Teaching My Daughter How To Vote

I don’t feel like I’m an overly patriotic person, but I do feel quite strongly that it’s the right and responsibility of every American who can vote to do so, whether it’s for the next President, a statewide ballot issues or just a local issues of taxation. Does each vote matter? In some huge ballot initiatives, perhaps not. When something wins by significant percentage points, 70% to 30%, an individual vote might not be a big deal. But every year there are local ballot initiatives that win or lose by hundreds or even dozens of votes.

colorado state ballot information bookletWhich is why every single election I make it a point to vote, and if you plan even a tiny bit ahead, it’s quite convenient: just request, fill in, and mail back an absentee ballot and you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home or office. How easy is that?

This year I was delighted that my daughter, who’s almost 20, was registered and received a ballot in the mail along with my own. We also received the Colorado State Ballot Information Booklet and, of course, each had our favorite for the most contentious of the choices, President of the United States. Looking through the booklet and the second one we received from the City, I realized that as a brand new voter, she probably wouldn’t have much clue about how to actually figure out the important issues, decide how to vote and then what to do with the completed ballot.

Further, I’ve always enjoyed going through the ballot with a friend, discussing the pros and cons of different issues and proposals, and voting together (though not always identically). Add it all up, and we were destined to work through the ballot together.

A few days ago we managed to sync up our schedules and sat down with our ballots and the information booklets to vote. The first item was easy: we both knew who we wanted to support for President. But then it got a bit tricky, because even at the Congressional level, we had relatively little information about the candidates. And so began the discussion about different candidates and their views.

colorado ballot 2016, potus president candidates trump clinton

This is where we really got to see the mess that is the US election: there are candidates and positions we’re expected to vote on, but we get almost zero background information. Then there’s the complete mess that is the voting to retain judges in the local district. Think about it, the judicial candidates are rated by the local Bar association, with ratings that only range from A+ to B-. It’s a jury of their peers, so it’s no surprise when every single candidate gets “additional term recommended” and almost everyone gets an “A”.

That led to one of the points I really wanted to get across to my daughter: you can cast a ballot without having to vote for each and every item on the ballot. Indeed, I encouraged her to either do research online or simply omit voting yes or no for the judicial candidates since we had so little information about them. As I explained, it’s completely fine to submit your ballot with however much you did or didn’t vote on, even if you only voted on the one issue that really matters to you.

Where things got more interesting was when we got to the wide variety of Amendments on the 2016 Colorado ballot. That’s where the information booklet was useful, and I explained that my strategy was to read the “for” and “against” arguments and consider them both. For example, here’s what the pamphlet had for Amendment U:

proposition u ballot measures colorado 2016

Neither side compelling? Then do some Google searches and find who supports it and who is against it, notably including your local newspaper (for us that’s The Daily Camera), the biggest newspaper in the state (in Colorado that’s The Denver Post) and any non-profits or other organizations whose values align with your own.

We inevitably disagreed on at least one amendment, and I assured her that was completely okay. I never expect anyone to vote exactly as I do, particularly since I discourage any “party line voting”. Did our votes cancel each other out? Maybe. But we both had our voices heard and that’s just as important in my view.

After maybe 45 minutes or so we were done, and at that point I demonstrated the tricky task of how to fold the ballot, slip it into its privacy sleeve, then slip that into the return envelope. Most importantly, we both made sure we signed our ballot envelopes since without a legal signature the ballot won’t be counted.

I took mine to the convenient ballot drop-off spot, where volunteers came right up to your vehicle:

boulder colorado ballot drop off location

A few seconds later and I’d voted. This afternoon my daughter dropped off her ballot too. Mission accomplished. Her voice heard, and her chance to learn exactly how our representative democracy works in this great country achieved.

Now, have you voted yet?

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