Make Voting A Family Affair

By Leslee Komaiko

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The election is less than one week away. California voters will be choosing a new governor and a new state superintendent of public instruction, as well as control of Congress. In other words, it’s a biggie, and the results will significantly impact families. Unfortunately, parents of young children have historically been among the lowest in terms of voter turnout. Figuring out childcare so you can do your civic duty can be challenging. But here’s the good news: You can bring your children along.

According to California voting law, “A voter who is accompanied by children below the age of 18 may take the children into the voting booth.” Some parents allow their kids to help mark the ballots. (Obviously you’ll want to closely supervise this process.) You may even be encouraging lifelong civic engagement by letting your kids tag along.

“There’s some evidence to indicate that voting habits are just that, habits, shaped in part by the practices and routines of our parents when we’re still too young to vote,” pediatrician Perri Klass wrote in The New York Times

Can you memorialize this moment on your cell phone by snapping a selfie? An operator at the free California voter hotline (800-345-VOTE for English and 800-232-VOTA for Spanish) indicated that no photography is allowed inside polling places. Instead, she suggested snapping a photo outside.

For those voting by mail, vote-by-mail ballots can be sent up until election day. (They need to be postmarked on or before Nov. 6. So a midnight dash to the post office on Tuesday won’t work.) They must be received within three days of the election in order to be counted. Keep in mind that while no postage is required on vote-by-mail ballots in L.A. County, other counties do require postage. And while there have been lots of Facebook posts making the rounds that the postal service will deliver ballots even if they don’t include postage, do you really want to take a chance? When you consider how close the school superintendent race was in the primary, for instance, with Marshall Tuck winning 37 percent of the vote and opponent Tony Thurmond winning 36 percent, it’s easy to see that every vote really does matter.

A few more notes about your mail-in ballot. Don’t forget to use the secrecy sleeve as well as sign, date and seal the return envelope. If you would rather deliver your mail-in ballot in person, you can do so at any polling place. (Note, however, if you are outside your county, your ballot will need to be mailed to your county elections office.) And if you lost your mail-in ballot, rest assured that you aren’t the first, and, you have recourse. Just visit your designated polling place or any polling place in your county for that matter and ask to vote provisionally.

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What if you really want to vote but don’t have time to wade through the details of some of those, let’s be honest, befuddling propositions? You should still vote. In the words of the California Voter Foundation 2018 Proposition Song, “Just remember voting's not a test. Vote on what you can and skip the rest.” (You can listen to the entire song here.)  

Two other handy resources all voters should know about are the voter status website (https://voterstatus.sos.ca.gov), where you can confirm your registration, your political party preference and your polling place, and the First 5 LA Election Toolkit for Parents, which includes helpful suggestions like bringing snacks and toys for your little ones and filling out a sample ballot in advance and taking it with you.

Finally, if you encounter a poll worker who doesn’t know that you can, in fact, bring your kids, be patient. Though all poll workers are required to go through several hours of training, this isn’t what they do professionally, and there are a lot of rules. (I know this because I have been a poll worker. The manual poll workers receive is on par with a college textbook.)

Oh, and don’t forget to get your “I VOTED” sticker. Request them for your kids as well. It could be the difference between them staying home or heading to the polls when they turn 18.

— Leslee Komaiko is the mother of two children at a Los Angeles middle school and is a frequent contributor to Speak UP