Tomorrow is Election Day.
Did you vote early? Did you mail in an absentee ballot? Do you know where your polling place is tomorrow? What time are you going to go vote? Because you are going to vote, right? You must. It is your civic duty, it is your largest responsibility as an American citizen, and if you are a woman, it is your most hard-won right. So you will be voting.
We vote absentee. Our state allows military stationed overseas and their dependents to send their vote in via email, which is convenient and simple. But I miss going into the little booth and pulling the little levers. I miss the smell of the blue fabric and the nice ladies sitting with their giant book of voters. I miss the little oval “I voted!” sticker. I miss voting in person.
The moment I cast my vote is the moment I am proudest to be an American. Proudest to be a military wife. That doesn’t go away just because I’m not voting in person. I still get a little choked up as I make my choice for the next President of the United States, just like I did the very first time (1996, Clinton vs. Dole).
The problem now is that I’m raising 5 future voters. Five little people who need to understand the importance of voting, to understand the responsibility, to think of voting as normal and expected and just something you do. They need to know the importance of researching your vote, and to know the sometimes necessary difference between voting for something or someone and voting against something or someone. Political party does not matter to me. I don’t care if they are social voters or economic voters. Of course I have my preferences (doesn’t every parent?), but I cannot choose for them. I only care that they are educated, responsible voters. And bringing that out in them is my responsibility.
I can’t take them into the voting booth with me, but I can certainly make voting a family affair. A regular, serious, celebrated part of life…that’s what voting is in our house.
When Husband and I got our ballots, we made Family Ballots for the children. We sat down to dinner and discussed the importance of voting. We discussed some issues important to our family and friends, we talked about the differences of the candidates. We touched on third-party candidates, we had a long talk about the women who fought and were dismissed and bullied and beaten so that women would have the right to vote. We debated some major issues in the media today, and as parents we got the opportunity to not only explain our stance on those issues, but also to solidify some of our own family values with our children. And we took a moment to thank Daddy for defending, among other things, our right to vote.
Then we voted. Husband and I filled out our official ballots, the children completed their Family Ballots. As we handed out the ballots, we discussed secret ballots, and how they never, ever have to tell anyone who they voted for if they don’t want to. Boy 2 took this very seriously and crouched down on the floor to complete his own ballot. As we folded our papers, we discussed the fact that, as email voters, we waive our right to a secret ballot, but that it is worth it for the convenience of voting by email and not having to worry about a military mail system that, in the past, has caused thousands of military votes to not be counted.
Our votes were tallied, a President was unanimously elected at our dining room table, and then we ate ice cream. Ice cream is the official voting celebratory dessert, and has been my tradition since my very first Presidential election. Alas, as we have no access to Dairy Queen here, Blizzards were out of the question, and we had to make do with large bowls of cookies and cream.
I like to look forward 20 or 30 years, to my grown children marching to their polling places with their own children, explaining the privilege of voting, talking about the importance of women voters, and then going out for ice cream. It’s a small part of my own impact on the future…raising my children to be responsible, educated, civic-minded adults who understand that the small process of coloring in a circle or clicking a button or pulling a lever can have an impact on the entire world.
That’s what my vote can do. That’s what your vote can do. So go vote. You owe it to yourself, to your children, and to your country. It is the largest civic responsibility you have. No matter which side of the aisle you’re on, go vote.