A voter takes advantage of the DCCC's "Cycle of Engagement Initiative" which provides greater access to voting for people of color. (Courtesy of DCCC)
Courtesy of DCCC

A highly anticipated tradition of the MLK Holiday DC observances is the annual essay contest sponsored by the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Institute Alumni Association. This year, more than 50 D.C. area elementary, middle and high school students submitted essays addressing the theme: Is voting the vehicle for effective change? The first-, second- and third-place winners were announced and honored for their submissions during a virtual awards program held Sunday, Jan. 16. Students who received first place also delivered oral presentations. They received generous cash prizes and the opportunity to publish their essays in The Washington Informer. Congratulations to every student who participated, along with their teachers and parents who assisted, and to the members of the MYBLI Association for sponsoring this annual event.

Elementary

Kole Corbitt
kiyekole@gmail.com
5th Grade
Statesmen College Preparatory Academy for Boys

Middle School

Amari Ataiyero
tdkornegay1@gmail.com
7th Grade
Jefferson Middle Academy

Kiye Corbitt
kiye.corbitt@gmail.com
7th Grade
Statesmen College Preparatory Academy for Boys

High School

Charlie Cole
charlie.mo.cole@gmail.com
9th Grade 
School Without Walls SHS

Kemry Hughes III
kemryhughesiii@gmail.com</a
9th Grade
Maurice J McDonough

Additional winners include the following:

Elementary

2nd Place – Emmanuel Raheem – 4th Grade – Perry Street Prep Public Charter School

3rd Place – Temmy Ogunbo – 4th Grade – Perry Street Prep Public Charter School

Middle School

2nd Place – Camden Cole – 7th Grade Basis DC Public Charter School

3rd Place – Zion Thomas – 7th Grade – Stuart Hobson Middle School

High School

2nd Place – Aziza McClain-Baxter – 10th Grade – Basis DC Public Charter School

3rd Place – Noah McBride – 11th Grade – Choate Rosemary Hall

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Charlie Cole, “Why Is Voting Important?”

When I first read this prompt, I wondered why it was important for me, a fourteen-year-old girl to know both why and how I should vote. I always just assumed that when I became old enough, I would just vote because it is my civic duty. In this essay, I will go in-depth about why it is important for someone my age to know about voting, how the voting rights act has evolved, and reasons for its evolution, and the overall reason why adults and young people need to vote.

It is important to begin to learn about voting at a young age not only to introduce your child to the fact that different opinions are normal but to also demonstrate to them that their opinions matter and can dramatically affect their lives and the lives of others. According to the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County, you can demonstrate that different opinions are normal and prove that their opinions matter by holding familial votes at home! By holding votes at home you can immediately implement the results of the vote into your life. This allows your child to live through the effects of their opinions reinforcing them or causing your child to rethink them. In the homes of some of the people I know, voting is used to choose what will be eaten for dinner, a movie for movie night, and games for family game night.

What is the Voting Rights Act? What does it do? How has it evolved? The Voting Rights Act piece of federal legislation enacted during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States that prohibits racial discrimination when voting. Although African American people were able to vote it was made incredibly difficult. Examples of these efforts would be literacy tests, poll taxes, intimidation, threats, and sometimes even violence. Some of these attempts involve implementing feelings of fear into voters so they either don’t vote, or their votes can be controlled. There have been efforts to threaten voting rights including a few court rulings such as Shelby County v. Holder that halted many key elements of the Voting Rights Act. These alterations have made a large impact on African American, Latinx, young, and elderly people’s ability to vote.

Why should you vote as soon as you’re able? As I previously stated in paragraph two, elections have consequences. This means that you could have more control over your quality of life than you think. An example of this would be how your tax money is spent. Most people don’t even know how their tax dollars are being used. Voting is a chance for you to do research on how and who your tax dollars will be spent on.

In conclusion, it is important for you to vote because even though you are one person, your vote has the biggest impact on your life. In this essay, I have proved why it is important for someone my age to know about voting, how the voting rights act has evolved, and reasons for its evolution, and the overall reason why adults and young people need to vote. Using these reasons, it has been shown that the voting system has evolved, grown, and overall been affected both negatively and positively over a long period of time. This means that we owe it to ourselves to take advantage of our right to vote.

