2019 Winners


FIRST PLACE
 I Will Always Vote
By Tristan Trudell, Ilwaco High School

The ability to vote is the single greatest representation of democracy in existence today. The power to choose and the capacity to participate in a process that so often seems out of reach for America’s masses are why I will always vote. A vote is a voice, and with a voice, one has the power to enact change. Every voice matters. No two voices are alike.
            The importance of the right to vote simply cannot be understated, yet it is often cast aside, one single ballot seemingly rendered useless by millions of others just like it. But in truth, there are no others just like it. My vote will not, cannot, be whittled down to a statistic. It is an encapsulation of everything I am as a person: the beliefs I hold, the laws I analyze, and, most crucially, the decisions I make. Every time I vote, I share a unique perspective, and I am joined by millions more at the state and federal levels, all of whom voice their own perspectives when they cast their ballots.
To vote is to take yourself and your convictions firmly into account. But that does not mean your vote cannot be influenced by the lives of others. The concept of voting carries with it an inherent responsibility, almost a duty, to be informed, but you must also consider the impact your vote could have on the people around you. Whether those people are friends, relatives, or strangers, their circumstances should have a say in your vote, and vice versa. When I vote, I will take a good long look at those around me, a collection of people from all walks of life who, in many cases, are more personally affected by issues such as poverty and immigration reform than I am. My vote is not only a reflection of myself. It is an echo of the disenfranchised people I see around me every day.              
I have always been inspired to vote, perhaps in part because I am not able to do so just yet. But when that time comes, I will not take voting for granted. I will mark my ballot, empowered and emboldened, because I know for a certainty that my vote is helping bring about the change I, and others around me, want to see. Democracy, true democracy, encompasses all of us, and therefore it must work for all of us. That is why I will always vote.      



SECOND PLACE
Why I Will Always Vote
by Erik Cooley, Warrenton


            I was recently in a car, traveling down the highway with four of my teenaged friends. We were faced with the issue of deciding on a place to eat that would satisfy each of our wants and needs. A consensus had to be reached by everyone individually on what was the best option based on a variety of considerations such as affordability, location, and personal preference. We conferred together, comparing our assessments and evaluating each other’s motivations. Using this method, we were able to achieve maximum satiation for the collective five.
            Imagine, instead, if one of us had not voted. This person would have delegated responsibility to the rest of the group. Consequently, the group would have chosen a restaurant that did not resolve that person’s hunger satisfactorily. The cooperative system would have been undermined, and maximum satisfaction for all the friends in that car would not have been reached. One person’s decision to neglect voting would work to the detriment of the entire group, including himself.
            If I do not vote, I am surrendering my basic right as an American citizen to influence how my government treats its people. I am denying myself the opportunity to assert my opinion in a meaningful way, rejecting the chance to make my assessment of the given candidates. When I do not vote, I surrender responsibility for America’s future to others. I am flippantly, disrespectfully neglecting to acknowledge my own ability to do what I believe is right. I am ignoring the positive implementation of my own beliefs, opting instead for the enforcement of others’ views.
            Voting is a mature activity that distinguishes an active citizen from a victim of American bureaucracy. When I vote, I become informed on the current political situation, I gain access to America’s election process, and I exercise my rights as a citizen. If I genuinely care about the outcome of the election, and thus the handling of the civil issues at stake, it is a given that I must vote on who will decide these topics. By voting, I represent the interests of myself and others like me. I cannot engage in political conversation without hypocrisy unless I vote; a politically avid non-voter is an oxymoron.
            I have decided to always vote in my nation’s elections because the results of America’s actions will invariably affect my livelihood. There is absolutely no reason to not vote. It does not prove a point or suggest an intelligent interpretation of one’s options but rather indicates torpid irresponsibility. Voting is an empowering ability America has established for its citizens, an ability that I am obligated to use. Since I care about the issues that America must resolve and how America proceeds in doing so, I will take the opportunity that America gives me to assert my judgment. There are very few ways for the average citizen to influence his government, voting being the most effective. Thus, I will always vote, seeking the best interests of myself and my fellow citizens.


THIRD PLACE
The Importance of Voting
by Forrest Cooley, Warrenton

As a rule, Americans hate tyranny. When American colonists felt they were living under tyranny, they rebelled and achieved independence. The founders of America wanted to create a republic where its citizens would elect representatives to govern the country. This vision was manifested in the Constitution, which to this day has prevented a tyrannical government from taking over.
            The privilege of voting was not always a reality. For over a hundred years after America was founded, only white men could vote. Women and African Americans were prevented from voting, either by law or by intimidation. Women could not vote until 1920, and African Americans could not functionally vote until after the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Likewise, many countries around the world do not allow their citizens to vote.
            When a government is controlled by a limited number of people, tyranny will always arise. Humans crave power. We always look for ways to be in control—and often this is a good thing. It is good for me to be in control of my finances, my decisions, and my future. These responsibilities require me to build discipline and character, as they do everyone else. However, very few people—if any—have the proper character to be in absolute power.
            There are many instances in history of absolute monarchies. Some monarchs are good and noble, while some are selfish and despotic. Richard I, king of England at the end of the 12th century, was well loved by his people for his selfless ruling, so much so that the English people once gave everything they had to ransom their king from his European enemies. Richard I’s successor, King John, was despised by the people. Because of his rule, the Lords of England revolted and forced him to sign the Magna Carta, the foundation of the Parliamentary System in England. Absolute power was taken from the king and given to the people—albeit a small group of the nobility. However, the voting class of Britain was expanded over the next 800 years into the English voting system we see today. Just as the Lords of England in 1215 took power away from a tyrannical government, American colonists in 1776 declared that a tyrannical English government could no longer have power over its sovereign colonies.
I will vote because it is the best way to keep America free. I could choose to believe that my vote is insignificant, but that would mean taking for granted the fact that there are billions of people around the world who are unable to fully participate in their government. It would mean that I take the prosperity and freedom of America for granted. The success, individual liberty, and affluence of the United States exist because Americans can participate in their government. Voting allows Americans to voice their opinions on subjects ranging from waging war to raising taxes. When I vote, I will voice my opinion on the course of our country and on the character of the people governing it.




           





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