Michelle Obama doesn’t want Americans to risk their lives to participate in elections.
When We All Vote, a nonpartisan voting initiative led by the former first lady, announced Monday that it wants to make it easier for people to register to vote and cast ballots during the coronavirus pandemic.
The group said in a statement that in order to do this, Americans need greater access to voting by mail, early in-person voting and online voter registration.
Obama, who is a co-chair of the organization, said on her social media accounts Monday that these options aren’t just “critical steps for this moment,” they’re also “long overdue.”
“Americans should never have to choose between making their voices heard and keeping themselves and their families safe,” she said in a statement on 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.”
The group’s announcement follows last week’s primary election in Wisconsin, where thousands of people were forced to leave their homes — amid a statewide stay-at-home order to quell the spread of COVID-19 — to vote in person. Because many poll volunteers refused to work, there were only five in-person polling places open Tuesday in Milwaukee, the state’s largest city, rather than the usual 180.
Photos and videos of voters wearing homemade masks and waiting in endless lines eventually made their way onto social media, and many were livid.
Former President Barack Obama called the election in Wisconsin a “debacle” in a post Friday on Twitter.
“Everyone should have the right to vote safely, and we have the power to make that happen,” he wrote in another tweet. “This shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled state Legislature forced the election to go forward after the state’s high court blocked an emergency order from Gov. Tony Evers (D) that called for in-person voting to be postponed until June.
Many believe that Republicans did this to discourage voter turnout and retain power.
Georgia’s state House Speaker David Ralston said earlier this month that Republicans oppose voting by mail because it “will certainly drive up turnout” and “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives.”
President Donald Trump has publicly disparaged voting by mail and other options to make voting easier.
“If you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” he recently said on “Fox & Friends,” according to The Hill.
On Wednesday, he tweeted that voting by mail creates a “tremendous potential” for voter fraud and mused that, “for whatever reason, [it] doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”
Republicans often cite fraud as the reason why they oppose voting by mail. But the National Vote at Home Coalition notes in a white paper on the issue that the state of Oregon, which has been voting solely by mail in all its election since 2000, “has mailed-out more than 100 million ballots” since that time and has found only “about a dozen cases of proven fraud.”
Due to this system, the state also “consistently ranks as a national leader in voter turnout,” according to Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno’s website.
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