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2006 Worthington Essay Prize

Worthington Essay Contest Prize Winners, 2006:


Shocked by the low turnout in elections for state office, a group of powerful leaders in business, education, finance, and politics gathers secretly in Austin to consider what to do. If they can agree on a change to promote, they will put all their muscle behind it. But, after preliminary discussion shows deep rifts in the group, they are unsure how to proceed. A brilliant member proposes that they convene a jury of Plan II students to advise them as to what makes the most sense. The first step is for each student on the jury to write a statement in favor of one of the following proposals:

A. Our system feeds on financial incentives. Give voters a tax break. You may design your own tax incentive—set aside a month each year during which shoppers who present evidence of having voted are exempt from sales tax, exempt voters from the motor vehicle tax, or what you will.

B. Many eligible voters don’t vote because they don’t know what is at issue. Introduce an education requirement for voter eligibility, comparable to the requirement for the naturalization of immigrants. The percentage of eligible voters who vote will rise if fewer are eligible and if all of those who are eligible have the knowledge they need for casting votes wisely. Again, you may propose your own standards.

C. Many voters don’t vote because neither party represents their values or interests. Introduce multiple-member districts for the legislature, with cumulative voting or some other system of proportional representation. That way, Libertarians and Greens and other minor parties would stand a good chance of placing their people in the legislature, and voters with those values would have a greater incentive to go to the polls. A system of representation might also be designed along these lines to give proportional representation to ethnic minorities.

D. Many voters stay home because the outcome is already known. Outlaw the current way of drawing lines to create safe districts. Redistrict for electoral diversity, so that as many districts as possible have real horse races.


In your essay, address how you think voters of your generation would respond, but you should also consider citing research on older voters, when it is appropriate.

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