One Boy, Two Votes

June 30, 2004

 Dear Jonah:

 I got a new thing for my computer, that lets me talk while it does the typing .  I know, I used to have another one, but this one works a whole lot better.   As long as I have it, I thought it would use it to write you a nice long letter at camp. 

 We’re glad to hear that you weren’t homesick.  Of course that was only from your first letter, and things may have changed.  We sure miss you, and the house is way too quiet at night.  I made your mother watch an episode of Futurama the other night, just to stay caught up.  It wasn’t a very good one – it was the one where Bender gets a part on a soap opera. 

 There’s a lot going on here.  J.K. Rowling just announced the title of her next book - Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – but that’s all she’s telling about it.

 So anyhow, you asked once for me to write down the story of how one person can make a difference in an election.  I’ll give it a try.

 We were sitting at the dinner table, when you asked me “ does it really matter if one person votes or not?"   Your mother started to say no, when I said “now wait just a minute!  Let me tell you about the time I made a difference, and I wasn’t even old enough to vote!”

 Ralph Axelrod was running for the position of city councilman on the north side of Chicago.  He was a friend of our family, and the election wasn’t going very well.  I don’t know if you know this, but your grandfather, Nonnu, used to do a lot of work in helping people get elected.  He thought Ralph Axelrod needed our help.  So your grandmother put me, your aunt Nancy, your  Aunt Jane, and your uncle Daniel, in the car, and we drove to Ralph Axelrod’s neighborhood. 

 A political campaign usually has a headquarters.  That’s a place where people who are working very hard to get the person elected can sit around and drink coffee.  The make copies of newspaper articles, then mail them to people who might be interested.  They also spent a lot of time asking people who they would vote for, and why.  At the headquarters, we had a big list of people who had said that they would vote for Ralph Axelrod.  But sometimes people don’t get out to vote.  Sometimes people don’t feel like walking all the way to the polls.  It was a rainy day.

 So anyhow, you aunts and uncle and I divided up the lists of people who had said they would vote for Ralph Axelrod.  And we went out to make sure that they did.  We had addresses, and names, and we went and rang doorbells.  Most people had already gone to the polls and put in their ballots.  But I found three people who hadn’t gone out yet.  Two were old ladies, who really didn’t want to go outside to vote, but who thought that it was important.  When I told them, they said “oh my goodness, is this election day?” yes it is, I told them, and I waited while they got their coats.  Then I helped walk them down to the polling place, and walked them home after they voted.

 It was a long day, and it didn’t feel like we were accomplishing much. On the way home in the car, I said to your Aunt Jane that “all that was a waste of time, I only got a couple of people to come out.”

 After dinner, the phone started to ring. Your grandfather told us that it is a been a close one, but then Axelrod had won by twenty votes. We were pretty excited, because it would’ve been even closer without us. But the next morning, the man running against Axelrod demanded a recount, and they took all of the ballots out of all the boxes and counted them again. They were very careful, and this time, Axelrod lost, by three votes. I don’t know why it’s so hard to count ballots, but people seem to have an awfully hard time with it. Anyhow, Axelrod demanded a final recount.  I guess you only get two.

 It was almost a week later when the final recount came in.  They’d picked up every ballot, turned it upside down and looked at it front and back, and counted them all very thoroughly. When they’re done, Ralph Axelrod had won – by one vote.

 So I made a difference. If I hadn’t rung those doorbells, if I hadn’t found those two old ladies, Ralph Axelrod would’ve lost. Your Aunt Jane can say the same thing.  So can your Uncle Daniel and your Aunt Nancy. You can make a difference.

The End

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 Please write back, and tell me what’s going on at camp. Love, Dad.