Thank you for your interest in the Secretary of State's Annual Essay Contest. The Essay Contest is an excellent opportunity for students to engage in our democratic process, with the possibility of winning valuable prizes. Especially in light of the trend of decreasing voter participation among the youngest demographics, Secretary Grimes encourages all students and teachers to demonstrate their commitment to active citizenship by participating in the Contest.
For the 27th Annual (2015-16) Essay Contest, $1000 will be awarded to the first-place winner for each high school grade level. Winners will be notified no later than March 2016 and will be invited to participate in a presentation with Secretary Grimes or her representative.
Please review this webpage or download the informational packet
for complete information regarding the Essay Contest. If you have any questions about the contest, please contact the office at (502) 564-3490 or via email
1. The Essay Contest is open to all Kentucky high school students in grades 9-12.
2. Essay entry is limited to one per student. Previous contest entries will not be accepted.
3. Essay entry is limited to 600 words. All entries must be typed and double-spaced.
4. Student and school names shall not appear anywhere in the body of the essay.
5. Essays will be judged on research and understanding of voting and the First Amendment, idea development, organization, language, and correctness (see rubric
6. Students must submit their essays with the prescribed entry form
. All sections of the entry form must be completed.
7. Essays may be submitted either online
or by mail to:
ATTN: Slogan and Essay Contest
Office of the Secretary of State
Suite 152, State Capitol
700 Capital Avenue
Frankfort, KY 40601
Essays submitted online must be in Microsoft Word format.
8. All entries must be submitted electronically by 5 p.m. (EST) January 15, 2016, or postmarked by that date, to be eligible for consideration.
9. Entries become the property of the Kentucky Secretary of State's Office and will not be returned.
10. All guidelines
must be met for any entry to be considered by contest judges.
Note: Family members of employees of the Office of the Secretary of State or the State Board of Elections are not eligible to enter the Essay Contest.
2015-2016 Essay Prompt
Before 1965, some states had voting practices and laws that made it difficult for minorities, in particular African-Americans, to vote. In early 1965, demonstrations and marches led to violent clashes with police, drawing teh attention of the national media and generating national outrage. Later that year, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which eliminated many of the tools states had used to exclude minorities from participating in elections.
Fifty years later, the polls are open to many more citizens. Yet in 2014 only about 37 percent of people eligible to vote actually cast ballots, according to the United States Election Project. And although the founders intended for informed voters--citizens who learned about the issues, the candidates, and the candidates' positions on the issues-- to cast ballots for people who represent their own views, many candidates focus on raising money and attacking their opponents rather than outlining their proposals to make America a better place to live for all of its residents.
Would a law requiring newspapers, both online and print, and broadcast outlets to devote space to outlining the issues for the audience increase the number of Americans voting without violating the First Amendment guarantee of a free press?
2015 Essay Contest Winners
12th Grade - Virginia Emerson Call, Dupont Manual High School, Jefferson County
11th Grade - Amir Lowell Abou-Jaoude, Henry Clay High School, Fayette County
10th Grade - Aidan Donaghy, Covington Catholic High School, Kenton County
9th Grade - Rebekah Hope George, Henry Clay High School, Fayette County
2014 Essay Contest Winners
12th Grade - Ariel Mae Head, Muhlenberg County High School, Greenville
11th Grade - Adrianna Burkhart, Murray High School, Murray Calloway County
10th Grade - Coire Thomas Ayres, Covington Catholic High School, Kenton County
9th Grade - Jumin Kim, DuPont Manual High School, Jefferson County
2013 Essay Contest Winners
12th Grade - Megan Theresa Beischel, Notre Dame Academy, Kenton County
11th Grade - Michael John Jarvi, Christian Academy of Louisville, Jefferson County
10th Grade - Madison Hope Vaughn, Marshall County High School, Benton
9th Grade - Kelsey Cole, Magoffin County High School, Salyersville
2012 Essay Contest Winners
12th Grade - Matthew Stephen Smith, Estill County High School, Irvine
11th Grade - Kaylee Robin Hicks, Woodford County High School, Versailles
10th Grade - William Haydon, Montgomery County High School, Mount Sterling
9th Grade - William Eliot Smith, Henry Clay High School, Fayette County
2011 Essay Contest Winners
12th Grade - Emily Hicks, Homeschool
11th Grade - Travis Wilson, Grace Christian Home School
10th Grade - Norb Wessels, Covington Catholic High School
11th Grade - Natalie Farrar, Larue County High School
Thank you to the Secretary of State's partners, including the University of Kentucky Scripps Howard First Amendment Center, the Kentucky Department of Education, and Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, for their generous sponsorship of this program.