Royal Oak High School senior wins 2nd place for voting-focused documentary

By: Taylor Christensen | Royal Oak Review | Published April 18, 2024

 Sarah Barnett won second place in the annual C-SPAN StudentCam competition for her documentary, “Is Ranked Choice the Right Choice?”

Sarah Barnett won second place in the annual C-SPAN StudentCam competition for her documentary, “Is Ranked Choice the Right Choice?”

Photo provided by Royal Oak Schools


ROYAL OAK — Royal Oak High School senior Sarah Barnett won second place for her work on a documentary titled “Is Ranked Choice the Right Choice?”

Barnett utilized interviews, research and editing to create her documentary project, and she submitted it to the C-SPAN StudentCam competition in January.

C-SPAN television is a “public service created by the American Cable Television Industry,” according to C-SPAN provides students, teachers and the public access to live proceedings of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, as well as other forums where public policy is discussed.

StudentCam, the competition Barnett participated in, is an annual national video documentary competition encouraging students to “think critically about issues that affect our communities and our nation,” according to

This year’s topics the students could choose from were “In the next 20 years, what is the most important change that you’d like to see in America?” or “Over the past 20 years, what’s the most important change in America?”

Barnett chose to base her documentary on the first topic. Barnett said making videos is something she has always been interested in, and it serves as an escape from the less-creative class activities she does throughout the day.

“I have always been a person who has really enjoyed capturing memories, capturing moments,” she said. “I really enjoy being in front of the camera and being behind the camera; just getting to edit it feels like a very creative outlet for me.”

Her documentary, “Is Ranked Choice the Right Choice,” outlines what ranked choice voting is and how it affects a city like Royal Oak.

Barnett interviewed an array of individuals from Royal Oak to Ireland.

“I had to gather a lot of different interviews, and I wanted to gather a varying range of perspectives,” she said. “So I talked to, you know, a diplomat from Ireland, I talked to some people from my community, and then, you know, also had some failed interviews as well.”

Making a connection in Ireland was a “friend of a friend situation,” Barnett said.

Editing was the most time-consuming part, according to Barnett, and it even surprised her parents with the number of hours required to produce a five-minute documentary.

“I had to come into school for a couple of days on the weekends just to make sure it was done,” she said. “It definitely took, you know, 20 or so hours.”

Coming up with the idea of ranked choice voting came from her home life. Barnett said she and her family have “dinner table debates” at times regarding this topic, and it pushed her to want to investigate more.

“My sister is really into statistics and math, and she did a project about ranked choice voting and looking at statistics of the subject last year, so it kind of became a topic of discussion for my family,” she said.

Being 17 years old, Barnett felt it was her duty to learn about different kinds of voting, as she is almost to the age of being a voter.

“I want to analyze the different possibilities of change in the government,” she said.

Barnett was shocked to find out the news that she won second place, saying that politics is not her first choice of something to research.

“The main thing I enjoy about broadcasting is sports media, so I was definitely a little bit out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I was really shocked when I got second place.”

After high school, Barnett will be attending the University of Michigan to pursue film and television media.

“I am super excited about it, but I feel like I don’t totally know what form of media I am interested in, but it is definitely something worth pursuing for me,” she said. “So whether that be graphic design, broadcasting or film production, I’m definitely interested in that subject area.”

To view Barnett’s piece, visit