the day that he’ll never miss a chance to vote.
When I commented about my son’s reaction on Facebook, two of my friends responded with family stories. One wrote,
“After marching with her mother for woman’s suffrage, my mother voted in every election until she died at 100.”
That’s the spirit! Another added,
“My mother marched with the suffragettes. I am proud of her. We were a voting family, never thought otherwise.”
Both vote because of their family histories.
Experiencing the fight for the vote firsthand made a big difference. Perhaps people take their right to vote for granted because they don’t have this personal connection. Maybe we all need to take a high school class on government again to appreciate this foundation of our democracy.
Better yet, make voting personal for your friends and family. Bringing both my sons with me to vote has always been a priority. This wasn’t always an easy task with little, energetic boys but I always followed through.
One time when they were older, my sons supported different candidates. When I voted, one protested right there next to the machine as he peeked around at the screen. I told him, “Someday you’ll be able to vote for who you want!” I was glad to see the caring spunk even if the commotion was slightly embarrassing.
Once when I was discussing ideas to encourage more people to vote, a civic professional in our city told me the national statistics were always at the same low level and he had the attitude that there wasn’t anything we could do about it. I don’t like that kind of attitude from anyone.
Martin Luther once said. “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” We should never give up hope. There are things we can do.
We need to teach the younger generation. When I chaperoned the 5th graders at the Newseum recently, the difference between the sides of the Berlin Wall truly hit home with my group. We talked about it at length. Throughout the day I continued to point out the stark differences between people who had freedom and people who did not. I told them it was their responsibility and duty throughout life to tell everyone what they learned and not take our freedoms for granted. We need to teach the younger generation.
We also need to reach out to everyone because the best way to get people involved is to ask them personally. Remind people to vote. Ask them to go with you. Bring up voting in your conversations with friends. Post about voting on the social networks. Point them to the information online to make their decisions. Pay attention to election information in your local news or from nonpartisan organizations. Point out false information when elections are negative.
Voting is our right but it is also our responsibility. This particular primary election did not have many challengers or issues, but the election meant a great deal to those running for a place on the ballot for the public school board. I’ll admit I missed my chance to attend the school board forum and researching this local election online was time consuming. Finding the transcript of the forums and statements by candidates took some work. Then I checked websites and social network accounts before making my decisions. As a citizen, this homework was mandatory.
None of these actions require joining an organization or volunteering your time, but they all take a personal commitment to make our democracy work.