How can we help our tweens understand the importance of the election and voting? As tweens study the election system, and they learn that it is actually the Electoral votes that decide who becomes President of the United States, they may wonder why anybody would bother voting. As established with the 12th Amendment, the Electoral College votes are counted up and the majority wins – 270 being the “magic” number – rather than a straight count of every vote from every voter. However, every vote does matter, and there are always more issues to vote on than just the Presidential election. Here are some ways to help tweens see and understand the impact of voting and elections.
Despite the use of representation via the Electoral College, in almost every state, the popular vote decides where all of the Electoral Votes get placed. As seen with the 2012 Presidential race, in many states the popular votes were very, very close. But what if your state is one which goes one way or the other by a clear majority, known well in advance of the election (such as Texas)? Explain to your tween that every vote gets counted, and there will be results of the popular vote. Also, watch the TV news shows together, or read pertinent articles in newspapers – there was plenty of coverage of world wide interest in the U.S. Presidential election, in part because we are among the very fortunate places where you are FREE to vote. This is one of the issues our founding fathers brought to the forefront as pivotal to the ideals of the United States of America and it should not be overlooked. In some other countries around the world, people still do not have the right to vote, or have the right but cannot exercise it and face oppression for speaking opinions about their leaders.
Additionally, tweens can benefit from recognition of local election events. If they don’t see a direct benefit to voting for President, parents can show them the direct effects of local and state elections. In the Galveston County city of League City, Texas, voters were to decide, among other local issues, to discontinue or continue the use of red light cameras (see local news article here). Parents can show tweens the locations of these cameras and explain what the results of that vote mean – an example of a concrete, direct effect of citizen’s votes.
Other ways to emphasize election importance include visiting a local council meeting, relating election issues such as bonds to the actual roads and buildings they will affect, or more directly to a tween’s allowance (via a Mommy Money Economy for example). Every purchase incurring a tax, every business patronized by tweens, every cell phone and service, civil and criminal codes, health care, and even the money available for a family’s Christmas are all impacted by our votes and our votes for our leaders. Helping our tweens understand the importance of the right to vote can help give them a head start on responsible citizenship, and maybe give them more insight into the adult world they will face. Maybe they will be able to gain a little empathy for their parents as well, with all the responsibilities parents shoulder as we try to do our best, for our tweens. Happy parents and happy parenting!