Former first lady Michelle Obama has announced she is supporting a Democrat-authored bill that would force states to expand vote-by-mail options amid the coronavirus pandemic.
As Democrats nationwide push for the upcoming November election to be conducted largely by mail, Obama has announced her support for a bill that would require every state to offer voters absentee ballots.
Through her celebrity-centric voting rights group When We All Vote, Obama said she plans to support the Democrat-written Resilient Elections During Quarantines and Natural Disasters Act.
“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,” she said in a statement to Axios.
The former first lady also tweeted her support for the bill Monday, saying, “No American should have to choose between making their voice heard and staying safe. Expanding access to #VoteByMail, online voter registration and early voting are critical steps for this moment — they’re also long overdue.”
No American should have to choose between making their voice heard and staying safe. Expanding access to #VoteByMail, online voter registration and early voting are critical steps for this moment—they’re also long overdue. https://t.co/s0KZ2Pj6zw
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) April 13, 2020
The proposed legislation she’s supporting was written by Democrat Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Suzan DelBene of Washington and Jamie Raskin of Maryland.
Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden is also a co-author of the bill.
In the legislation, Democrats ask for $500 million in grants to make blank absentee ballots easily accessible and request that those ballots be counted as long as they are postmarked by Election Day.
The bill also calls for all registered voters nationwide to be eligible for absentee voting and would require ballots printed at home to be accepted — in addition to allowing voters to request ballots up until five days before an election.
While the rules on absentee voting vary from state to state, some states currently require voters to request a mail-in ballot, along with a valid excuse for why they intend to vote via mail.
The Democrat lawmakers claim in the legislation that expansion of vote-by-mail will “be important in the event that mail is delayed due to large numbers of postal workers being quarantined.”
Many Republicans, however, worry about the potential for fraud and abuse with widescale voting by mail.
Former Obama administration adviser Valerie Jarrett also spoke to Axios about the proposed legalization.
Regarding the Wisconsin primary, in which voters showed up in-person to vote last week, Jarrett said seeing people vote in-person is “concerning” during the coronavirus outbreak.
“We all saw those lines,” Jarrett said. “It was just deeply, profoundly concerning.”
“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,” Jarrett told Axios.
Jarrett sits on the board of When We All Vote, which has never endorsed any specific voting legislation, until now.
Axios reported the group’s support for the Resilient Elections During Quarantines and Natural Disasters Act is “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.”
When We All Vote describes itself as “a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that is on a mission to increase participation in every election and close the race and age voting gap by changing the culture around voting, harnessing grassroots energy, and through strategic partnerships to reach every American.”
The group is co-chaired by Obama, pop singer Selena Gomez, actor Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, NBA point guard Chris Paul, country singers Faith Hill and Tim McGraw and a number of other celebrities.
Trump has emerged as a leading voice against expanding absentee voting.
The president was asked by ABC News’ Jonathan Karl if the country should expand absentee voting earlier this month at a media briefing.
“I think people should vote with ID, voter ID. I think voter ID is very important, and the reason [Democrats] don’t want voter ID is because they intend to cheat,” Trump said.
President Trump: “The reason they don’t want voter ID is because they intend to cheat.” pic.twitter.com/BOUxuWgMQh
— The Hill (@thehill) April 4, 2020
“It should be you go to a booth and you proudly display yourself … You should vote at the booth. And you should have voter ID, because when you have voter ID, that’s the real deal,” he concluded.
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