Voting is valuable lesson for kids, but hands-on approach can be a nightmare at polls

RE “Voting: a teaching point” (Bring the Family, G section, Nov. 3): I commend Mark Shanahan’s idea of instructing his children in the enviable privilege we enjoy in electing public officials. However, having worked the polls for more than 40 years, I want to remind voters that having their children help should not be a teaching moment in the voting booth.

We have been told to expect an onslaught of voters on Election Day. No surprise there. Lines will be long and tempers short. There will not be time for us to tell parents that they cannot have their children mark the ballots for them. Nor will there be time to tell unattended children not to write on the booth with indelible pens, or to explain to children that the pens are not souvenirs.


Parents often tell children that they are “really” voting, and then proceed to let them attempt to run the ballot through the machine. Can you imagine how long it takes to unjam a machine, not to mention deal with a spoiled ballot?

Our main concerns will be to treat each voter politely and efficiently and to process them as quickly as possible. This cannot happen if children are being given a voting lesson while the line gets longer.

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We also understand that there will be parents who would not be able to vote if they didn’t bring a child or children along. We “friendly old folks,” as Shanahan refers to us, have been happy to do our share of holding the baby while mom or dad voted.

So please, by all means, explain to your children what a privilege voting. But omit the hands-on approach.

Joan A. Dow


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