Your 12-year-old can’t vote in the Nov. 6 election, but that doesn’t mean she’s not interested in any of the state ballot measures or who becomes the next president of the United States.
President Obama, Mitt Romney, Propositions 30, 38 and all the rest — there’s a wide range of candidates plus state and local issues on the Nov. 6 ballot that your child might be following or show an interest in.
Sooner than you think, your tweens and teens will be voting. Parents should teach their kids early on the importance of voting and how to become an informed voter.
Many local schools do this each year by holding elections for Student Council in which candidates have to make signs and write speeches.
Some civic-minded teachers locally, like Annette Williams, take it a step further.
On Election Day, Williams, a U.S. History teacher at Hans Christensen Middle School in Menifee, will give her students a chance to let their voices be heard during a mock presidential election at school.
Her students view an election bulletin board and have been encouraged to watch the televised debates. The students also are seeing short clips of the conventions and the debates in class.
The Hans Christensen election is open to all seventh and eighth graders and polls are open for voting all day in the Multipurpose Room. Each of Williams’ social studies classes will run the polling place, so about 165 students will participate as “poll workers” and almost 600 students will vote.
Williams also registered with MyVote California, which sent her mock ballots and “I voted” stickers along with some other resources.
“My goal is to give students a chance to experience the voting process instead of just reading or learning about it,” Williams said. “Hopefully, by running the polling place and actually going behind the booth to fill in their ballot, voting will be something they will naturally do when they turn 18. They will think and say to themselves, ‘Oh, I know how this works and what to do. I need to go vote, just like I did back in middle school.’”
Williams said her students have been following the election for months by learning about the voting process, vocabulary and the candidates, and watching parts of the conventions and the debates.
“My hope is that these students will remember the importance of staying informed and participating in the government that took so much courage to establish,” she added.
California Secretary of State Debra Bowen sponsors the MyVote California Student Mock Election because she says young people, “Have the potential to be a powerful force in elections, but only if they get involved and make voting a habit.”
The Internet is also a great resource for parents who want to create savvy voters. At Gallopade.com, students can learn election trivia and also how to register to vote. They can learn about President Obama, First Dog Bo, challenger Mitt Romney and Vice President Joe Biden and Paul Ryan.
The site, which is non-partisan, also reviews America’s main political parties and defines terms like a caucus, a primary, a convention and the Electoral College. There’s even a map showing how many electoral votes each state carries.
Parents can also visit Golocalprov.com for tips from parenting writer Anisa Raoofon, the publisher of www.kidoinfo.com, on ways to involve their children in voting and the election. Ideas include having the kids make stickers, parents leading a dinner-table discussion about the election or having the children join a campaign locally and pass out fliers.
Another idea is to visit www.icivics.org, a website that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor founded in 2009 that features free and innovative educational materials, including computer games. iCivics has produced 16 educational video games plus teaching materials that have been used in classrooms in all 50 states.
Finally, lead by example. If you attend a political event, rally or candidate forum, take the kids with you. When Election Day rolls around, take your children with you to your polling place so they can watch you vote. The kids will see what a polling place looks like and share the excitement of the day. Take a few photos of them at the polling place and upload them to Facebook or a photo sharing website, or email them to the grandparents.
Then, give your child that sticker the polling place worker gives you that says, “I Voted Today.”
Amy Bentley is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.