Bring the Family

Voting is a family affair

Bill Greene/Globe staff/file 1998

WHO: Mark Shanahan of the Globe staff with his children

WHAT: Voting

WHERE: Medford


I might feel differently if we lived in a big city where Election Day can mean standing in a long line in the bitter cold. But we don’t.

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So when the clock strikes Nov. 6, I’ll be taking the children to my polling place at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford, where some friendly old folks seated behind a card table will welcome us with a weak smile, and hand me a ballot. (If you’re not sure about where you vote, the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office has the information.) We’ll then go into one of the booths and, after looking over our choices, play a quick game of “rock, paper, scissors” to decide who we’re voting for. (Oh, relax, it’s just a joke.)

Voting is something we do together in our family. Always has been. For Julia, who turned 12 last month, this will be her fourth presidential election. And Beck, who turned 8 in September, will watch his mom and/or dad cast a ballot for a commander in chief for the third time. (Along the way, there have been several congressional, council, and school committee contests.)

Why do we bring the children to the polls? Because we’re trying to teach them that voting is cool — even if the candidates on the ballot frequently aren’t. Barely 50 percent of eligible voters in the US bother to show up on Election Day, and that’s 100 percent appalling — especially, I like to remind the children, when people elsewhere are sacrificing their lives just for a chance to vote. The kids also have the day off from school, so why not take the opportunity to give them a real-life civics lesson?

Beck, in particular, could stand to know a little more about presidents and politics. Born just as George W. Bush was beginning his second term, Beck knows that another George — George Washington — was the father of our country. But he’s a little hazy after that.


When I asked him a year ago to name the second president of the United States, he took a deep breath.

“George Clooney?” he said. (Beck also seems to think the name of the Republican candidate this year is “Nitt.”)

Informed or not, he and his sister will be voters when they grow up.

Polls are open on Nov. 6 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Mark Shanahan can be reached at shanahan@