The Power Of A Single Vote
On Election Day, students, faculty and staff from across Tufts exercised the right to vote. Responding to a campus-wide solicitation, many members of the University community wrote in and reflected on what voting means to them. Their views covered a wide-range of ideas including making a difference at the ballot box, the international perspective, voting for the first time, the power of a single vote, informed voting and the historical importance of casting a ballot. This is a collection of their comments.
On Making a Difference
I intend to bring my boys (3-year-old and 10-month-old) to the polls with me on Tuesday to help teach them their responsibility as citizens. If as many people who voted for "American Idol" got out to vote, we would see amazing things happen in our country.
Gary Walling, Manager of Prospect Tracking & Management, University Advancement
Think of it this way: If you're in a lifeboat that has a hole in it, and everyone is busy bailing water out of it, are you the sort of person who sits back and watches, or are you the person who does everything they can to help everyone else keep the boat from sinking? Even though one vote won't change the course of the election, each one of us, because we benefit from democracy, is obligated to do our part to keep it working.
Josh Herman, College of Liberal Arts, Ď07
To me casting a vote is the most articulate, powerful and civilized way that an adult human being asserts her/his citizenship. When you vote, you are making the statement, albeit silently, "I am a citizen of this country and I count".
Astier M. Almedom, Henry R. Luce Professor in Science & Humanitarianism
By taking the time to fill out my ballot or go to the polling place, I am taking part in a process that nobody thought would work when it was conceived. Now, more than 200 years later, I am saying that I am an American who recognizes that we must do our part to keep democracy alive.
Rebecca Frank, College of Liberal Arts, Ď08
A vote is the connection between you and your government. It is a solid, direct, tangible action linking you to the laws and leaders who rule the country. There is a bit of everyone in each elected leader.
Brett Weiner, College of Liberal Arts, '05
By participating in this election with my single vote I take full advantage of an opportunity to support, be heard, protest, cheer, make a difference, be a contributing citizen, care and be fervently involved in the selection of the candidate who will shape the political history of our country.
Gloria Riccobono, Budget and Fiscal Officer, School of Veterinary Medicine
Casting my one vote is an expression of my hope that change is possible.
Rebecca Goldenberg, Fletcher School, MALD '05
My vote is one vote, one in over 22 million for the state of Texas. My peers, the media and just about everyone in the world thinks Texas is a red state, filled with zealous Republicans, but with my vote, I intend to prove them wrong. I am a liberal Texan, and I am voting because I want to prove that we do exist, just like my conservative Massachusetts counterparts will vote to declare their presence as well. Making a statement - that's what a vote means to me in this presidential election.
Daniel Gross, College of Liberal Arts, Ď08
On the International Perspective
I'm writing this from Egypt where, a week before our election, I am besieged with questions about it. I'm not surprised. This U.S. election affects individuals in low income countries, and particularly Islamic countries at least as much as it affects any of us. Indeed for many of these young men and women it may literally be a matter of life and death. I am sobered by the realization of the difference a small number of votes in our country four years ago would have had on the world, and the number of needless deaths in these countries which might have been avoided.
Jim Levinson, Director, International Food and Nutrition Center, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy
A vote that I will cast in every election means to me that all those women who fought to obtain the right to vote did not do so in vain. My in-laws, who came from Portugal and were raised in a dictatorship, were so proud to be able to vote that I could never embarrass myself and not vote. They were the embodiment of why we vote. They passed away two years ago and became citizens of this country in order to express their opinion in the 60ís (not that long ago). They never understood why someone would not vote, nor do I. The only reason I believe people do not vote is because they have never lost that right.
Carolyn Resendes, Secretary, Athletics Department
My grandparents came from Eastern Europe where they were disenfranchised. In this country, voting was an imperative and a joy for them and they conveyed that spirit of social responsibility to my parents. My mother always took me to the polls with her. I remember the awe with which she pulled the lever. I have never missed voting in an election and neither has my son. Voting is a huge part of what I treasure about my heritage.
Lois Wainstock, Associate Director, Tufts University Center for Children
When I came to the United States from Ireland as a child I made a promise to myself and my parents that I would vote in every election that was asked of me. For the rights and privileges this country gives its citizens this is the least anyone can do. It's painless, not very time consuming and it may even make you feel good about yourself. I vote in every town, state and national election even if there are incumbents running unopposed. My ability and right to vote is very precious to me. Many citizens of the world do not have this right and we should cherish it.
Patrick O'Connell, Contract Administrator, Purchasing Department
No matter how many citizens there are in America, a single vote is a reminder that a democracy fundamentally comes from the voice of an individual. The vote embodies equality, making America unique. Whether or not my family has existed on this soil for several generations does not matter - as Americans, we recognize the sacrifices made on our behalf by those who have come before us.
