The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Parents, get your kids out to vote. Or tell them the WiFi is no longer free.

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I feel strongly about this election, really strongly. But the truth is I always feel that way. My country doesn’t ask much from me: jury duty, taxes and voting. The very least I can do to live in a free democracy is to jump into a voting booth for a couple minutes every few years.

Apparently, our kids do not feel the same way. Kids, 18- to 24-year-olds, don’t vote. They just don’t. In the last presidential election, they voted at half the rate of their parents. And while I know there is a laundry list of reasons why they cannot take five minutes away from Snapchat to do their civic duty, to have a voice in their own future, I am not buying it.

Yes, I’m angry.

Our voting-age offspring need to be reminded, one more time, that past generations of young people their exact age were called on to die for our country; all they need to do is remember where their polling place is located.

Not voting is not acceptable. It is not all right that they take a pass on carrying the torch of democracy into the next generation. Just not good enough.

Parents, it’s our duty to make sure those kids of ours, no matter how adult they may be, get to the polling stations. If your 18- to 24-year-old is 100 percent fully and totally independent, congratulations — and also you are out of luck: You have lost your leverage. But few of our kids are entirely independent. They are on our cellphone plans, they borrow our Netflix passwords, they live in our basements or we help pay their tuition. And you know what they can do to ensure that they have access to our continuing support and WiFi? They can vote. That simple. They uphold their responsibility to our republic, and the HBO Go password is all theirs. They step into a voting booth and become a citizen of our nation, and fall tuition is paid.

So, millennials, about those reasons you don’t vote:

You don’t like the candidates? You don’t think there is anyone worth voting for. Got news for you kidlettes: We grown-ups often feel that way, too. Just look at the polls. It doesn’t matter if you don’t love the candidates. Someone is going to get elected. Democracy gives us a choice; no one ever said it was the perfect choice.

You don’t feel you have much at stake? You have no kids, no mortgage and, in some cases, no job. Again, do I need to remind you? Here is what is at stake: the future. Your future. The future of your children. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the people who do vote — your parents, your grandparents — we won’t even be around to see if we got it right. So don’t give me your excuses.

You feel you don’t know enough about the issues? That is on you. You have access to all the information in the entire world in the palm of your hand. If you chose to use your phone for Instagram instead of learning about the issues facing our country, honestly I just don’t know what to say. You are the most well-educated generation in history. Collectively we have all dug a big hole of debt to get you that education; now use it.

You don’t like what is going on in Washington? Frankly, it makes you sick? Have you not been listening to your parents? We hate Congress, we loathe what is happening in Washington, and both parties are a source of scorn. But not voting doesn’t make it better. It doesn’t make anything better. And voting is the only chance we have of changing anything.

The candidate you wanted lost in the primaries and you are just not feelin’ it? Get over yourself. If you went to a party freshman year and the guy or girl you fancied had up and transferred to another college, would you spend the next four years alone? There are still candidates in this race; find someone new.

Voting is so 20th century? Yes, we get that, too. We wish voting were as easy as ordering from Amazon or getting an Uber, but our country is not there yet. So get your paper ballot, punch a hole in it, and just be grateful that you never had to suffer the agonies of living in the pre-digital age.

Voting takes too long? We recognize that you might need to get up a bit earlier to vote before work or school, and that can be a bother. But our democracy is a beautiful thing and totally worth getting out of bed for. Think for one minute about the members of your generation in every corner of the world who live in countries that will never allow them to vote. Just go.

So here is the deal, millennials. You were fortunate enough to be born in the waning days of the 20th century, in one of the greatest countries on earth. In exchange for this life-changing bit of good fortune, you will vote. You will vote in every election, and you will have a good attitude about it. No complaining on social media that you are only doing it because we, your parents, insisted. And here is the deal: No vote, no cellphone. No vote, no Netflix password. No vote, don’t even ask us to treat you like adults, because adults vote.

Lisa Heffernan writes about parenting during the high school and college years at Grown and Flown. You can follow her on Twitter and like Grown and Flown on Facebook.

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