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Make Election Day a Family Affair

by Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas -


In just few a days, California and the entire nation will participate in an extraordinary election. This election will be historic not simply because it marks the first time a major party candidate is a person of color or that the Republican vice presidential nominee is female, but also because it has generated incredible interest and blockbuster voter registration numbers.

This election has particularly energized young people, who heretofore were the most apathetic, disaffected and unreliable members of the electorate. Given this level of excitement, this Election Day, perhaps more so than at any other time in history, provides the perfect opportunity for parents to engage their children about the election and have them participate in and witness this momentous occasion.

Election officials, based on media accounts of voter enthusiasm and coverage of early voting activities in other states, are predicting record levels of voter turnout on November 4th. Early voting sites across the nation are reporting long lines for eager citizens wanting to cast their votes. It is likely that Californians will also experience long delays at polling places on Election Day and officials are concerned people may be discouraged by the potential wait.

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Despite any delays or issues that may occur at polling places, this is an opportune time for parents to bring their sons and daughters to the polls so they too can experience the excitement of election day and learn what to expect when they cast their first vote. California law grants workers two hours of paid time off to exercise their right to vote. I encourage parents to take full advantage of the law by leaving work early and picking up their kids from school or after school activities so they can accompany them to the polls. If there are long lines at the polling place, is there a better way to spend the time than educating your child or children about the rights and responsibilities of the citizens?

Election Day activities do not end once your ballot has been cast. In fact, the events last into the night as the polls will be open until 8 p.m. and perhaps later to accommodate the eager, but patient citizens waiting to cast their vote. I urge you to allow your children to participate and observe all of the activity of day, but only after they have completed their homework, household chores and other responsibilities. Permit them to stay up later than what is normally acceptable so you can watch the election coverage and election returns as a family. Discuss all of the issues of the day with them, from the top of the ticket right down to the local issues. Regardless of the outcome, I am confident that the experience will be a positive one and will shape the way your children will approach future elections.

Given the historical significance of this election and the crucial issues facing our country, November 4th is the perfect day to actively engage our children in a civic lesson and given them the opportunity to witness democracy in action. By doing so, parents will sow the seeds of civic participation and democracy that our children will harvest in the future.

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Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas
Chairman of the Black Caucus