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 30th Annual (2018-19) Essay Contest, $1,000 will be awarded to the first-place winner for each high school grade level. Winners will be notified no later than March 2019 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 per contest year.
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. Applicants will be disqualified if names and school names appear on the essay document.
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) December 21, 2018, 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.
2018 Essay Prompt
When an American citizen turns 18, he or she has the right to vote. Yet in recent years, America’s youngest voters are also America’s least frequent voters. Turnout among young voters has been consistently and significantly lower than for any other age group. Youth turnout (ages 18 to 30) was 28 percentage points lower than persons age 60 and older in 2016 and nearly 39 points lower in 2014. Is the current climate of divisive discourse part of the explanation for young voters’ disinterest? Or does the explanation lie elsewhere since vibrant and even contentious public discourse is expected in America given the First Amendment’s protection of free speech?
2018 Essay Contest Winners
12th Grade – Victoria Kelly Brunson, Craft Academy at Morehead State University
11th Grade – Anna Frances Baskin, Henry Clay High School, Lexington
10th Grade – Chloe Morgan Watkins, Logan County High School, Russellville
9th Grade – Nevaeh Hope Dearmond, Logan County High School, Russellville
2017 Essay Contest Winners
12th grade – Olivia Beecham, St. Henry District High School, Erlanger
11th grade – James Michnya, Trinity High School, Louisville
10th grade – Theodore Ehrenborg, Henry Clay High School, Lexington
9th grade – William Dolan, J. Graham Brown School, Louisville
2016 Essay Contest Winners
12th Grade - Jesse Neal, Holy Angels Academy
11th Grade - Hannah Rosenbaum, Bardstown High School
10th Grade - Nathan Weber, Covington Catholic High School
9th Grade - Theodore Ehrenborg, Henry Clay High School
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 KEA and KEA Retired, the Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement at Northern Kentucky University, the University of Kentucky Scripps Howard First Amendment Center, the Kentucky Department of Education, Kids Voting Kentucky, and Harp Enterprises for sponsoring this contest.