My (independent) future voters
Be still, my heart.
This morning, my 12-year-old son asked, with no prompting, if he could go vote with me today.
He did take an interest in the election during the last presidential campaign in 2008. He loves any competition, though he was a bit confused by the news scroll on TV: "Look! New Jersey is beating New Hampshire!"
But bless his Unit 4 social studies teacher, he is into it in a big way this year.
"Mom," he said one day. "Did you know that just 10 states could determine who wins the presidential election?"
I turned to him and said, "Where did you hear that?"
"From the newspaper," he shrugged.
His teacher has the kids report almost every day on topics in the news, and he has brought home a fascinating array of facts. He actually volunteered to give the news one day in class.
Last week, for a class project, he and a friend made a radio commercial for Mitt Romney. The teacher had the kids draw one of the candidates' names at random, to avoid partisanship. It was pretty good -- and, unlike most campaign commercials, stayed positive.
They also held a mock election. He voted the way we figured in the presidential race, but he also chose an independent in another key local race. We hadn't talked about those candidates at all, so I asked why. He cited all the negative political commercials, and how they twist the truth.
So he has an independent streak. I like it. Half of his family comes from Nebraska, the state with a unicameral legislature and majority Republican voting base that still elects Democratic senators and governors, and where Electoral College delegates can split their vote by district. In 2008, four went to John McCain and one to Barack Obama.
Today, on our walk to school, my son was full of questions about the Electoral College: "Has anyone ever won the presidency by one electoral vote?" "Has a third-party candidate ever won an electoral vote?" "What happened in 2000?" Luckily, I'd had some caffeine.
And what was the first thing my daughter asked when she woke up this morning? "How many people actually vote? Like what percent?" I had to look it up -- in 2008 turnout was 64 percent, with about 131 million votes cast, according to the U.S. Census.
"That's pretty good," she decided, though she was still unsure who she'd vote for, if she could.
I'd originally planned to stop by the polling place after dropping my daughter off at school this morning, but I'm going to wait until this afternoon so they can both go with me.
I'm not quite sure how all of this happened, but I am thrilled to have two interested, independent-minded young voters. (Maybe they noticed me talking back to the commercials ... in a somewhat loud manner.)
I hope they stay that way. It's hard sometimes.
Both kids have asked when we'll know the outcome of today's election. I told them we could be in for a long night. But it'll be a lot more fun to watch and wait with them this year.
Let's hope it's not a tie.
Update (4:10 p.m.): It was a stretch getting two kids and an umbrella in the voting booth, but we managed. And they gave both kids a sticker (left).
Julie Wurth writes and blogs about kids and families and covers the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Leave a comment below, or contact her (217) 351-5226 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her at Twitter.com/jawurth.
Photo (top): A voting booth at Urbana High School in 2008. Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette