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Parents: Speak of these things to your children

Posted by Elena del Valle on October 24, 2008

Democracy, Rights, Responsibility and Voting
By Adrienne E. Katz Katz
Member, League of Women Voters of Orange County

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Adrienne E. Katz Katz, member, League of Women Voters of Orange County

Children of all ages know something important is happening during a Presidential Election, especially this one—they can’t miss the television commercials and concerned discussion among adults.  Even some computer games are showing campaign commercials.

These challenging times are ideal for giving kids an overview of American government, with an explanation of their rights, responsibilities and the roles as citizens that they will assume when they turn eighteen.  The reminders listed below, and the simple tools and websites readily available, will make your task easier.

Leading by example is a watchword of parental handbooks, and you’ll only have three or four presidential elections in your children’s lives to impart this lesson.

First, show your children the Sample Ballot you received in the mail, and how you fill it out (you should fill it out in advance, anyway.)

Second, if they’re old enough (and if you have the patience), bring them to your local polling place when you vote—don’t forget your filled-out Sample Ballot, to shorten the time you have to spend in the voting booth.  If you don’t bring them with you to vote, show them televised news about the voting.

Third, provide them with definitions of the terms most often used in these exciting days.  You don’t have to reach back into your Civics Memory Bank—here they are:

Election is related to the word “selection,” meaning “to choose or pick”someone to be our President or Vice President for the whole country. People we elect to be Senator, a Representative, Governor, Mayor, Judges,Commissioners or other similar officeholders work only in our own state.

Democracy—a government in which people vote (decide) to make rules they will live by.  In the United States of America, people elect representatives to make those rules (or laws.)  The candidates (people who want to be our representatives) campaign to convince voters that they will dothe best job to keep our country safe and its people happy.

Responsibility of Citizens—to be informed and knowledgeable about both sides of issues and to learn all they can before voting for the candidates who will represent them.

Voting—deciding and writing down our secret choices for representatives and handing them in at polling places (or mailing them) to be counted with all theothers in our community, our state and our country.   Show your children the televised election results, for at least the first few hours.

Excellent Tools:  “Schoolhouse Rock, The Election Collection,”  DVDor VHS, $13-$15, available at some Wal-marts, on Amazon and probably can be ordered from your favorite bookstores or their websites.  Contains music and simplified cartoons to explain voting, key events in American History,introduction to the Constitution, Women’s Suffrage, workings of our government and many other items of interest to kids through middle school age.

Finally, I can’t offer any excuses or words of wisdom about the nasty attacks and smears made in campaigning.  It sickens and disheartens me, and I hope you’ll add your voices to mine in protesting to the candidates.  It doesn’t help, it only hurts and weakens our country.

Best sources of information on candidates and issues:  I became a member of the League of Women Voters of Orange County because we are non-partisan,dedicated to providing voter education and promoting fair elections.  The League stands for much more than this, but this article only deals with the current elections. Please look at our website for a Voter Guide:

League of Women Voters, Orange County     www.lwvoc.org

There are also Leagues in Seminole and Osceola Counties, in 27 other counties in Florida–850 Leagues nationwide, with 78,000 members.

League of Women Voters, Seminole County    www.lwvseminole.org
League of Women Voters     www.dnet.org (vote411.org)

Additional sources of information aimed at children:

Center for Civic Education     www.civnet.org
Constitution for Kids    URL:http://www.usconstitution.net/constkidsK.html

Florida’s Online Highway forKids     www.flsenate.gov/kids/home.html
Kids Uncle Sam’s Tour   (Congress For Kids)    www.congressforkids.net
Kids Voting USA     www.kidsvotingusa.org
Lady Liberty Fireworks     www.njagyouth.org/liberty.htm
PBS Kids Democracy project www.takeyourkidstovote.org/LINKS/pbskids.htm
Project Vote Smart     www.vote-smart.org
Rock the Vote     www.rockthevote.org
Vote Smart Florida     www.votesmartflorida.org
White House Tour includes games www.whitehouse.gov/kids

General information:

Orange County Supervisor of Elections-                   www.ocfelections.com
Seminole County Supervisor ofElections-                 www.semcoelections.org

Adrienne E. Katz Katz is a free-lance writer and public relations consultant located in Orlando, Florida. She is a member of the Board of the League of Women Voters of Orange County.

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