Little House on the Prairie

Season 3 Episode 21

The Election

Aired Wednesday 12:00 AM Mar 21, 1977 on NBC
out of 10
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Episode Summary

The Election
When it comes time to elect a new classroom president, Mary and Nellie are first to compete for the position. To even things out a bit, the boys strategically elect a shy, mentally delayed classmate named Elmer Dopkins. The trouble is, Elmer's overprotective father is fully aware of the boys' ulterior motives, but how far can a parent go to protect their bullied child?moreless

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  • Elmer is a slow-witted schoolboy, nominated by bullies on a lark to be class president. Can he actually win?

    This episode features schoolchildren who are not a normal part of the LHOTP cast. Elmer Dobkins is a slow, Forrest Gump-like schoolboy who is picked on by a pair of particularly mean older classmates on a regular basis. When Miss Beadle announces that the school will be holding elections for "class president ", they nominate Elmer as a joke. He ends up running against Mary Ingalls, who plays fair, and Nellie Oleson, who attempts to buy votes with candy and parties. On election day, Elmer is pushed into a pig pen by the bullies, and, while filthy, still musters up the courage to step up in front of the class and give a moving speech about treating others with kindness and the difference between right and wrong. A tearful Mary raises her hand, withdraws from the race, and throws her support behind Elmer. The vote is taken, and the vote ends up in a tie--until Miss Beadle realizes that Wille was in the outhouse when the vote was taken. Upon his return, he votes--for Elmer. Nellie screams at him, to which he replies, "that's why I voted for Elmer; now that he's president, he won't let you be mean to me anymore ". As Nellie runs shrieking from the schoolhouse, Elmer's classmates, newly chastised and appropriately humbled, surround him and offer heartfelt smiles and congratulations. One of several excellent LHOTP episodes dealing with the subject of bullying.moreless
  • It's time to elect a Class President and the race is between Mary, Nellie and Elmer Dopkins, a shy boy who is always being teased by those fellows who are older and stronger than he is.moreless

    When Miss Beadle announces that it is time to elect the new Class President, Mary Ingalls, Nellie Oleson and a boy named Elmer Dopkins end up being the candidates.

    Poor Elmer lives with a kind and loving father who cares deeply for him but tries to shield him from every hurt in the world, while the older boys laugh at him behind his back and pick on him.

    Of course, Nellie does her best to buy her votes, using candy and parties to 'sway' the electors in her favour. (With help from her mother!) Mary wants to fight fire with fire but that isn't so easily done and when she decides to resign her candidacy after hearing Elmer's reasons for continuing to run, Nellie doesn't have a prayer.

    A good episode where the bullies don't win and are made to feel justifiably ashamed.moreless
  • A slow-witted classmate of Laura and Mary's becomes the victim of the school bullies who nominate him to run for class president.

    This episode really gets to me. Every single time I watch it, which is at least twice a year, I get choked up over poor Elmer's plight. Perhaps being the parent of a school age boy has something to do with that, but it's also a testament to how well written this episode is. The story is timeless, unfortunately bullying in school is still prevelant today, and somewhat familiar. "The Election" is one of many LH episodes that deal with the subject. In fact, it is the third such episode in this season! (It would be more, but I don't count the Nelly ones) Many fans know that Michael Landon was bullied in college, and perhaps in high school as well, and it has clearly had an impact on him.

    The character of Elmer is quite sympathetic. Not quite bright enough to equal his peers, but certainly not stupid. His love of animals, particularly injured ones, tells of his gentle nature and pure heart. He wants so badly to be accepted by his "friends" that he goes along with their mean-spirited pranks and tells his father (and himself, no doubt) that they we only kidding around. He wants to believe this, but like his father, he knows the truth. The look in his eyes at the end of the scene with his father in the barn is heartbreaking. He is loved by his parents though, and I believe it's his love for them that gives him the strength to go to the school and say the things he says to the class at the end. After being pushed into the pig pen by the bullies (who lure him there because they know of his love for animals-these guys really stink), he looks down at the handsome new shirt his mother made him for election day. He must be thinking of her and how hard she worked on it. And perhaps too, he is thinking of his father, who loves him enough to make him give up the election, even though it's not what Elmer wants. Elmer never much stood up for himself before, but maybe now that he sees how painful it must be for his folks, he feels it's time to say something. Elmer would never have been able to say those words without the love of his mother and father. It makes you wonder if Michael Landon was imagining a different outcome for his past self as well as for Elmer. This is a very good episode, I highly recommend it, but have the Kleenex handy for the ending. That father/son embrace gets me everytime.moreless
Melissa Gilbert

Melissa Gilbert

Laura Elizabeth Ingalls/Wilder

Melissa Sue Anderson

Melissa Sue Anderson

Mary Amelia Ingalls/Kendall (1974 - 1981)

Richard Bull

Richard Bull

Nels Oleson

Charlotte Stewart

Charlotte Stewart

Miss Eva Beadle/Mrs. Simms (1974 - 1978)

Michael Landon

Michael Landon

Charles Ingalls (1974 - 1982)

Alison Arngrim

Alison Arngrim

Nellie Oleson/Dalton (1974 - 1981)

Charles Aidman

Charles Aidman

Sam Dobkins

Guest Star

Eric Olson

Eric Olson

Elmer Dobkins

Guest Star

Mitzi Hoag

Mitzi Hoag

Ellen Dobkins

Guest Star

Leslie Landon

Leslie Landon


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (6)

    • Michael Landon, Jr. plays Jim in this episode. He's the blonde boy who nominates Mary for class president. According to Melissa Sue Anderson, Michael Jr. had quite a crush on her at the time.

