Founding Fifteen Campus Connections: Simpson College

This year, AGF is celebrating ten years of impact with the Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere Program. One of “Founding Fifteen” campuses, the Campus Team at Simpson College reflected on the past ten years and their hopes for the future of civic engagement on the campus in Indianola, Iowa.

Simpson College has been an Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere campus since the program began back in 2014! What barriers to voting existed on campus prior to 2014?

Our team is not aware of any significant barriers to voting prior to 2014, but the establishment of the Vote Everywhere program at Simpson College certainly has increased student access to voter registration and voting methods.

From what you know of how things were in 2014, when it comes to voting and civic engagement on campus, what are some of the most noticeable changes?

The most notable changes and improvements include:

  • The institutionalization of civic engagement and voter registration presentations in all Foundations 1 first-year seminar classes at Simpson. Our AGF Vote Everywhere team makes hourlong presentations on democratic engagement and voting to all first-year students each fall as part of the curricular emphasis on civic engagement embedded in the Foundations first year seminar program.
  • Making it easier for students to obtain official copies of their residential lease agreements by keeping the Student Development office open late on general Election Days. In Iowa, voters may register at the polls in person on Election Day, but must have both photo ID and proof of residence to do so.
  • The AGF Vote Everywhere team has a robust and growing social media presence that allows them to reach all segments of the student body.
  • The Culver Public Policy Center and AGF Vote Everywhere team have hosted dozens of programs and initiatives on topics ranging from disability voting rights and media literacy to local candidate forums and issue forums. Culver Center programming on a broad range of public policy issues helps to foster an engaged, informed student body.
How has the general campus’ perception of voting and civic engagement evolved since 2014?

The strongest evidence of our campus’ attitudes towards voting and civic engagement comes from our NSLVE reports and self-reported intention to vote collected in periodic surveys of the student body. In 2012 and 2016, roughly 70% of students said they planned to vote in the November general election. In 2020, we saw a huge boost in voting turnout intention, with 87% of students polled said they had either already voted (due to early voting) or planned to vote in person. Our NSLVE reports on actual student voter turnout reflected this increase in engagement, with turnout increasing from 60.6% in 2016 to 75.3% in 2020. Midterm election turnout also increased substantially from 34.5% in 2014 to 50.2% in 2018.

How has your Campus Team reflected on the legacy of Andrew Goodman, James Earl Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Freedom Summer 1964 over these ten years?

The Culver Public Policy Center and AGF Vote Everywhere team hosted screenings of the documentary, Neshoba: The Price of Freedom, in 2015 and 2024. Historical background on Freedom Summer and Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner is included in Foundations I civic engagement presentations. AGF Ambassadors at Simpson learn about the legacy of Freedom Summer during orientation and training and regularly share the importance of their sacrifices when engaging with fellow students.

What are some ways that the Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere program has supported your efforts on campus to increase voter and civic engagement?

In every way imaginable – supporting and training Ambassadors, providing resources and encouragement, and maintaining a strong focus on nonpartisan voter engagement work!

What are your hopes and dreams for what civic engagement will look like on campus ten years from now?

We are working to get lease agreements uploaded to our campus intranet so students can access them any time. We would like to see the college more engaged beyond the Ambassador team and civic engagement more ingrained in the curriculum, expanding beyond Foundations I first-year seminar classes. We would like to see more collaborations with academic departments like political science, more partnerships with other student organizations, more focus on voting rights for students and others with disabilities, and continuing to increase voter registration and voter turnout rates.

What are the team’s main goals to increase and support voter engagement and turnout in 2024?
  • Increase our campus to a consistent 90% voter registration rate, 70% voting rate in presidential elections, and 50% voting rate in midterm elections.
  • Increase voting rates for male students, athletes, STEM and business majors.
  • Make voting even more a part of the campus culture by implementing more required institutionalized civic engagement lessons and changes by 2025.
  • Increase our presence and following on social media platforms for all @SimpCoAGF channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok) by posting weekly voter engagement facts, information, and updates through the November 2024 General Election.
  • Successfully present on voter registration and civic engagement in all Foundations I first year seminar courses during the first two months of the fall 2024 semester.
  • Further utilizing the SimpleTexting services to provide urgent election information to students leading up to the 2024 General Election.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Thanks to AGF for your wonderful support and partnership over the past decade!

Stay tuned as we continue our Campus Connections series, featuring each of our Andrew Goodman Vote Everywhere Campus Teams, the impact made on campus, and how they are living the legacy during this pivotal point in our nation’s history.