The Demon Spider of Ulster County: How Six ‘I Voted’ Stickers Won the Internet

The Demon Spider of Ulster County: How Six ‘I Voted’ Stickers Won the Internet

It takes a special kind of talent to make people laugh even though they’re living through an absolute hot mess, otherwise known as politics in America. Hudson Rowan, a 14-year-old from Marbletown, New York, is extremely talented in this regard. He’s designed what has become the internet’s favourite “I Voted” sticker. He gives me hope. Or at least a way to giggle through spiraling despair.

Rowan’s now-legendary sticker, which features a neon human head on spider’s legs a la Toy Story’s iconic Babyface, catapulted Ulster County’s local online sticker contest to internet stardom. As its name suggests, the contest aims to select a design to use for its “I Voted” stickers for its Nov. 8 general elections later this year. The stickers were created by students between the ages of 13 to 18 from the county’s schools. Rowan’s design has, so far, received the most votes of any contender.

Local elected officials are hoping that the contest stimulates greater turnout and inspires other election officials across the country to promote participation among young people who will soon become voters. Ashley Dittus, the Democratic commissioner at the Ulster County Board of Elections, told Gizmodo in an email that election board staff and the county government have “fully embraced” this viral moment.

“Using online platforms that are popular among those people, like TikTok and Instagram, can be powerful tools to inform voters of their rights, how they can register to vote and ultimately how they can cast their ballot when they are old enough to do so,” she said.

The contest, which is open for anyone to vote, will run until July 29. Check out all the designs below:

When Being Different Sets You Apart From the Crowd

The Demon Spider of Ulster County: How Six ‘I Voted’ Stickers Won the Internet

Prompted to enter the contest by his mum, Rowan began his design by drawing a head. He quickly came to the conclusion that it “seemed kind of plain, seemed boring,” he told the Times Herald-Record earlier this month. So, he decided “to make it not boring by adding the legs” and then added a bunch of colour to make it more vibrant.

“I did not think I was going to get as much attention as I did,” Rowan said, according to the outlet. “I thought since mine was very different from the others, I didn’t think mine was going to get a lot of attention because of that, but I was wrong. It was exactly the opposite.”

Although Rowan’s design has received the lion’s share of said attention — more than 211,500 online votes, or 93% of the online ballots — his is only one of the six designs selected as finalists in the contest. All the designs deserve a resounding round of applause, in my humble opinion. They’re sleek, creative, and better than anything I could ever draw.

Ulster County Has ‘Fully Embraced’ Its Viral Moment, Courtesy of Its Sticker Contest

The Demon Spider of Ulster County: How Six ‘I Voted’ Stickers Won the Internet

Dittus said that reactions to the contest have been overwhelmingly positive, something she considers remarkable during a time of extreme partisanship and divisive political discourse.

“Public employees, who are often locally based, as we are, should embrace technology and new ways of communicating with people outside of the traditional forms of media,” Dittus said.

Giving Power to the People You Want to Communicate With

The Demon Spider of Ulster County: How Six ‘I Voted’ Stickers Won the Internet

In addition, Dittus pointed out that in her view, it’s more effective to “give the power to the people you are attempting to engage with.” She explained that there’s no way that an “elder millennial” like herself — she’s 36 — could have come up with a design that organically reaches teens. According to Dittus, it would be “embarrassing” if she even tried.

“By giving the young people the agency to make their own statement, in our example through art, people like Hudson and the other finalists were given the platform to directly engage with their own community,” she said.

‘Never Underestimate the Power of Gen Z’

The Demon Spider of Ulster County: How Six ‘I Voted’ Stickers Won the Internet

Melissa, a 15-year-old from Gardiner, New York who requested Gizmodo only use her first name for privacy reasons, is another one of the contest’s finalists. She first became inspired to participate in the contest last year when she accompanied her mum to the polls to vote. While she was there, Melissa received an “I Voted” sticker, designed by the winner of that year’s contest, and a booklet announcing the contest.

At that time, she thought the sticker “looked really good” and remarked that she hadn’t seen one like it before. Once the county started advertising the contest this year, she thought she should give it a shot. Melissa said she appreciated that the contest gave her a chance to use her voice in her community as “teens rarely get opportunities to vote and express themselves when it comes to politics.”

As for her design, which you can see above, Melissa said she chose a heart because of the famous “I Love NY” catch phrase and because she wanted to show her love for Ulster County.

“The messages I hope my design sends people is that every vote counts, to never underestimate the power of Gen Z because we are the future, and you should always rise up and use your voice!” Melissa wrote in an email.

Can a Viral ‘I Voted’ Sticker Contest Boost Election Turnout?

The Demon Spider of Ulster County: How Six ‘I Voted’ Stickers Won the Internet

Dittus, the election board commissioner, said the county is excited to see whether the contest impacts its overall election turnout in November. In the meantime, the county is using attention it’s been given to inform voters of a special election and primary voting happening on August 23. Voters aren’t used to going out in mid-August, Dittus explained, and it’s been challenging to let them know it’s happening.

Ulster County will give out the five runner-up stickers during the August election, Dittus said. When asked about her favourite design, she remained coy.

“I actually haven’t voted in the contest, lol. I’ll remain impartial as a good elections official,” Dittus said.