Pierce County Auditor Julie Anderson has seen some close elections while presiding over the ballot counts for the region. But one of the closest to call is the Gig Harbor Law Day Poster and Essay Contest.
Anderson gave the keynote address at the event. She was also a judge in the contest. The Law Day concert just finished its first year, and the Gig Harbor Municipal Court hopes that next year it will grow even more.
The contest encouraged students in the Gig Harbor area to use words and pictures to express themselves. The weeks-long submission and judging period culminated in a celebration featuring lots of red, white and blue, balloons, family and friends. The theme for 2014 was “Every Vote Counts.”
Students in kindergarten through 12th grade submitted posters and essays to the contest to win money, gift cards and ribbons. All participants received a certificate and all the work is displayed in the halls of the Civic Center.
Sample topics include speaking out against domestic violence, the right to same-sex marriage and fighting against animal cruelty.
Anderson, in her address, touched on what made judging the contest something she’ll never forget.
“Regardless of what your age is,” she told the gathered students, “you cared about somebody other than yourself.”
The judges had a hard time making the call. Gig Harbor City Prosecutor Stan Glisson said the decision was difficult. He was stunned by the level of sincerity and nuance in the entries.
On hand for the celebration were Anderson, Municipal Court Judge Michael Dunn and Gig Harbor Mayor Pro Tem Steve Eckberg, bedecked in a U.S. flag print tie. He stressed the importance of each vote cast in each election. After all, he’s on the City Council because of an election.
Those who entered the contest took away more than certificates and prizes — there was a take-away message from Anderson in her speech. She told them that it was important they not lose a sense of empathy when voting. She also challenged them to build off of empathy and dig for answers. To always question and research each candidate.
“Be a detective and do some research,” she said. “Don’t just go with your gut. Get some facts.”
Anderson had those that gathered stand. Then she encouraged large swaths of the audience to sit until finally only a few were left standing.
Each time a group sat, she labeled them: People that aren’t registered to vote, people not old enough to vote and, strikingly, people who can vote but just don’t.
Nineteen percent of registered voters turned out in February, Anderson said. That’s hard for her, the person who sends and counts ballots, to see.
“I do everything but mail (out) the pencil,” she joked.
Her message was simple: Vote. And before voting, research your vote. She told those who entered to “be a citizen, not a spectator.”
Heidi Gerling, program director for the Cheney Branch of the Boys and Girls Club, thanked all those that attended.
“It took adults to make this event come together, but it took the youth to make it happen,” she said.
First place essay
Jace Donnelly, eighth grade, St. Nicholas Catholic School.
Brynn Beets, third grade, Purdy Elementary.
Rachel Ringer, ninth grade, Peninsula High School.
Second place essay
Quinn Drathman, eighth grade, St. Nicholas Catholic School.
Sophia Casello, third grade, Purdy Elementary.
First place poster
Molly Clark, sixth grade, Key Peninsula Middle School.
Justin Dennis, kindergarten, Purdy Elementary.
Second place poster
Hallie Hicks, sixth grade, Key Peninsula Middle School.
Mercedez Carter, kindergarten, Vaughn Elementary.
Judges’ choice awards
Ruby Heisley, sixth grade, Key Peninsula Middle School.
Shelby Burns, sixth grade, Key Peninsula Middle School.
Lillian Roberts, sixth grade, Key Peninsula Middle School.
Karen Miller: 253-358-4155 firstname.lastname@example.org