Michelle Obama's voter registration group throws support behind mail-in voting push
Posted April 13, 2020 10:00 a.m. EDT
Updated April 13, 2020 11:28 a.m. EDT
CNN — Former first lady Michelle Obama and the non-partisan organization she co-chairs on Monday threw its support behind Democratic legislation seeking to expand access to mail-in voting and early voting amid the coronavirus outbreak in the US.
"Americans should never have to choose between making their voices heard and keeping themselves and their families safe," Obama said in a statement. "Expanding access to vote-by-mail, online voter registration and early voting are critical steps for this moment -- and they're long overdue."
The effort backed by the former first lady comes as Democrats increase their calls for states to expand mail-in and early voting, while some Republicans have echoed President Donald Trump's opposition to expanding the practice amid the coronavirus pandemic. The crisis has caused scores of large gatherings to be canceled or postponed, including primary contests, several of which have been pushed into the summer.
As the calls have increased, Trump has repeatedly dismissed the notion of a nationwide vote-by-mail system and falsely claimed that mail-in voting is the source of widespread voter fraud.
Obama's statement, released by When We All Vote, a nonpartisan organization committed to voter registration she co-chairs, said, "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."
The Democratic legislation Obama and When We All Vote are putting their support behind seeks to put in place national standards for voting in this year's presidential election and would require states to offer absentee voting to all voters, allow voters to request ballots electronically, and allow ballots to be requested up to five days before an election.
The bill, introduced last month by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, would also add $500 million in federal money to prepare state election systems for the coronavirus.
Obama rarely publicly voices her political views, and this is the first time the organization has put their support behind any legislation. In previous years, Obama has urged Americans to participate in elections, including in 2018, when she said at an event that she is "sick of all the chaos and the nastiness of our politics," but that the importance of voting still remains.
Already, at least one election has taken place during the pandemic, with voters in Wisconsin, many of them wearing face masks, participating in the state's primary last week.
Republicans had insisted on keeping the election on schedule, and won two legal battles the day before it took place, with the state Supreme Court blocking Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' bid to delay it until June and the US Supreme Court reversing a lower court's ruling that gave voters six extra days to return their ballots by mail.