People of all ages are preparing to cast their vote on November 3rd. Whether that happens in person on Election Day or ahead of time via mail-in-ballots and absentee voting, it’s undeniable that voting is a crucial responsibility we all must take very seriously during every election, but especially during this one.
We must all encourage our friends and family members to vote, even family members who might naively assume their vote won’t matter or stubbornly insist that it’s a waste of time. But perhaps equally important to insisting they vote, we must make sure that those loved ones know why they are voting and are educated on the essential issues. After all, knowledge is power, and the more we all know, the better equipped we’ll be to make our voices heard and make a difference in this election and beyond.
What kind of education are we talking about? Where politics are concerned, it can be complicated. After all, people are often told never to discuss politics, especially if you’re talking about it with people who disagree with you and especially in 2020, when so much is on the line. But perhaps that’s a part of the problem — if we can’t talk about politics in a healthy, open-minded, constructive way, how will we be able to effectively encourage others to become more civically engaged?
Being able to discuss our nation’s state, the current administration, the policies we agree with (and maybe more likely, the ones we don’t), and the future of our country’s leadership is essential. However divisive they may be, being able to talk about those topics with family members is vital if we expect those relatives to get out and vote in just a couple of weeks.
Considering that nearly half of all eligible voters did not cast a ballot in 2016, this year, every single vote will matter more than ever.
It’s important to acknowledge that trying to convince relatives to change their opinions or have the same perspective as you is not the ultimate goal. But educating others about the election, the political process, their civic duty, and the importance of information is the real goal.
Once family members are armed with knowledge, they’ll hopefully make their own decision and cast a vote to reflect those views. If their vote happens to align with yours, then that’s just icing on the cake. But remember, education and action are the goals. As we gear up for November 3rd, it’s never been a more urgent matter.
Educate Relatives on the Voting Process
How can we expect anyone to want to vote or even be open to voting if they don’t understand the process and don’t truly comprehend how their vote will impact the election and this country’s future?
It’s pretty simple actually — people cannot be influenced by or motivated by what they don’t know and don’t understand. So, teach them. Talk to your family members of all ages, from young kids to older generations and everything in between, about the electoral process.
Explain what happened in 2016 and how someone can win the popular vote but not the electoral vote. Teach them about local elections and how your vote could impact policies that affect your daily life. Talk about the actual voting process, what a ballot will look like, and what they’ll be asked to do when they go to their local polling location.
Inform Them About the Important Issues
In addition to understanding what the voting process looks like and why casting a ballot is so important, you should also talk about the hot-topic issues people will be voting on. Discuss immigration, climate change, and systemic racism. Talk about women’s rights and health care. Talk about the pandemic and how Covid-19 has impacted our country.
Don’t be shy. Don’t be overwhelmed. It’s a lot of ground to cover, but remember that some issues will be more relevant for certain relatives, so talk about what matters to them. And try (we know it’s hard) not to insert your opinion but rather offer objective information and facts. The goal is to get your family members thinking about the issues and then to make their own choice on where they stand.
Manage Expectations and Don’t Expect Always to Agree
It’s essential to recognize that it’s okay if you and your relatives don’t see eye to eye on politics. Political divides within families are nothing new and are actually quite common, even for family members working in politics. Just look at Kellyanne Conway, trusted advisor to President Trump, and her daughter Claudia Conway.
Or hear what Rudy Giuliani’s daughter, Caroline Giuliani, has to say about her support for Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris, even though her father, the former mayor of New York, is President Trump’s personal attorney.
See? Even high-profile political families have internal disagreements or opposing opinions about the current administration and upcoming election. The goal isn’t to convince others to only agree with your views. The goal is to engage them to form their own opinions and ultimately vote on those issues.
Show Them Where They Can Learn More
Unless you are an expert on any issue (or perhaps you’re an expert on everything, but we doubt it), then don’t expect to have all the answers. Your job is not to convince anyone on anything, and it’s certainly not to be the all-knowing educator. Your job is to open their eyes and show them where they can find important information.
Direct them to the candidate’s campaign pages. Introduce them to voter resources and local election guides. Start the conversation, whet their appetite for political engagement, and then point them in the right direction to learn more so they stay involved.
Teach Them How to Share Their Opinions and Listen to Others
Educating family members on political issues, candidate stances, and the importance of voting is one part of the process. But as they learn more and begin to form their own opinions and ask their own questions, you also need to be prepared to listen. Simply informing others and sharing your perspective is not enough in 2020.
You also need to be ready to hear what they have to say and not just pretend to care. You need to open your mind, listen, and consider what they are thinking.
According to Beverly Tatum, a psychologist and the author of the books, Can We Talk About Race? and Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race, these difficult dialogues about everything from politics to race, are essential. “In order to be able to move forward, we have to be able to talk to each other,” she told the NY Times.
It’s important to practice active listening, which involves “listening to understand instead of listening to respond,” explains Dr. Tania Israel, a professor in the department of counseling, clinical and school psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Perhaps the only way any of us will learn from each other and will be able to move the country forward is if we start hearing each other and committing to becoming a more accepting society. And it all starts at home with our families.