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A 14-year-old hopes his chaotic 'I Voted' sticker design brings people to the polls


Hudson Rowan never really considered himself an artist.

HUDSON ROWAN: But I might start looking into it after the - all the attention I've gotten from my recent sticker art.

SUMMERS: The 14-year-old's breakthrough piece.

HUDSON: It's a crazy, bulging eyes, mangled hair, looking off into the distance, crazy, like, spider-like robot legs shooting out of the sides. It kind of gives, like, a chaotic vibe when I see it.


You see; Hudson Rowan's mother, Molly, asked if he wanted to enter the Ulster County, N.Y., I voted sticker contest. I mean, anything to boost voter participation, right?

SUMMERS: And the spider robot humanoid is what Rowan thought voters would want to display to flex that they had done their civic duty come November.

ASHLEY DITTUS: I was just floored. I will never forget when I saw it.

SUMMERS: That's Ashley Dittus. She's a commissioner of the Ulster County Board of Elections.

DITTUS: I instantly smiled, and I had to show it to people. I just couldn't keep it to myself.

KELLY: Dittus says most of the submissions she's seen included red, white and blue, maybe images of mountains to represent their county in the Catskills. But she has never seen anything like this.

DITTUS: It was 4/20 when I saw it. So at first, I was like, is this a trick (laughter)?

KELLY: She says after Rowan's design became a finalist, it went viral on social media, and he has the votes on the county website to prove it.

DITTUS: I mean, we only have 125,000 voters. There's 180,000 residents.

SUMMERS: People who don't live there probably started voting, too. And by the end, Rowan's submission got nearly 230,000 votes. That is 94% of the total. And today he was officially declared the winner of the contest.

DITTUS: And so it certainly has gone beyond the scope of Ulster County. But that's great because the more people that are looking and exploring voting and what their options are - not just New York State residents but all over the place - that's how we get democracy to thrive.

SUMMERS: Dittus has received so many calls about the sticker, even from people asking about purchasing merch with Rowan's creature on it.

DITTUS: We've heard from our voters and, really, from people all over the country. It hits a nerve. It makes people on both sides of the aisle feel like, yep, this is what voting is like. This is what participating in democracy looks like in 2022.

SUMMERS: And Rowan has heard similar things from his growing following online.

HUDSON: When people go to vote, it's very chaotic. Everything's going on at once. All that and all the world right now with COVID and then the wars going on and then all the gun violence, politics right now - I don't know. I feel like that picture kind of represents it.

KELLY: Rowan may not have intended to capture the entire state of the world in his I voted sticker design, but he is thrilled that it's starting conversations about an institution he considers essential.

SUMMERS: So you lucky voters in Ulster County, you better clear your calendars for Election Day on November 8, and bring an extra doughnut or two for the poll workers to see if you can get more than one sticker.

HUDSON: Everyone needs to vote. And if people just stop voting, thinking their vote doesn't matter - if hundreds of thousands of people don't do that, then it's - yeah, that's bad.

KELLY: Hudson Rowan - artist, philosopher and patriot.

(SOUNDBITE OF HD SONG, "TALENT N DA BAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jonaki Mehta is a producer for All Things Considered. Before ATC, she worked at Neon Hum Media where she produced a documentary series and talk show. Prior to that, Mehta was a producer at Member station KPCC and director/associate producer at Marketplace Morning Report, where she helped shape the morning's business news.
Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.