Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Do We Encourage Voting?


I saw this CNN’s League of First Time Voters video and it made me realize that maybe we don’t encourage our students enough about registering to vote. When I encouraged my students who were 18 and older to register to vote, they told me that their parents wouldn’t let them because they could be asked to serve on a jury. First of all, I really think that is the most selfish reason for not registering and also the biggest misunderstanding. In the past they used to do that, but I really feel that it is everyone’s civic duty to serve on a jury when asked. I understand that everyone is busy in their own lives and it is never going to be convenient to put your life on hold while you serve on a jury but it is still everyone’s duty to do so. In my state, they pull the jury pool from driver’s licenses now and not voter registration. Some of the older generation needs to know this so they can at least get out and register to vote. Of course, that should be another blog post.

I feel that everyone who meets the criteria to register to vote should get out and do this. Then when the time comes, they should go out and vote for every election when it happens. I have been to countries where they do not have this privilege and wish they did. Some people even risk their lives to take advantage of this privilege. When we don’t register to vote or go vote when we have the opportunity, it is like a slap in the face to the people in these countries who wish they could. I also feel like people who complain about taxes, the government, the elected officials and the laws need to be able to show their voter registration card before anyone will listen.

I am so disgusted when I see the percentage of voter turnout after an election. People are being killed in other countries when they even try to vote. We are taking for granted something that could possibly one day be taken away from us. We need to do a better job in schools in teaching about the voting process and the benefits to voting. I think we talk about politics and candidates but do we talk about actually going out to vote? Do we not explain that each vote counts and there have been some races where someone has won only by a few votes? Do we show a sample registration form and tell students how to fill it out? Do we get someone from the election commission to come speak to our classes? I actually talked to our county election commissioner who said he was more than willing to speak to classes but no one has ever asked him to. What a wasted resource! I think we need to start this conversation on the elementary school level and continue every year until the student graduates. This should not be a onetime conversation but should be ongoing throughout their school years.

If you are doing something in your classroom to encourage voting, please share with me in your comments. Others might be interested in learning about what you do too.

6 comments:

Mathew said...

I think teachers can encourage students to register to vote but unfortunately/fortunately (as the case may be) parents might have much more impact in this area. Voting is almost like religion in that it's a deeply personal thing that you either care about or you don't. If parents don't, it's hard to light that fire. I remember watching political conventions sitting on the floor of my grandmother's house when I was five years old. That stuck with me and kept me interested. Not voting just isn't an option.

And from what I hear in CA, you're right that they pull jury duty lists from multiple sources now and not just voting registers.

Kobus van Wyk said...

It should be the democratic right of every person to vote. I go along with the thought that people should register to vote. The possibility of being called for jury duty is not a valid reason not to register. However, I feel that students should be taught that abstaining from voting is also an option. They should be taught to consider the options carefully - and if they find one they agree for, cast their vote. But what happens if they can not identify with any of the options that are presented? In that case I believe that neutrality must be an option that they feel free to exercise.

pantherfan45 said...

Kobus, mneutrality is an excuse for people to not get involved. A lot of people in the south claimed neutrality towards the issue of Civil Rights because they didn't want to get involved. If you don't like your options then the civic minded option is to provide another choice. Run for office yourself, write a candidate explaining your views, cerate a petition. There is always a way to get involved. Expecially at the local level. The people who have the most impact on our daily lives are the ones people tend to be most apathetic about: mayors, judges, governors, state legislators.
In my opinion staying at home is NEVER an option. That behavior is part of how George W. Bush got re-elected for his second term.
If you don't vote you shouldn't complain because as you said staying home is a choice. If you choose not to participate then you get whatever life throws at you. I for one obviously have no sympathy for people who do that. I don't care if you are Dem. Rep. Lib. Ind. go out and vote for the candidate that is closest to you in their views. No one is going to match you perfectly. That's no excuse.

Margaret said...

I agree with you Pat & matthew. Voting is awesome...I'm a faithful voter, but I know I don't appreciate it enough, still. My students are still a decade away from voting, but even when I subbed, or was a math proficiency tutor...I made sure to go out BEFORE work to vote and I wore my "I voted today" sticker where all could see. I'm doing it this year too. I work in a private school, and each class does a community service project fundraiser. We got permission to take trays of goodies to the polling places in our town on Election Day for the poll workers who are serving our community all day that day. I did this in the Spring Primary with my group last year and we happened to time it so that the kids could actually take a plate of goodies to the workers at each precint's check-in table (and get photos!) I know that the chances for us to do that this Nov. are slim, but I hope to at least be able to stand out of the way and quietly point things out at one or the other locations. I hope this seed stays with them til they get old enough to vote themselves...

Grace Kat said...

Voting gives people a voice, a way to choose who will lead them. Personally I would never sit on the fence about something as important this. The people in power make decisions which affect everyone's lives in more ways than one e.g. in health and education.

I wonder how many of those who choose not to vote complain about their government's decisions.

loonyhiker said...

I want to thank everyone for their wonderful comments! I have learned a lot from reading your comments and shared them with my husband (who is much smarter than I am) and he pointed out that my point of view might be relevant for the US but maybe not for other countries. I recently talked to a class in Australia where voting is compulsory (I'd never heard of this before) and they would love to have the freedom of choice to vote or not vote but they don't have that choice. I guess I never realized how egocentric my views may be and this has really opened my eyes. I still feel that I'm right when it pertains to people in the US because I've seen too many people complain about the government but refuse to exercise their right in helping to change it. Thanks for reading my blog and for making me think!