    • The fireplace at Elmer's house looks exactly like the fireplace in the Ingalls house. The same sets were probably used for both houses, with everything just moved around to make it look different. But if you watch closely, you can tell they look the same.

    • Goof: There are supposedly 25 votes for class president, but there's only 20 children shown in class.

    • Leslie Landon, daughter of Michael Landon, plays the role of one of the school children in this episode--the tall girl who sides with Nellie in the election in exchange for candy. Leslie Landon appears several times on the show, in every season except Season 2, 4, 5, and 7.

    • The name Elmer is used for another unfortunate schoolmate in a Season 8 episode called "For the Love of Nancy." In that episode, Elmer is an overweight student teased by everyone and manipulated by Nancy Oleson.

    • Elmer was carrying his school supplies before being pushed in the mud on Election Day. When walking to school after that, he did not have anything in his hands.

      Reply: That is probably because his books were too muddy and ruined to bring into school. He probably just left them there and moved on to class.

  • QUOTES (6)

    • Sam: (about Elmer) Just because a boy doesn't take to books is no reason to hold him up to shame. It may have been a mistake to enroll him at school here.
      Ellen: He wants to go, Sam.
      Sam: Yeah, like a little chicken that wants to run with the flock and get pecked to death.

    • Miss Beadle: (tallying the president votes for Nellie and Elmer) Well, it looks like we have a two-way tie.
      Mary: But it can't be. We're supposed to have 25 votes.
      Nellie: That's right. We'll have to wait. My brother went to the outhouse. (Willie comes back in)
      Miss Beadle: Willie, you didn't vote.
      Willie: No, ma'am.
      Miss Beadle: Well, would you mind? We're waiting. (Willie writes down a name, folds up paper, puts it in voting jar) Laura?
      Laura: (looks at paper, smiles) Elmer Dopkins!
      Nellie: Willie! How could you?
      Willie: Because you're always picking on me, that's why! And Elmer won't let you!

    • Miss Beadle: Elmer, I want you to go home and clean up. You can come back and make your speech, and we'll vote this afternoon.
      Elmer: It's all right, Miss Beadle. I ain't running for nothing. My Pa don't want me to. Besides, me running for class president.....we all know that's a joke. (the other kids laugh)
      Miss Beadle: Class!
      Elmer: Go ahead and laugh. I know I'm not smart like you. I don't even know what a class president is supposed to do. But I know what's right and wrong, and it ain't right for big kids to be picking on little kids, just because they think it's fun to hurt somebody. And it ain't right to give someone something to make them vote for you, just because some folks have got more money than others. It ain't right to make fun of people, push them in mud, and make them look silly. My mother made me this shirt, because she loves me. You probably all think that's dumb. That's what wrong around here. People don't pay no mind to other people's carings. I hope that whoever is President sees to it that the little kids aren't picked on or hurt, because it's not right. It's just not right.

    • Sam: We've got to have a little talk. Now, what were those two boys doing to you in the schoolyard today? (long pause) Hmm?
      Elmer: They were just making jokes.
      Sam: Yeah, your "friends." The two who were gonna help you get elected.
      Elmer: Yeah.
      Sam: Well, I heard the part about you eating worms, and enough more to know that they're not your friends!
      Elmer: They didn't mean no harm.
      Sam: That's your idea, but mine's different.

    • Sam: I'm gonna talk to their parents in the morning.
      Elmer: Pa, please! Please don't. It'll just make things worse.
      Sam: What they're doing to you now, how can it be worse?
      Elmer: Please, Pa. It just will.

    • Laura: (to Elmer about the boys who are bullying him) If I were you, I'd give both of them black eyes.
      Elmer: I ain't much one for fighting. It ain't Christian-like.
      Laura: (waving her fist) Oh, I'd do unto 'em!

  • NOTES (1)

    • In the episode "Journey in the Spring", which aired shortly before this one, Charles' visiting father fixed up the soddy, even adding a front porch with overhead rails and hanging plants. In this episode, however, the soddy looks as old and run down as ever, though the remnants of the porch rails can be seen.


    • In reference to Nellie and her political tactics, Laura quips, "Bossy Nellie Tweed's at it again!" This is a clear reference to "Boss" Tweed, a crooked New York politician who went to jail for corruption in the 1800's.

    • Charles tries to cheer Mary up about the election and reminds her that "Hayes won by one vote." This is an allusion to Rutherford B. Hayes winning a bitterly disputed presidential election by one vote in 1876, after the outcome was turned over to a special congressional commission.