In the end, the second annual Ulster County “I Voted” sticker contest was a landslide, with an irreverent submission by 14-year-old Hudson Rowan, a freshman at Rondout Valley High School.
Rowan earned over 228,000 votes in the month-long, six-way race that ended last week, around 93 percent of all votes cast. To put that into demographic perspective, according to the 2020 U.S. Census, Ulster County has 181,851 residents.
Instead of using traditional patriotic motifs, Rowan submitted a drawing of a wild-eyed, widely smiling human head on insect legs rendered in bold psychedelic colors. The contest quickly went viral on social media, leading to coverage by the New York Times, NPR, CBS News and other media outlets around the globe.
“It’s been so nice to get so much positive support from people,” said Hudson in mid-July. (I was) very surprised.”
The other five finalists in the county’s contest also received impressive vote tallies, with fellow Marbletown residents, 14-year-old Wendy Stewart and 13-year-old Phoebe Stewart, receiving around 7,400 and 1,500 votes respectively. Also among the finalists are 18-year-old New Paltz resident Kaeden Bredberg (2,500 votes), 18-year-old New Paltz resident Shafil Sabbir (1,300 votes) and a 15-year-old from Gardiner named Melissa (1,800 votes), whose last name is not public.
The viral popularity of Rowan’s design and the “I Voted” sticker contest is a good thing, said Ashley Dittus (D), who alongside John Quigley (R) is an election commissioner on the Ulster County Board of Elections.
“We have been overwhelmed and pleasantly surprised by how far reaching our ‘I Voted’ sticker contest has gone this year,” said Dittus. “The contest was launched two years ago as a part of our youth voter engagement program, and I think that because this is a contest for and by youth that it has resonated with younger people in a way that I have never seen before.”
Dittus said she hopes the buzz in July will bring people out to the polls in November.
Hudson said he was pleased his design was bringing attention to the election process.
“I would be very happy if I influenced people to go out and vote,” he said.
The Ulster County Board of Elections’ “I Voted” sticker contest ran through Friday, July 29. Rowan’s winning submission will be used on Election Day on Tuesday, November 8, with stickers available beginning with early voting on Saturday, October 29. The Board of Elections also decided to run a special series for the primary and special voting session on Tuesday, August 23, beginning with early voting on Saturday, August 13, with all five runner-up stickers being printed.