Making Democracy Work Student Essay Contest

This essay contest is not being sponsored currently
Maximum Award: 
$1,000 & trip to Washington, D.C.
See comments
For students in grades 6 through 12

This essay contest is not being sponsored currently

The United States Capitol Historical Society ask you to write an essay, the topic is: Why is voting rights an important issue in American History? The competition is called “Making Democracy Work” Student Essay Contest.  

You must cite sources in your essay such as the U.S. Constitution, newspaper and magazine articles, and books.  Web sites can be used with care.

You should consider the following:

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 will be 50 years old in 2015. Throughout the history of the United States the right to vote has been extended to ever wider groups of citizens, including African Americans, women, Native Americans, and those between the ages of 18 and 21. Why is voting so important to this nation, and why has the extension of voting rights been such an important and controversial issue in American history? Some issues you might want to consider in your essay: 1) the relationship between voting and citizenship; 2) how, when, and why voting rights were extended to various groups, and the arguments for and against such decisions; 3) how voting rights at various times have been denied or restricted at state and local levels to some citizens; 4) and what threats remain today to a citizen’s right to vote?


Entries will be judged on the depth of their content, the mastery of the topic, and the skill with which they are written. Students should develop a point of view on the issue and demonstrate critical thinking, using appropriate examples, reasons and other evidence to support their position. Essays should be free of grammatical errors and should be clear, concise and well-organized.



  1. Submitted essays should be in 12-point type, doublespaced and with 1-inch page margins.
  2. Essays must have a title, and they must be within the word limit for each division: Junior Division (grades 6, 7, and 8) 600 to 800 words; Senior Division (grades 9, 10, 11, 12) 800-1,200 words. To ensure fairness, do not put your name, address, school or any other identifying information on the essay itself.
  3. Sources must be used and must be cited and credited in a bibliography, consistent with an accepted citation style.  For citation and bibliography style, please consult either the MLA (Modern Language Association) Style Guide or Kate L. Turabian, Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.
  4. All fields on the registration form must be completed.
  5. Each submitted essay must also include an essay adviser form (see below), signed to verify the essay is the original work of the student.
  6. The essay, registration form, and essay adviser form may be submitted by mail or by email. 

U.S. Capitol Historical Society
200 Maryland Avenue, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002