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Complete voting toolkit for parents

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Election Day is approaching sooner than you think — mark your calendar for November 8, 2022!

The midterm elections will determine who makes laws in Congress and at local levels — a pretty big deal, even though it’s not as highly publicized as a presidential election.

Many factors are out of your control when trying to raise a family in this chaotic world, but voting is one concrete thing you can do to help shape the future your kids will be living in and demonstrate how much you love and care for your kids!

As a busy parent, it’s important to plan ahead to give yourself the time you need to cast your ballot. Read on for our guide on what’s going to be on the ballot, how and when to vote, and what (and who) to bring with you when you vote.

Review your voting options

While November 8 is the final date for participating in elections across the country, each state has different rules about when you can begin to vote, when you need to register by, and various methods for voting.

Check here to see if you’re registered to vote. If you’re not registered, or you need to update your address or other info, you may still be able to do so in time for this election (deadlines vary by state).

Use HeadCount’s Voting in My State guide and select your state to find out your polling place dates and hours, voter registration deadlines, and whether mail-in ballots are an option — and if so, what the process is.

Can I vote early?

In many states, early voting is a great option for those looking to avoid crowds, plan ahead around their work or childcare schedules, and make sure that they’ve submitted a ballot before any last-minute family emergencies can throw off Election Day plans.

You might have heard some terms related to casting a ballot prior to Election Day, including:

Early voting: Voting before a scheduled election day. Early voting can happen in person (similar to the voting process most of us are used to, just done earlier) or remotely (by mail). As of June 2022, 45 states and the District of Columbia offer early voting without having to provide a reason why you can’t vote on Election Day. 

Absentee ballot/Voting by mail: Originally intended just for people who wouldn’t be available to vote in person on Election Day, many states now allow mail-in voting for any registered voter — not just those with one of the permitted valid excuses for missing the big day. You can check to see whether your state requires a valid excuse for needing an absentee/mail-in ballot, and whether you have to specifically request one or if they’re sent to registered voters in your state automatically.

All states have early voting available in some form, with early voting locations or absentee ballot submission opening up anywhere from several weeks to a few days before November 8. Check your state’s rules here.

If you’re mailing your ballot via the postal service, be sure to drop it in the mail earlier than your state’s deadline.

What will be on the ballot?

During the midterm election, all states choose the Congresspeople who will represent them in the House of Representatives. And for 35 states this year, U.S. Senators are up for election as well. The election has a huge national impact on who will control lawmaking in Congress.

In addition, 36 states will be electing a governor, and many localities will be choosing school boards and superintendents, judges, mayors, council members, and other officials who make decisions that affect families every day.

Use the Vote 411 Voter Guide for more details about who and what will be on your ballot, so you can be prepared for those decisions.

Where is my polling place?

Even if you’ve voted before, it’s a good idea to check your polling location. Polling locations can change from election to election.

Once you’ve figured out where to vote and what time, you can make a plan for getting yourself there on time. And know that as long as you are standing in line before the polls close, you are legally entitled to cast your ballot!

Also keep in mind that early voting locations are often different from Election Day polling places, so check your state’s election office for the most current info.

What should I bring with me to vote?

Some states require a form of ID to vote, so be sure to check your state’s rules. This map shows which states require a photo ID or non-photo ID, versus those states that don’t require you to bring any ID or document with you.

Get to know your rights on Election Day, in case something goes wrong or you (or someone else in line) faces barriers to voting.

Should I bring my kids with me to vote?

You are legally allowed in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to bring your children with you to vote. In fact, bringing them is a great idea, if logistically manageable!

Kids can’t vote, but they can witness and learn from the process of participating in our democracy. If you do decide to bring your family along, come prepared with books to read or a game to play in case there’s a long wait.

If you can’t bring your kids with you, you can still involve them in election season in many other ways. Voting regularly and discussing elections models civic engagement and responsibility, making your kids more likely to grow up to be active voters themselves.

Plus, your voting record is public — meaning anyone, including your kids, could look you up one day to see which elections you participated in. And while they can’t find out who or what you voted for (that part is always private), your kids can benefit from knowing you are involved in our democracy.

Resources for voting with kids

  • We created a special election-related “I Spy” game that you can print off for your child to play while you wait in line to cast your ballot.
  • Don’t forget your voting selfie or ‘vote with me’ video at the polls! After casting your ballot, pose outside the polling place or by the mailbox where you sent in your absentee ballot, and snap a pic. Or, take a video on your way to the polls/after you vote. Sharing on social media is a great way to encourage others to vote, too! Tag your post with #FamilyVote and tag @ParentsTogether and we’ll do our best to feature your photo or video on our social channels!

    You can make it even easier by using one of our fun filters for Instagram or Facebook (click on mobile):
    • Magic Juggle: Choose one of three phrases and move the corresponding spheres around with your hands.
    • Photobooth: Make a face that matches the prompt and watch as you’re made into your very own voting meme!
    • Voting Superpower: Use this fun filter to get yourself (and your kids!) into superhero costumes and let everyone know that your superpower is voting!
    • I Voted Sticker: Everyone loves getting their “I voted!” sticker—this filter doesn’t disappoint, and adds some confetti to your voting celebration.
  • Consider participating in #ChalktheVote with your kids to encourage friends and neighbors to vote! If you’d like to make it into a community event, we have a host toolkit to help you do it!

Joanna Eng is a staff writer and digital content specialist at ParentsTogether. She lives with her wife and two kids in New York, where she loves to hike, try new foods, and check out way too many books from the library.