Undergraduate Essay Competition

The Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy is pleased to announce its winners for our seventh annual undergraduate essay competition.  Each year, students are invited to submit essays on a timely question related to foundational freedoms and responsibilities in liberal democracies.

For 2024, we invited responses to the question:

Should citizens be required to pass the US citizenship test before they can vote?

Our 2024 Winners Are:



Mallory FirariEarning Your Rights: A Case Against Voter Eligibility Tests

Mallory opposes the proposal. She argues that “mandating a citizenship test for voting undermines a fundamental tenet of liberal democracy: the inherent and inviolable nature of rights.”


Benjamin RothoveTowards a More Informed Electorate

Benjamin suggests further consideration of the proposal because “Democracy is an inherently weak system of government, while uninformed democracy is a dangerous system of government.”


Felicity KlingeleChallenging Barriers to Suffrage: Critiquing the Proposal of Civics Tests for Voter Eligibility in the United States

Felicity argues that the proposal would pose undue barriers to participation in democracy. Any policy regarding voting, she argues, should advance both participation and education, without impeding either.

Previous Competitions

2023 Topic

“Is it time to abolish lifetime tenure for US Supreme Court justices? If so, what should replace lifetime tenure? If not, why not?”

Winners: Bryce Mitchell, Matt Wadhwa, Kylie Ruprecht

2022 Topic

“Should the federal government be allowed to mandate vaccines?”

Winners: Renxi Li, Aaron Dorf, Zachary Orlowsky, Taryn Hanson

2020 Topic

“Should patriotism be taught at UW Madison?”

Winners: Jacob Bernstein, Nils Peterson, Lucas Olsen, Cleo Rank, Tony Mattioli

2018 Topic

“Should the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution—which states that ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside’—be repealed or modified to restrict more precisely the definition of who may claim citizenship?”

Winners: Dana Coggio, Ben Johnson, August Schultz

2016 Topic

“Are the goals of fostering freedom of speech on campus and of fostering a welcoming environment for all students incompatible?”

Winners:  Joshua GutzmannRebekah CullumZawadi Carroll

2021 Topic

“Should the United States make military or national service compulsory?”

Winners: Maxwell Ruzika, Dana Craig, Jonah Edelman, Ellen Stojak, Nicholas Carl

2019 Topic

“Should social media platforms be permitted to censor controversial speech?”

Winners: Anitha Quintin, Lucas Olsen, Matthew Kass

2017 Topic

“Should the U.S. Electoral College be abolished, reformed, or left to the states to determine?”

Winners: Ean Quick, Garrett McLaughlin, Joshua Gutzmann