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The twins have come with me to vote in every election since they were born.  When they were newborns, just out of the NICU, I put them in a double baby carrier and walked down to the polling place feeling like an opossum.  When they were toddlers, they ran in two different directions as I tried to quickly enter my choices.  When they were young kids, they shouted out my voting choices to everyone else in the room.  When they entered preschool, they entertained the other voters standing in line, bouncing up and down while they clapped and shouted, “My mommy is an Obama-mama-mama-mama!”  And in elementary school, they thoughtfully discussed marriage rights with other voters as we waited in line.

Throughout it all, the one constant was that I had them press the button for all of the major offices: president, senator, congressperson, governor.  (And, later on when they had more patience, all the offices up for election.)  One child would push the button, and I would erase the vote.  Then the other child would push the button, and I would erase the vote.  And finally I would push the button and keep the vote.  Even when they were newborns, I touched their tiny fingers with their translucent nails to the machine interface.  For 11 years, this is the way we’ve always voted — primary or general election — each of us able to say we participated in the experience.

And then Maryland went to a paper ballot this year.

When I heard about it, I started fretting.  What were we going to do?  I couldn’t have them fill in my card and erase it.  You had to use ink or my vote wouldn’t be counted at all.  Everyone hold the pen at the same time?

We finally decided to split the tic-tac-sized bubble into thirds, each of us filling in a tiny sliver of the ballot.  We practiced a few times at home.  Once we trusted that no one was going to fill in more than their share of the bubble, we went to the polling place and continuously passed the pen so we could each vote for each person.  This year, we aligned to all want the same person for each office.  Let’s see how many elections we’re able to do this.

I’ve always taken them with me because I want to lead by example and hopefully have them follow suit later in life.  I want them to vote.  I don’t want them to apathetically throw up their hands and say, “Everyone sucks, there’s no point in voting.”  I don’t want them to toss away this yearly experience as if it’s an empty candy bar wrapper.  This is their right, and there are so many people who don’t have this right.  People who live in this country and are affected by the laws but can’t have their voice heard.

If they don’t like the laws, I want the twins to change the lawmakers.  Better yet, I want them to be the lawmakers or help the lawmakers or report on the lawmakers.  I want them to be involved with life; to tangle with it, not just allow it to flow passed them.

People, get out there and vote this fall.  Go vote this spring if your primary is still coming up in May or June, but, moreover, get yourself into a voting booth for the general election.  Make sure your voice is heard.


1 Middle Girl { 04.27.16 at 7:47 am }

Yes. Yes. And more Yes.

2 Charlotte { 04.27.16 at 7:56 am }

So didn’t it feel a bit like going backwards going from electronic back to paper ballots?? What was the reason? It was definitely a throw back to the first time I ever voted. That was a paper ballot, and I believe the only one I ever did until yesterday. And yes. Voting is SO important.

3 Mel { 04.27.16 at 8:53 am }

I had no clue it was going to happen until a few weeks before the primary. Apparently people voted to return to paper back in 2007, and it took them this long to replace the machines. The reason was that it was too easy to commit fraud with the touch screen and there was no proof of how people voted.

4 katherinea12 { 04.27.16 at 9:33 am }

A huge YES to this! Voting was considered a big deal in my household growing up. Some of this probably was because my father had chosen to become a US citizen (I’ve actually been a US citizen longer than he has) so there was a lot of discussion about what it meant to be a citizen of a country and the responsibilities. I’m looking forward to taking my daughter with me to vote next week and in November.

While I know it’s important to vote in the national races, honestly, one of the biggest reasons I vote is for the local ones and some of the local initiatives (we’ve got one next week about schools in the area). I’ve never forgotten a race I voted in for a school board slot a number of years ago that was decided by only a few votes. Sometimes I feel a little less attached to the national races but I know that in some of those local ones my vote can certainly make a difference – and these are folks who are often underrated but make a lot of decisions that can directly affect local life. Even with the national ones, though, I still think that even if my vote doesn’t change anything, I am glad for the chance to register my opinion – especially as a woman (it’s sort of mind-boggling to realize the 19th amendment was ratified a little less than a century ago – not all that long, really).

5 Working nights mom of 2 { 04.27.16 at 10:41 am }

In California you can choose to permanently vote by mail, which my husband and did before the kids were born. It makes it much easier for us vs. getting by to our polling place after work, plus you’re more likely to always vote (eg election with only school board or similar elections where you don’t feel like going to the polls). We did still vote in person for Obama’s first election and I remember how powerful that felt. Maybe I’ll go back to voting in person when the kids are older, who knows.

6 Beth { 04.27.16 at 11:20 am }

We’ve had paper ballots as long as I can remember. But I still take both girls with me to vote. This year the 5 year old announced to everyone who we were voting for while my 1 year old ran in circles and smiled. They both got stickers and proudly wore them all day. This primary was the first time I’ve really talked about what it means to be able to vote in free elections, especially as a woman, with my 5 year old. I never want her to take for granted that there are many places in the world where we would not have this right.

7 Ana { 04.27.16 at 12:46 pm }

This is awesome and adorable. Your stories of your rituals and moments with your children just make me feel like there is hope in the world.
I didn’t take my kids yesterday, but will have to take them in November.

8 Cristy { 04.27.16 at 9:42 pm }

We took the Beats with us to vote in the primary. Prior to this, we voted via absentee ballot, similar to what we did. It was an interesting experience taking them for the primary. They were very curious and super excited about interacting with people. Plus the “I voted” stickers were a hit.

Your new take on voting is an interesting one. Do you find your twins are more involved with the campaigns because you include them?

9 Jess { 04.27.16 at 10:30 pm }

I love this so much — it always makes my heart happy when people bring their kids to the polling site. What a great way to instill civic responsibility from the get-go. We went to a paper ballot in NY a little while ago and I hate it. I miss pulling the lever. It was far more satisfying than bubbling in a circle like state tests all over again.

10 mijk { 04.28.16 at 8:22 am }

as a child my parents always led me vote on an empty paper. I do not like the paperballot at all. We went back to it after fraud with the machines like 7 years ago?

11 Lori Lavender Luz { 04.28.16 at 2:47 pm }

“Better yet, I want them to be the lawmakers ” — I can see it in 2040: Vote Wolvog! Vote ChickieNob!

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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