Michelle Obama Is Fighting To Make Vote-By-Mail Possible In November

by Christina Marfice
Originally Published: 
Former First Lady Michelle Obama speaks during a 'When We All Vote Rally' in Miami
Thaddaeus McAdams/Getty

Michelle Obama’s voter registry initiative has a new goal this year: Give more Americans access to voting by mail

With coronavirus cases still spreading across the U.S. and across the world, concern is already mounting about the November election, and whether having people turn out in large numbers to vote in person will cause new cases of the virus to spread. There’s a big push building for Americans to have access to voting methods that don’t require them to show up, in person, on one day. And now, Michelle Obama’s nonpartisan voter registration initiative is getting into the fight.

When We All Vote was founded by the First Lady as a voter registration tool, encouraging all Americans who are eligible to register and be prepared to vote in their upcoming elections. Now, however, the organization has pivoted its goals toward creating access for all Americans to vote safely in the midst of a global pandemic.

“No American should have to choose between making their voice heard and staying safe,” Obama wrote in a tweet. “Expanding access to #VoteByMail, online voter registration and early voting are critical steps for this moment—they’re also long overdue.”

This push from Obama’s organization comes after voting in primaries proved dangerous during the pandemic. In Illinois, voters were alerted to the news that a poll worker recently died from the virus, and many who voted in the state’s primary last month could have been exposed. And in Wisconsin, courts overturned the governor’s decision to postpone the primary, forcing voters to head to polling places despite a statewide stay-at-home order. Photos emerged online of people standing in long lines after many polling places were forced to close because poll volunteers weren’t willing to risk their health and their lives for the election.

“Americans should never have to choose between making their voices heard and keeping themselves and their families safe,” Obama said in a statement posted to Facebook. “There is nothing partisan about striving to live up to the promise of our country: making the democracy we all cherish more accessible, and protecting our neighbors, friends and loved ones as they participate in this cornerstone of American life.”

Her husband is also supporting her efforts. In a tweet soon after the Wisconsin primary, Barack Obama wrote, “Everyone should have the right to vote safely, and we have the power to make that happen. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”

Vote-by-mail supporters have an uphill battle to fight. Preparations for a nationwide shift in voting like that would need to begin now, but President Trump is still regularly speaking out against mail voting options, and refusing to bail out the struggling U.S. Postal Service.

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