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Student Success

Democracy Bus part of Miami junior’s passion for civic engagement

Behind ideation of Mollie Duffy is a constant drive for protection of voting rights

Mollie Duffy at a tabling event on Miami University's Oxford campus
Student Success

Democracy Bus part of Miami junior’s passion for civic engagement

Have a question about registering to vote? Ask Mollie Duffy.

Need a ride to drop off an absentee ballot or vote early in-person for November’s upcoming election? Duffy can help with that, too. 

Duffy has become a reliable voting information resource for Miami University students. From working tabling events to organizing the upcoming Democracy Bus, Duffy’s passion for civic engagement shines through. 

“It isn’t an average day for me if I’m not texted with a question about voting,” Duffy said. “I never could have anticipated my campus-wide reputation for being the go-to source of voting resources and information.”  

Not just on campus. Duffy was the first Miami student to join Oxford’s League of Women Voters chapter.

A junior Public Administration major from Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Duffy also interned for the U.S. Department of Transportation and serves as a fellow for the Transformative Justice Coalition that works to empower Gen Z and Millennial voters nationwide. At Miami, she currently serves as a Civic Engagement Fellow for Miami’s Wilks Institute for Leadership and Service.

Soon, Duffy will be featured in a German documentary titled “Democracy in America,” expected to air March 19 on ARD, a public-service broadcaster. Filming takes place Nov. 3-5 in Oxford and focuses on Duffy’s work with the Democracy Bus, a project that helps Miami students vote early at the Butler County Board of Elections.

Students can register by Nov. 1 to ride the bus, which leaves at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4 from the Shriver Center. Duffy said the bus will also be used for the upcoming primary in March and presidential election in November 2024. 

Funds for the Democracy Bus came through the Hawk Tank fast-pitch initiative created by the MIAMI Women Giving Circle. Duffy pitched her idea during the April session and was awarded $7,050 for the project.

The Democracy Bus concept was born in response to Ohio’s new voter ID requirements, which went into effect this year.

“I hope that this project will drive democracy forward, one student at a time,” Duffy said. “The Democracy Bus is a part of a greater initiative to keep students informed and engaged in our democracy. 

“Students care about voting. They just need the resources to do so.”

Duffy’s interest in civic engagement began in high school with an opportunity to train as a poll worker. The experience was so positive that Duffy wondered what else she might be able to do.

When she arrived at Miami, Duffy learned of the Wilks Institute. She applied to be a civic fellow, where she still works today.

Elizabeth Wardle, director of the Roger and Joyce Howe Center for Writing Excellence and the co-president of voter services of the League of Women Voters of Oxford, met Duffy through the league. The two have collaborated on campus, including for the upcoming Action for Democracy event at the Howe Center on Oct. 25. They held another version of this event this past May. 

Students and league members will help staff “action stations,” which are designed to engage attendees on how to make their voices heard in government. Stations have information on the new voter ID requirements, how to write op-eds, how to call representatives, how to write and give testimony, and more.

“It’s a good way to get the community and Miami students working together to get people active,” Wardle said.

Wardle was impressed with Duffy’s efforts on the Democracy Bus, saying it “couldn’t have come at a better time” to help students vote early and drop off absentee ballots.

“She had a great idea and executed it at the right time,” Wardle said. “Gen Z has a lot at stake. It’s encouraging to me that students seem to know and are paying attention and taking action.”

Duffy’s drive is what caught the attention of the team behind the “Democracy in America” documentary. As part of Civic Influencers, a national nonpartisan organization that seeks to increase engagement among voters, Duffy is helping motivate young people to have their voices heard.

Her work with that group inspired the filmmakers to reach out, leading to a 40-minute phone conversation about Gen Z voters. 

“I was a little bit shocked and surprised they found me,” Duffy said. “I’m really excited to have an opportunity to showcase Miami and show how students are involved with civic engagement here.”

The ideas continue to flow for Duffy. She’s created a civic engagement calendar to navigate events and registration across campus, helped  the League of Women Voters facilitate a local candidate forum at the Knolls of Oxford, and has a vision for providing students with even more resources when it comes to voting.

“It’s just another sign that democracy is in good hands,” Wardle said.

Duffy has simple advice for anyone, students or otherwise, when it comes to civic engagement.

Be all in.

“Find yourself in the vision you see for a better future and act on it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn from your mistakes. Duffy said. “Be fearless in pursuit of democracy.”