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Parents don't let long lines, COVID worries stop them from voting with kids

"I knew it was going to be a long wait. I didn't care. Voting was critical.”
Early voting begins in Louisiana
Dana Clark, and her son 18 month old Mason, wait in line at City Hall as early voting begins for the upcoming presidential election in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., October 16, 2020.Kathleen Flynn / Reuters

Dana Young Clark usually votes early to avoid a long wait and she loves to bring her children with her. As soon as she saw the people lined up at her New Orleans polling site, she knew this year would be different.

“When I saw the line was around the corner I became weary! Waiting in line was difficult for me because I had my toddler with me,” Clark said. She knew it would be hard for her toddler to keep his mask on the whole time. Undeterred, she went into her trunk and got her safety pod, which she usually wears as a classroom teacher, to cover her toddler and herself. A photograph of her and her son in the pod went viral soon after.

She has no regrets about bringing her child to vote.

“I want them to know what voter suppression is and how it’s used to discourage voters from voting,” Clark says. “Educating them now will help them overcome these tactics when they become voters.”

She said she views the event as a teachable moment and was even inspired to write a children’s book about their experience.

Introducing kids to voting by bringing them along to the polls is nothing new, but lines for early voting during the 2020 presidential election were far longer than usual. Still, parents say it's worth waiting — even a little whining — to show their children how important it is to vote, however difficult.

Brandy Williams, another New Orleans mom, arrived before her polls opened in hopes of beating the crowd.

“I arrived 30 minutes before the polls opened and the line and parking lots were already full, so, yeah, I knew it was going to be a long wait. I didn't care either," said Williams, who waited to vote with her husband, her son and a boy she mentors. "Voting was critical.”

The line turned out to be a bonding experience and a learning experience.

“Many other Black men struck up a conversation with our boys and explained history and why this moment mattered. They were learning that community still exists and that the village cares for and about them,” Williams says. “We showed our sons how many other Black men were in those lines and explained the power in their voices, and the need to be unapologetic about sharing it.”

Clark and Williams have no regrets about the wait, and they encourage parents to bring kids with them for the 2020 presidential election and all future elections.

“Energy is currency — the most valuable currency we have,” Williams said. “Spend it wisely and vote. Take your kids and teach them how to budget their energy now.”

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