Parenting young voters: There's still time in this election season

Parenting a young adult to register to vote and to follow through and actually vote sets up a lifelong democratic habit, says a study. There's still time to register in many states for the Nov. 6 election.

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    Parenting young voters helps set up a lifelong habit. College sophomore Denzel Fleming signs a voting pledge during a Rock the Vote road trip bus tour, on Sept. 5, 2012, at the University of North Carolina's Charlotte campus.
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With presidential elections less than a month away, it's time to remind your young voter that 18- to 29-year-olds make up 24 percent of the electorate and could be a very influential voting bloc – but only if they register to vote and actually show up at the polls.

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There’s still time in many states: The voter registration deadline in New York, Idaho, North Carolina, and Oklahoma is today (Oct. 12). But voters can register as late as Oct. 31 in Vermont. Check the 20 other states still open for registration at longdistancevoter.org before your kid misses a deadline, with no extra credit options.

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If convincing is necessary, some parental talking points might include the age-old admonishment “You can’t complain if you don’t vote.” But hard numbers might be more convincing than a lecture.

In the 2008 election – with huge youth volunteer efforts – young, first-time voters played an important role in electing President Obama, with their highest turnout since 1991: 50.1 percent of 18- to-29-year-olds voted, accounting for 17.1 percent of all votes cast.

"Young people age 18-29 are a large bloc of 46 million eligible voters, larger than the senior population, and they tilted sharply in favor of Obama in 2008,” writes Peter Levine, director of The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) & Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs at Tufts University in an e-mail interview. "If their turnout is much lower, or if Mitt Romney controls more of their votes than John McCain did in 2008, that could have a substantial effect on the outcome. In 2008, if young voters had not supported Obama, he would have lost Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia."

Parents can play a huge role in motivating kids to get to the polls, suggests a CIRCLE  analysis of the Census Current Population Survey conducted in Nov. 2008:  “A young person’s home environment can have a large impact on their engagement. Youth who live in a place where members of their household are engaged and vote are more likely to do so themselves.” 

Parents can encourage young adults to vote by noting that it is one way to promote change in an economy that is providing fewer job options while increasing the indebtedness of new college graduates due to college loans. A Pew report found about one-third of 25- to 34-year-olds moved back in with their parents, or never left because of the economy.

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Helping your child to register is one way you both can have a say on the economy, and possibly keep your kid from moving his or her drum kit back into the house. Here are a few resources designed to help your children exercise their constitutional right:

Rock the Vote: Founded 21 years ago, the organization fuses pop culture, politics, and electoral information to encourage voter registration. It reports registering more than 5 million young people in the past decade. Another way to instill a little civic fervor in your kids is by sharing the most recent report entitled "How does your state stack up?

Turbo Vote: Designed to make the voting process easy, TurboVote is a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to building a stronger foundation for American democracy. Simply sign up and TurboVote tracks all of your state voting rules and deadlines, they even mail you all your forms.

CanIVote: A non-partisan site that will help determine your voting eligibility stay by state, clarifies registration requirements, and directs voters to literature on local campaign issues.

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