Kevin Ng, College of Liberal Arts, '07
I was born in USSR where a vote did not mean anything. Here one vote carries both a symbolic and a practical significance. Symbolic - in a sense that it gives the governments a notice that someone is watching. Practical - because ever so often those close elections happen where it actually can tip a balance. It happens all the time in local elections, but how many states in the previous election were decided by less than a thousand votes?
Pavel Vasilev, Fletcher School, MALD '06
I am a citizen of two countries, neither of which permit absentee ballots, and reside in a third (USA), where I cannot vote. So, I envy my American friends and colleagues!
John Cosmopoulos, Senior Manager of Business Development, Office for Technology Licensing and Industry Collaboration
On Voting for the First Time
This will be my first time as a voter in any country, in any election. I spent my childhood traveling and I have always been either the wrong age or the wrong nationality. I am a minority in every way: I am a woman, I am of color, I am a Muslim. I am even left handed. But when I cast my ballot on Tuesday, I will be equal. My vote is colorless, genderless, without affiliation to any faith. For the first time in my life, I will be a drop in the political tide.
Nahid Bhadelia, School of Medicine and Fletcher School, MD/MALDí05, J'99
This year, 2004, is a very special year for me. This is the year I became a U.S. citizen! This year is also highlighted by the circumstance that it is the year of our Presidential election and I very proudly state "our Presidential election" and my very first election. I was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and unfortunately I never had the free and open experience to participate in any form of democracy or election process that was conducted were choice was an option. When preparing to become a U.S citizen I learned that I would have the right to exercise my one vote of choice and that vote represents my voice on the type of government I select under our Constitution. Now with the presidential election just one week away the realization that I HAVE THE RIGHT TO VOTE and it can make a difference is beyond any words. I have done everything possible to educate myself about our political process and structure. I followed the political debates, listened to news analysis and joined in open discussions with my friends. I consider the right to vote openly and free as an essential part of being a U.S citizen. I hear occasionally that some of our citizens do not vote. I wish those who take this road knew what it is like not to have a free choice of political leadership or the freedom to express that choice. If they had their right denied to vote freely as well as other rights we enjoy under our Constitution denied then their views, I am sure, would be quite different.
Natalia A. Denissova, Assistant Professor, Friedman School
I left India when I was a little too young to vote. While I have been a permanent resident for a long time, only recently did I become a citizen of the United States. So this will be the first time voting in presidential elections. It is exciting for me to vote because for the first time in my life I am actually doing something that could have the potential to direct the course of this very powerful nation which is now my country. I hope to continue to be actively involved in the political process and take my responsibilities as a citizen in this democracy very seriously.
Ranjani Saigal, Project Manager, Computer Services
I am a registered voter from New Jersey. I have sent in my absentee ballot for the upcoming Nov. 2 election. This is the first time I have voted in an election. At this point in our nation's history, we are faced with the disadvantages of a two party system, dominated by wealthy special interest groups; problems which George Washington had warned us about. The only way to save our great country is to exercise our right to vote.
Aaron S. Miller, College of Liberal Arts, Ď07
The ability to vote in this upcoming presidential election empowers me. Coming from N.Y. everyone says, "Why vote? Weíre not a swing state?" Swing state or not, I am satisfied knowing I placed a vote in choosing who will lead this country for the next four years. In addition, this is my first opportunity to vote and I will not miss out. Choose or lose, right? So I choose.
Jonathan Chan, College of Liberal Arts, Ď07
Iím a junior studying in AlcalŠ de Henares, Spain, for the year, and American politics, specifically this election, has been a common topic of conversation since our group arrived here in September. Itís been really interesting to hear the ideas of people who are more and less politically-inclined and to recognize that Tufts has a much more politically diverse population than I thought.
Our conversations about the presidential election, the platforms of both candidates, and our intent to vote or not to vote have really reinforced something that Iíve believed for a long time. I have already sent my overseas ballot by fax to my district, which was the first time Iíve cast a ballot, and in doing so I believe that Iíve communicated to my government (from the local to the national level) that Iím interested. That Iím paying attention to the issues being discussed, that Iíve formed an opinion, and that the work of the politicians in Tallahassee and in Washington, D.C. matters to me.
And really thatís the most important thing about the electoral process. Each individual has an opportunity to tell the people who run this country that they are paying attention to whatís happening on Capitol Hill.
