AMBASSADOR SPOTLIGHT: MacKenzie Bills, Simpson College
MacKenzie Bills is a junior at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa majoring in Political Science and International Relations with minors in Religion and French. President and founder of Simpson Votes, MacKenzie is passionate about civic engagement and voter education. MacKenzie has served as an AGF Vote Everywhere Ambassador at Simpson College for the 2014-2015 academic year.
What voting or civic engagement problem have you identified on campus?
This past fall, we saw Simpson College students go to the polls without the proper identification, i.e. their exact residence on campus. To register to vote and vote on Election day you need to show residency – a legal statement saying where you live. Our school technically only has one address and all mail goes to that one mailbox and then gets distributed from there. In Iowa, however, your mailbox can’t be the same place where you actually sleep at night. So students weren’t able to register to vote and vote on Election date.
What did your Vote Everywhere team do to solve the problem?
We sat down with our school Residence Life, county auditors’ office, and bi-partisan organizations on campus to discuss the situation. We worked with our school to create a document that states exactly where the students live – the solution is a “Lease Agreement”. The Lease Agreement contains the name of the student, the address they reside, their mailbox address, and Simpson’s authorization with a signature from the Director of Residence Life.
How has The AGF helped prepare (i.e. training) and/or support your work?
The Andrew Goodman Foundation has helped us focus the issue. There are a lot of issues that face college students – The AGF helped us focus on the most pressing and think through the how-tos of problem solving. Finally, they added legitimacy to our name and the problem we resolved.
How does your Vote Everywhere team work with other campus groups?
We worked with Simpson Votes, the Culver Public Policy center, and political groups to promote, communicate and support the solution we put forth.
What changed as a result of your initiative?
I feel more confident and I’m more respected on campus by my peers, the faculty, and the administration for my ideas and solutions.
What does it mean to Vote Everywhere?
Students on the ground working for these national issues. A success here on my campus is a success on other campuses – if we’re all working on an issue, it adds up.