Six spindly neon blue legs. A face half magenta, half purple. A bramble of rainbow spaghetti for hair, and 22 jagged teeth to match. Bloodred eyes that gaze into your very soul.
This is the face (and body and legs) of the 2022 midterm election, in all its horror and glory and generally weird vibes. A mascot for our collective unease. The hero the nation deserves.
And if you're a registered voter in New York's Ulster County, he's available now at a polling place near you.
Born in a county competition to design an "I Voted" sticker, the freaky little spider thing was designed by Hudson Rowan, a 14-year-old from Marbletown. Hudson's design won by a landslide, snagging a whopping 93% of the votes. More than 225,000 people voted in the online contest, far more than the county's entire population (voter fraud?!?!?).
The six-legged nightmare quickly became something of a hometown hero. The county's election commissioner dressed up as it for Halloween. A deputy mayor and a candidate for state Assembly memorialized it with actual tattoos. Its popularity has reached far beyond the county, too — T-shirts from Hudson's official merch shop are the must-have Election Day look, and Instagram featured it as a digital sticker. The actual stickers are going for over $50 a pop on eBay.
Hudson never imagined his art could be destined for such renown — in fact, he'd been reluctant to even enter the fray, only doing so to get his mom off his back.
"When she told me about it, I wasn’t totally, like, psyched on the idea. I don’t know, it wasn’t really my thing," Hudson said in an interview with CBS. "I thought if I submit this, my mom will stop asking me to submit it."
Hudson wasn't really sure how he landed on his artistic vision but said it's reminiscent of some of his earliest work. "When I was little, I used to paint a lot, and I used to paint these things I would call spider robots, which was just like a circle with legs," he said.
Ulster County saw record turnout for early voting, a phenomenon that the county board of elections commissioner, Ashley Dittus, said was at least in part due to enthusiasm for the stickers. “I think it’s getting people to come out and get excited about voting,” Dittus told Daily Freeman.
Polling sites went through so many of the stickers that election workers frequently had to restock the 500-count rolls, Dittus added, calling it "a good problem to have."
County residents have been proudly sporting their stickers this Election Day, with many saying they feel it encapsulates the spirit of their community.
"It’s all over everyone’s Instagram stories today — all the cool kids have the voting spider monster sticker right now," Tracey McGarry, a 20-year-old college student in New Paltz, told BuzzFeed News.
Ariana Carbonaro, a 29-year-old in New Paltz, told BuzzFeed News she loves the sticker because "it captures the eccentricity of the whole Hudson Valley."
"Everyone is wearing it around, some people said they were gonna frame it, and others were trying to bargain with the poll workers to get it if they absentee voted," she said.
It's hard to articulate why the creepy little character has blossomed into such a beloved symbol of democracy. Is it those beady little pupils? The way its chin connects directly to the legs? The way "I Voted" looks like it's scrawled in blood?
Tyler McCormick, a 38-year-old in Mount Tremper, had his own theories.
"I see the spider as a mirror," McCormick said. "Watching the news and living in the modern world takes a toll on all of us.
"But it still feels good to vote," he added. "The spider reminds us of that."