Emily Zivanov Kaiser, College of Liberal Arts, Ď06
This is the first time I have voted. Even though my vote isn't likely to be the deciding one, I feel that my voice has a right to be heard. There is no better time than now to vote, and I have been paying attention to what is going on in politics, and I feel it is my civic duty to vote.
Julie Cohen, College of Liberal Arts, Ď08
On the Power of the Single Vote
Start 'em early my parents said, as they dragged us to political rallies as kids. My baby brother learned well. When my parents refused to let him have a cat, he made a protest sign and as an eight-year-old, picketed the house. When the local newspaper came to cover the "story," my parents folded. But they also saw the good side of our political engagement when Wal-Mart wanted to come to Greenfield, Mass., and a question was put to public referendum. It was so close, it came down to the absentee ballots. My dad was a poll watcher, and he knew his three kids had mailed in their ballots. Good thing too, as Wal-Mart was defeated by only four votes, with over 70 percent of the town casting ballots.
Kathleen Merrigan, Assistant Professor, Friedman School
Your vote may be the one that decides an election. In the last local election, the candidate I voted for lost by two votes. Three people could have changed the outcome of the election and the representation the townspeople have, if they had taken the time to vote. Every vote does count!
Ann Holm, IACUC Coordinator, School of Veterinary Medicine
Experts all agree that whoever wins Ohio wins the election. In an election as important and tightly contested as this, just knowing that my single vote could actually make the difference in choosing our president sums up the very foundation of a true democracy.
Peter Bendix, College of Liberal Arts, Ď08
If everyone in my age group voted (I am 22), perhaps candidates in future elections would care more about our views on issues. They would not want to ignore such a large group of voters.
Pamela Podell, Research Technology, School of Medicine
On Informed Voting
With the country deeply and evenly split on ideological lines, every single vote counts. Many of us, who know where we stand, need no motivation to go to the ballot box. For those citizens who claim that "it doesn't really matter" who gets elected, my advice is to spend some time on the web finding out where the candidates stand on the issues that matter most to you. You might find the choice is not between ďTweedledee and Tweedleum," but between "right and wrong."
Richard Turk, Senior Compensation and Career Consultant, Human Resources
A vote is a liberty and an obligation. We are given the liberty in a democracy to vote for representatives who we think are most fit to handle the affairs of our nation. This liberty, though, does not stand by itself. As citizens we are obligated to thoroughly know where the different representatives stand on various issues and are also obligated to know in what real circumstances those stances are applicable. A citizen must be informed. We shouldn't just vote because we can. An uninformed vote is not only wasted but harmful to the democratic system.
Peter R. Maher, College of Liberal Arts, Ď07
For me, a vote means the culmination of months of reading newspapers, surfing the Internet, listening to the radio, and discussing various issues with people I respect. It is a way of asserting that one has a personal stake in the future of the country.
Kyle Sinick, College of Liberal Arts, Ď08
Voting, by itself, is not a civic duty. Our forefathers wrote in the Constitution that voting is a right. Campaigns that stress the dire need to vote completely miss the point -- Thomas Jefferson is probably rolling over in his grave. Signs that say "vote or die" or TCU senators who insist that students "must" vote don't understand our governmental system. Our forefathers put into place a system of voluntary self-government. The same right we have to vote is the right not to vote.
The majority of Americans are not informed. These people should not be going to the polls on Election Day. Voter apathy is commendable when the constituent doesn't know a Republican from a Democrat.
Jordana S. Starr, College of Liberal Arts, Ď06
We are bound by a common sentiment imbedded in the democratic process afforded to all Americans. But, being an educated voter is a privilege that should not be wasted. History has shown that a multitude of individuals who persevered despite the odds, believing that one person could make a difference, went on to achieve greatness. If we fail to contribute to the process, then we have little right to complain. Awareness of the issues that impact our daily lives is the first step towards building a better tomorrow!
Stephanie St. Laurence, Public Relations/Reference Coordinator, Tisch Library
On the Historical Perspective
A vote is the only direct form of influence I hold over my government. Protests and activism can help and are good supplements, but voting is the only tool the average person has to shape their country. How many people down in Florida regret not voting in 2000? It would have taken only a couple of hundred people to have totally changed the last four years of American politics.
Efrain Ortega, School of Engineering, `06
My father spent several years working on voter registration in the deep South during the Civil Rights Movement. Given this context, Iíve always equated the right to vote with empowerment - the ability to make your voice heard and affect change.
Tamara Golden, Associate Director of Career Services, Fletcher School
For women, the right to vote was won after much blood, sweat and tears were shed. We must NEVER take it for granted.
Laura J. Ortiz, Associate Director, Student Financial Services
This story originally ran on Nov. 1, 2004