Annual Essay Contest
Thank you for your interest in the Secretary of State's 24th 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 Essay Contest, a $2000 savings bond will be awarded to the first-place winner for each high school grade level. Winners will be notified no later than March 2012 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.
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) on December 1, 2012, or postmarked by that date, to be eliglble 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.
One of the most important responsibilities of citizens of the United States is to participate in their own government by voting for candidates who will represent their views in public office. But in the 2008 presidential election, only about 57 percent of those Kentuckians who were eligible fulfilled that responsibility.
Some countries have laws that make voting mandatory, while exempting certain adults based on factors such as age, illness, or religious belief. In such countries, eligible individuals who do not vote may be subject to penalties, such as fines or community service.
Your essay should discuss the following two questions:
1. Considering the pros and cons of compulsory voting, does such a law improve democracy?
2. How would a mandatory voting law be affected by the First Amendment's guarantee of the freedom of speech?
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 - KEA and KEA Retired, Harp Enterprises, Election Systems & Software, the University of Kentucky Scripps Howard First Amendment Center and Kentuckiana Election Service Co. - for their generous sponsorship of this program.