Although next Tuesday's presidential election has the potential for generating a high voter turnout, generally, voter participation in the US has been on a steady decline - especially the youth vote. In fact, when 18-year-olds were first given the vote in 1972, 55 percent of the 18-to-24 year-old age group voted. Yet in 2000, just 42 percent did.
That's why efforts to include young people who aren't yet of voting age in this fundamental democratic process remain important. These future voters need to become educated and comfortable with the act of voting.
A group called Take Your Kids to Vote urges parents to bring their children, from toddlers to teens, to the polls when they vote, as a simple way to impress upon them the value of voting. It also can demystify the process. Studies have shown that kids who accompany their parents to the polls are more likely to vote as adults. Those same parents also are more apt to be regular voters themselves and discuss politics at the dinner table.
In such conversations, parents can open the opportunity for their children to learn the value of discussing politics in a rational way, such as dissecting campaign speeches and televisions ads. They can explore shades of meaning in political messages and talk about their potential impact. In turn, that can promote a healthy interchange about core values and beliefs, and help instill an interest in tempered, agree-to-disagree exchanges.
Taking kids to the polls can even become a family tradition, one that fosters a feeling of making a difference in a community, a nation, and a world.