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Kemry M. Hughes, III, “Why I Believe Voting Is Effective For Change”

Voting is something we do to decide the president of the United States, making bills into law, electing mayors, council members, and various other very important decisions are made via voting. Voting can also be used to accomplish small things such as a vote between friends as to what game they should play, or where to go for lunch. To answer the question in the topic, I believe voting is an effective vehicle for change. For example in the 2012 general election there was an initiative to expand gambling in the State of Maryland called Question 7, also known as the Gaming Expansion Question. The measure required that just a simple majority of voters in Maryland voted yes for it to pass. This would allow existing establishments throughout the state of Maryland to expand their gaming rights. On the other hand, for the residents of Prince George’s County, where elected leadership was interested in building a casino that would spur major development, the voters needed to score a 51% vote majority to secure the rights for that development. This caused a need for a major campaign effort to garner the 51% vote and convince the majority of voters that this was in the best interest of the County. Because the campaign was successful, we now have the MGM Casino at the National Harbor, which has brought over $680 million in development, new roads, jobs, new business, and more tourists to the area. This illustrates how voting is a means for effective change. Another example of voting bringing change is the Smoke Free DC Act of 2006 which bans smoking in public places, in order to promote the overall health of the city. All of these changes have been very positive as they have brought more income and jobs to certain areas and helped others in the area of health.

Another way voting is an effective vehicle for change is that you have the choice as to which candidate you would like to vote for, and can hear their causes, plans for the future, and goals while in office. Voting can help voice the citizens’ call for change and improvement in their communities, jobs and families. Any American citizen can vote to voice their opinion right? Well you see, in the past voting was limited to only rich white landowners above the age of 21. In addition to that the voting rights of certain groups were violated in many ways. During the early part of the 19th century black people finally got the right to vote. But that was not good enough because knowing that most black people could not read or did not have money, in 1870 voting literacy tests and taxes were imposed, and until 1920 women could not vote in the United States. But black people and women were not the only groups with struggles to exercise a right given to American citizens. For example, people with limited understanding of English were not provided assistance at poll sites until 1975. And people with mental disabilities had to struggle casting votes all the way up until 1982.

My hopes for voting are that people who are able to vote actually go out and vote, without any struggle or barriers to that right. Voicing one’s opinion for change is very important and most people eligible to vote just don’t. For example in the 2020 election it is estimated that 239,247,182 people were eligible to vote, however voter turnout was only 159,690,457 people. This means that only 62% of people eligible to vote actually did. 62% is a better number than 1996 having only 49% of eligible voters actually voting. I believe that if voter turnout for not just presidential campaigns, but campaigns for school board members, city council members, senators and attorney generals were higher then there could be a lot of improvement in many communities, not only in DC but across the entire nation. improvements such as less gun violence, helping to decrease poverty rates, better zoning for schools, and many other quality of life issues.

In 2022 I hope that there will be higher voter turnout rates for elections of all kinds. And also that voter rights will no longer be violated because the average citizen’s way of asking for major change is via vote. As demonstrated before, voting can be an effective means for change and in the right hands, voting is almost like a hammer and chisel, with the people being craftsmen who shape a better future for us all.

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Amari Ataiyero, “Is Voting the Vehicle for Effective Change?”

Voting is a positive vehicle and impact for change. By voting, you have the chance to influence your local and national governments. Many countries do not allow their citizens to have the same voting rights as we do in the United States. Voting has shown to be a positive change for minorities and the democratic party. But voting is not the only vehicle for change, those who vote must be active in their vote. This means that they should be active in their local communities to ensure that their elected officials are keeping their work to stay in office. If you don’t view and stay active, you don’t have a voice. You should always vote, even if you do not want to. Many people died so that most of us would have the right to vote. Voting is your civic duty that was fought for and makes a difference in your everyday life.

Local elections are important because the community can decide who they want to represent them locally, such as the mayor. If the mayor him or herself cannot make a change, they can talk to someone that has that higher power to see if the change can be made. In national elections, people vote one who they want for president based on their personal views, to see if the president can make changes and differences based on voters’ needs and wants.

Voting is important because it allows the community to decide who they want in charge to assist in changing, fixing, creating new activities, laws, safety measures, etc. It also allows a local community to have things that they might need and what can protect them. Voting locally can lead to good results on voting nationally. If local communities vote for the right official, that is put into office, they could influence a national representative like the president of the United States to create change. Both mayor’s and presidents have votes of their own as well, within their offices to help make decisions.

Without voting, there would be a lot that could not happen in the world. There would be no structure for our country or our people. Voting affects our education system, our workforce, housing, and health care. Voting can help change your quality of life such as public transportation and the national minimum wage. Not voting is allowing others to decide what your future will be like. If you pay taxes, voting helps you decide how your tax money is spent. Voting is your responsibility as a citizen and empowers you.

