Exclusive: Michelle Obama to push absentee voting amid coronavirus
Michelle Obama will throw her support today behind expanding vote-by-mail options, advisers tell Axios, with her voting rights group embracing legislation before Congress amid coronavirus fears.
Why it matters: It's the first time the celebrity-backed organization has endorsed federal legislation — and it comes as Democrats await the Obamas' return to the political stage to help Joe Biden.
- "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 former first lady said in a statement provided to Axios.
- The group will support the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020 by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Ron Wyden.
- The Obamas were staying mostly on the sidelines of the 2020 election through the Democratic primary season, but they spoke out against the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision preventing the state's voting deadline from being extended.
Between the lines: "We all saw those lines" of Wisconsin voters putting their health at risk to vote, said adviser and family friend Valerie Jarrett, who is board chair of When We All Vote.
- "It was just deeply, profoundly concerning," Jarrett said.
- "Our goal is to just try to make sure we maximize the number of citizens who can participate in that most fundamental and important responsibility."
- The group will encourage people to call or email members of Congress in support of expanded access to vote-by-mail.
What to watch: Michelle Obama has been testing creative ways to promote voting rights since in-person gatherings are cancelled.
- She hosted an online voter registration "couch party" in March with DJ D-Nice. Jarrett said another is planned for April 20.
- The nonpartisan group also will be focused on educating eligible voters about voter registration and vote-by-mail, communications director Crystal Carson told Axios.
The backdrop: She launched When We All Vote in 2018, with co-chairs Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monáe, Chris Paul, Faith Hill, and Tim McGraw.
- Since leaving the White House, she's also written and promoted her best-selling memoir and launched a production company with her husband — which landed them a Netflix agreement. She's also continued promoting higher education.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify which bill When We All Vote is supporting. In the original story, the group told Axios it will support absentee voting protections under the Resilient Elections During Quarantines and Natural Disasters Act of 2020. The organization now says it will support the Klobuchar-Wyden bill, which incorporates and expands on the original legislation.