Absentee voting officials wait in an empty polling place during early voting at the Oklahoma County Board of Elections in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Writing Contest Finalist
We’re delighted to announce the winners of The Nation’s eighth annual Student Writing Contest. This year we asked students to answer this question in 800 words: It’s clear that the political system in the US isn’t working for many. If you had to pick one root cause underlying our broken politics, what would it be and why? We received close to 700 submissions from high school and college students in forty-two states. We chose one college and one high school winner and ten finalists total. The winners are Jim Nichols (no relation to The Nation’s John Nichols), an undergraduate at Georgia State University; and Julia Di, a senior at Richard Montgomery High School in Darnestown, Maryland, and Bryn Grunwald, a recent graduate of the Peak to Peak Charter in Boulder, Colorado, who were co-winners in the high school category. The three winners receive cash awards of $1,000 and the finalists $200 each. All receive Nation subscriptions. Read all the winning essays here. —The Editor
When you flip your channel to CNN every four years on the first Tuesday of November, do you wonder what color will fill Texas’s borders on the election map? If you are a Republican in Vermont, do you go to the poll booth with any belief that your vote will matter? If you answered “no” to both of these questions, you have probably realized that our winner-take-all electoral system is at the root of American politics’ biggest problem: voter apathy.
As a Democrat growing up in Nebraska, I grew accustomed to walking on eggshells around my conservative neighbors. I prepared myself for whispers and judgmental glances any time I expressed my political views. As a child of the Bush era, I spent my formative years believing that the United States government could not have cared less what I thought. Despite my constant efforts to be politically engaged, have convincing factual arguments, and to participate in the political system, it was simply not enough. I felt like a blue speck of algae in a red Nebraskan ocean.