On VRA Anniversary, electionlineWeekly Highlights Washington State Kids’ Art Contest



[Emily Cain artwork courtesy of Washington Elections]

As you probably heard, yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Voting Rights Act, with speeches and proclamations everywhere about a federal law that has played a huge role in the nation’s recent history – and one which is at the center of current legal and political controversies about its future.

But my favorite story from yesterday was one brought to us by electionlineWeekly’s Mindy Moretti, who reviewed the news coverage and opinion from across the nation about the VRA – but then added another story that can’t help but give you hope about the commitment of the next generation of voters to the ideals espoused in the Act. In particular, she shared the following blog post from the Washington State Elections Division from earlier this year:

Emily Cain began [her] morning at Burien’s Cedarhurst Elementary School like she has many times before it. But what was a routine day for the fourth-grader took a major change around 9:30.

Her mom and her little brother unexpectedly entered her classroom. Then walked in a lady she’s never met, Secretary of State Kim Wyman. Standing before Emily, her teacher, Kevin Plough, and her classmates, the Secretary of State explained why she was there – to announce that Emily was the winner of the statewide Kids’ Art Contest.

“I could tell Emily had no idea why we were there, which made it really special when I told her she won the contest,” Wyman said. “It was fun to surprise Emily in front of her teacher and classmates with the big news! Congratulations to her and her family!”

Emily’s winning artwork, featured [above], will be shown in the 3.2 million copies of the statewide General Election Voters’ Pamphlet that will be sent to Washington residents in October. Emily’s drawing and those of the runners-up will be displayed this fall in the Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen’s office in the state Capitol.

The annual contest, sponsored by our Elections Division, is for fourth- and fifth-grade Washington students.  Nearly 300 students took part this year. The contest prompts a discussion with our youngest citizens about the importance of voting.

This year’s contest theme, “Every Vote is Equal!” celebrates 50 years of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark federal law that prohibits racial discrimination in voting. Civil rights activists Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks were on hand to watch President Lyndon B. Johnson sign the bill into law on August 6, 1965.

“Washingtonians and Americans today could not truly call themselves free if the Voting Rights Act didn’t exist,” Wyman said. “I hope the students who took part in this year’s Art Contest learned about this important law and how it’s helped give a voice to all citizens, regardless of skin color.”

The Kids’ Art Contest has been held since 2002.

I will admit upfront that I am a soft touch for any story about young people getting interested in elections, but I was especially pleased to see that, rhetoric aside, the ideals of the Voting Rights Act – including fairness to all voters regardless of race or language – are still important to our kids 50 years after its enactment. That’s a nice reminder given the uncertainty and controversy currently surrounding the Act. Congratulations to Emily Cain for her winning entry – and thanks to Secretary Wyman and the fantastic crew at the Washington State Elections Division for their sponsorship of this effort. As always, thanks also to my friend Mindy Moretti for finding and sharing this story and highlighting the power of the Voting Rights Act in a way that speeches and proclamations never could.

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