Voting has been a great vehicle for change because so many people have been bout to get through different trials, elections, and lawsuits, etc. I jury votes during trials and lawsuits, registered citizens vote in local and national elections. Voting also helps fight for the people that haven’t done wrong during jury trials. Voting also allows judges to think hard and discuss who will win a challenge or a prize on a game show or a death survival run like a squid game. Voting is helpful and useful in so many ways.

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Kiye Corbitt, “Voting is the Vehicle for Change”

Voting is the vehicle for change because it lets you choose leaders, like the president and governors. When you vote for the right person, you can help create history. Voting can let you create history by creating firsts for the country, like the first Black president, or the first female president. That is a change that voting helps create. Voting changes the leaders. That supports the fact that it is the vehicle for change because changing the leaders will help the country support certain people and stop oppression. Effective voting requires research and evaluating your values which can be difficult, but it’s worth the time and the effort.

Unfortunately voting can also cause change in a negative way. If a person is elected into a seat of power that does not have the best intentions for the overall good, they can undermine the laws of our country. For example, presidents have been voted in that have tried to “Make America great again” by oppressing people, losing allies, and even trying to start wars. If more people had voted, maybe a different outcome may have come to be, and we would have the first female, as our president. This supports the fact that voting creates change by showing how voting can change who is oppressed, who our allies are, and who our enemies are.

My third reason why voting is the vehicle for change is because people have fought so we can create change by voting. Civil rights activists like Martin Luther King, have fought and died for our rights. There have been many boycotts and marches for voting rights, this shows how important it is because people use their time to fight for being able to vote. Voting is important, we should honor their sacrifices by voting.

Lastly, I believe voting creates change, because voting itself has changed. Voting used to be a thing for whites. Blacks used to be allowed to vote, technically, but they had to take impossible tests to prove that they were smart enough to vote. These tests, as I said, were impossible and no one was able to pass them. Even after these tests were gone, racist groups like the KKK would murder blacks if they tried to vote. But now, voting has changed. Blacks vote a lot now, without having to worry about impossible literacy test or being lynched by racists. Even though a lot of blacks get to vote nowadays, there are lots of them that don’t get to vote because of unfair felony convictions. That shows that voting not only starts change, but has also been through many changes itself.

Overall voting has changed. It’s been through changes and inspires changes, whether good or bad. It is extremely important to vote and research who you are voting for. If you don’t, someone bad can be selected to be in a seat of power, then oppress you. Another reason it’s important to vote is because it will let you elect someone good into a seat of power, and help stop others from being oppressed. Voting is the vehicle for change, and we, as Americans, must drive it.

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Kole Corbitt, “Is Voting the Vehicle for Effective Change?”

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” Unfortunately, when voting is because of greed, hate, or discrimination, it can be a vehicle for negative change and move us backwards. I believe that voting is the vehicle for effective change, because it makes a difference, and when done fairly and for the right reasons, it moves us forward.

Voting has a long history in this country but not everyone was able to exercise this right. Black men were not allowed to vote until the 15th Amendment was passed in 1870 and white women were not allowed to vote until the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920. Even with these amendments Black people were lynched, bombed, and beat up for trying to vote and they often had to take unfair reading and writing tests. Early on people like Frederick Douglass fought for the rights of women and Black men, even though it took a long time to make a difference and move us forward.

During the civil rights movement Black people kept fighting for the right to vote, even though it was dangerous. They knew that if they could vote, they could change laws and elect people that cared about their rights. They knew that voting was a way to end segregation, in school, at work, and in our community to move us forward.

In addition to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., lots of people in the 1960s fought for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because they knew that voting could bring about change. Rosa Parks took a literacy test three times and paid a high poll tax so that she could vote. Malcolm X encouraged us to vote wisely because he knew the power of voting. Fannie Lou Hamer was beat up and lost her job trying to register people to vote. Congressman John Lewis spent his entire life trying to make “Good Trouble” because he knew about the power of voting. All of these people and many more have made sacrifices to move us forward.

In conclusion, voting is the vehicle of effective change. Although I have eight years before I can vote, I always will. I am glad that I now have the right, I am thankful that so many people fought for that right, and many of my ancestors died for my rights. Some people are still trying to take away our rights to vote, but I will fight not to let that happen, even if I have crawl, because voting keeps us moving forward.

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1 Comment

  1. These kids did an awesome job of expressing and interpreting the right, importance, and effect voting has on insuring that oppression ceases. A special shout out to my grandsons Kiye and Kole Corbitt, you are becoming trailblazers!

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