What you need to know about voting with kids in 2020.
This year it is incredibly important for every single eligible voter in the United States to exercise their right to cast a ballot.
But for moms who don't have childcare, getting to the voting booth can be a huge challenge—and this year the pandemic and tense political atmosphere have made it even harder.
A lot of moms are wondering if they will be able to vote if they don't have someone to watch their kids on November 3.
Here's what you need to know about bringing your kids to vote in 2020:
1. It's legal
In all 50 states in America (and in D.C.) parents are allowed to bring kids to the polls. This a huge relief to parents who would otherwise need to get childcare in order to vote. If someone at the polling place tells you that you can't vote because you've got a baby with you, they're wrong.
That said, COVID-19 adds an extra layer of complexity to the situation in 2020.
If you're bringing children over 2, some polling places may ask that they wear a mask (some polling places are even stocking child-sized masks in case parents don't have one).
You're going to need to follow your polling place's social distancing regulations as well.
2. Some states limit the number of kids a voter can bring
Wearing your baby or pushing one kid in a stroller is always allowed, but when you have multiple kids tagging along things can get more complicated, depending on your state.
Many states do not put a limit on how many children a mama can bring with her (some moms report squeezing three or four kids into the booth) while other states (including Pennsylvania and Maryland) limit the number of children a parent can bring to just one or two.
State rules vary, so if you're planning on bringing multiple children with you on election day, check out your local rules before you go.
If your state max is two kids, but you've got three, you might consider a voting date with another mama. That way you can watch each other's kiddos while placing your votes (and go for a coffee walk afterward).
3. Lines can be long, so go before the rush
Generally speaking, the peak voting times are in the before and after work periods and the lunch hour. Stay-at-home parents have the advantage of being able to avoid these peak times, but even if you go at 10 am the line may be long.
In 2020, long lines are not the exception, they're almost the rule. It's not fair, it needs to be fixed, but it is the reality this year.
So if you're bringing the kids along, bring some snacks or toys to make the line a bit more fun. Once you're in, remind the kiddos that they have to be on their best behavior. Most states reserve the right to evict disruptive children from the polling place.
4. No selfies in the booth
It's tempting to snap a pic of your kiddo participating in the political process, but best not to do it in the actual voting booth, as that's illegal in many states. It's cool to take photos before voting though, or after, when you (and your babies) can sport those "I voted" stickers.
5. The age limit varies by state
If your children are teens, you probably won't be trying to squeezing three of them in the booth with you, but one may want to tag along to see the political process in action. That's totally cool, too, but the age limit varies by state.
In some areas, kids up to 17 can vote with mom or dad, but in others, the age limit is 15. Again, check the rules in your state before heading to the polls with your kids.
Parents should be able to show their children how the political process works, and not having childcare should not prevent parents from voting.
6. Check to see if you can get childcare
The lines are long and the risk of COVID is present. It's totally understandable if you don't want to bring your kids to the polls, mama.
If that's the case, check with your partner, co-parent or friends and family to see if anyone would be able to watch your children while you vote. Consider swapping with another mama (especially if you've got a COVID-19 bubble family) so that each of you watch the kids while the other votes.
If you can't find childcare, check with your local YMCA. Some locations are offering 2 hours of free childcare for parents who need to vote on November 3.
Remember mama, your vote matters. You matter.
[A version of this post was first published November 1, 2018. It has been updated.]
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