Michelle Obama and voting rights groups to register 1 million new voters ahead of 2022 midterm elections

Former FLOTUS and 30 civil rights groups launch effort to combat voter suppression

Alex Woodward
New York
Monday 10 January 2022 16:13
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A voting rights organisation formed by Michelle Obama teamed up with a coalition of civil rights groups to register 1 million new voters and recruit 100,000 volunteers ahead of 2022 midterm elections.

The commitment from former first lady’s nonpartisan organisation When We All Vote follows a full-page advertisement in The New York Times on the anniversary of the attacks on the US Capitol, fuelled by the same baseless “stolen election” narratives that have propelled dozens of state-level legislation to ballot access.

Her efforts come as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris – facing growing pressure from voting rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers to intervene as congressional Republicans repeatedly block progress on federal voting rights legislation – are scheduled to deliver remarks on what’s at stake.

The president and vice president are expected to travel to Georgia on 11 January for an address on “the constitutional right to vote and the integrity of our elections from corrupt attempts to strip law-abiding citizens of their fundamental freedoms and allow partisan state officials to undermine vote counting processes”, according to the White House.

“One year ago, we witnessed an unprecedented assault on our Capitol and our democracy,” Ms Obama wrote in the letter published in Sunday’s New York Times.

“From Georgia and Florida to Iowa and Texas, states passed laws designed to make it harder for Americans to vote. And in other state legislatures across the nation, lawmakers have attempted to do the same,” she said.

Republican legislators have passed at least 32 new laws in 17 states to change the rules of election administration and strip oversight from election officials.

At least 262 such bills were filed in 41 states in 2021 alone, and more are expected as legislative sessions resume in 2022, according to States United Democracy Center.

A parallel effort saw the passage of at least 24 laws in 19 states restricting ballot access, after GOP legislators filed more than 440 bills in 49 states last year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

More than a dozen bills restricting ballot access have been pre-filed ahead of 2022 legislative sessions in four states, and at least 88 bills in nine states will carry over from 2021 sessions.

“This type of voter suppression is not new,” Ms Obama wrote. “Generations of Americans have persevered through poll taxes, literacy tests, and laws designed to strip away their power – and they’ve done it by organising, by protesting, and most importantly, by overcoming the barriers in front of them in order to vote.”

Following record turnout in 2020 elections, “small group of elected officials fixated on maintaining their waning political power has purposely put up barriers to make it harder for some Americans to vote, jeopardizing our democracy,” When We All Vote’s executive director Stephanie L Young said in a statement.

“We are organising and preparing to fight day in and day out in 2022,” she said. “And that fight starts with our collective effort to press Congress to do the right thing and pass critical voting rights legislation to protect voters and their access to the ballot box.”

The groups plan to register more than 1 million new voters across the US and recruit and train at least 100,000 volunteers throughout 2022 to register and turn out voters in their communities.

Groups also are recruiting “thousands of lawyers” to combat voter suppression in their communities.

They also are organising volunteers to urge members of the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

“We’ve got to vote like the future of our democracy depends on it,” Ms Obama said. “And we must give Congress no choice but to act decisively to protect the right to vote and make the ballot box more accessible for everyone.”

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