Celebrate Democracy: Take Your Au Pair to a Polling Place

by cv harquail on November 6, 2012

(I realize I’m a little late with this one, but maybe there’s still time.)

We Americans often take democracy for granted.

Too many of us just never make it to the polls to vote, even in a close presidential race like this one.

In my family, voting has always been a big deal.

My dad has held elected office (Mayor!) and my mom was a civil rights activist who fought voter suppression in the urban areas of New Jersey, back in the day. My earliest memories of Election Day have me running around the grammar school gym with the kids of other LWV volunteers, with the background noise of the election booth levers and the heavy swoosh of the booth curtain as it opened to reveal the latest practitioner of civic responsibly.

il_570xN.334146426.jpegI’ve personally always gotten a little thrill out of voting. And, ever since my kids were born, I’ve taken one or both of them to my polling place when I’ve voted.

I have also taken my au pairs to the polls. I recommend that you do, too.

Why Take Your Au Pair To Your Polling Place?

Many of us have au pairs from countries where democracy is a rather new concept.

Your au pair may not have had a chance to vote on their own yet. You can show your au pair what they can look forward to.

Others of us have au pairs who come from countries where voting seems useless, since their governments are overwhelmed by certain groups of their society or even downright corrupt.

You can talk with your au pair about efforts in our country’s past– and even right now– to fight both direct and indirect voter suppressions. Think of activities like gerrymandering, counting imprisoned felons as potential voters to up your regions Congressional representation, or how the electoral college diminishes the value of votes in New York, New Jersey and California.

Still others of us have au pairs who come from countries that are democratic, yet have vastly different systems for determining who gets a seat in the government and how a ruling coalition is formed.

You can explain to your au pair the pluses and minuses of the the American system, how the two-party system came to be, and how we might someday return to a bi-partisan system of governing.

For all of these au pairs, an American polling place is a sight to see.

  • Adults of all ages, sizes, colors, and persuasions.
  •  No armed guards or police officers making the situation ‘safe’ or ‘threatening’.
  •  No ballot boxes where the contents are mysteriously ‘lost’ or uncounted.
  •  No identification cards required.
  •  No harassment.

(Well, that’s the vision anyway, unless you are voting in Cuyahoga County, OH.)

Take your au pair to the polls with you.

Have him or her chat with the volunteers, or just watch and wait while you vote.

If you’ve already voted by mail, or by hand this morning, drive your au pair past a few schools where polling is underway. Get out of the car, walk around, and feel the vibe.

Talk with your au pair about what voting means to you, and what democracy could be.

And, as always, take a moment to remember and thank the women and men who fought in the past and are fighting right now to protect our right to vote.



Image: Sweet Threads Clothing, available on Etsy


Au pair November 6, 2012 at 11:40 am

I went to the polls with my host parents this morning! What a great experience!

newhostmom November 6, 2012 at 12:12 pm

What a great idea! I’ve always taken my kids. One question – can you just walk up to the registration desk with another adult in tow without difficulty? Seems like it would be odd.

Au pair November 6, 2012 at 12:58 pm

I couldn’t go inside, but I watched from the door which was still a great experience!

Taking a Computer Lunch November 6, 2012 at 3:10 pm

In my state small children are permitted in the voting booth, but certainly not adults. While it might be interesting for an au pair to see how we vote, in my state she would not be permitted to see the ballot.

anon November 6, 2012 at 10:17 pm

In my state my au pair could walk right up with me to the table where we get checked on the roll, and then go with me to collect the ballot, then to the booth with me, see the ballot, see the special pens used to mark it, and then walk with me to deposit into the reader machine. My 24 yo au pair was able to be with me the entire way, just as my toddlers were. She enjoyed seeing how it worked…and how “low tech” it was “for America” :)

FormerEuropeanAu-Pair November 6, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Great Idea!
When I was an Au-Pair in Ireland, they held elections at that time. Six years later I still remember how my HM took the time to explain the irish voting system to me.

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