Former first lady Michelle Obama made a big push for vote by mail during a virtual voter registration drive on Monday that included appearances by a giddy Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, who recently recovered from COVID-19. While the online event was billed as a non-partisan effort, it was dominated by former Obama administration faces, including former special White House advisor Valerie Jarrett.
Michelle Obama was the marquee speaker at the virtual “couch party” organized by When We All Vote, a voter registration group that bills itself as non-partisan but is stacked with former Obama administration officials. In addition to Jarrett, its leaders include Tina Tchen, who served as Michelle Obama’s chief of staff, and Kyle Lierman, who served as a policy advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement.
“Voting should never be difficult and never be a partisan issue,” Michelle Obama told viewers via phone Monday evening during the online drive. The former first lady spoke about the recent Wisconsin primaries, which took place in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and how the organization’s members need to push vote-by-mail for the elections in November.
“I don’t think you need me to tell you that this work is more urgent than ever before,” she said.
Voting by mail has become a hotly contested issue in the lead-up to the presidential election. Democrats have introduced a measure in Congress to increase vote-by-mail options throughout the country. But President Donald Trump has stated that he is against it because it increases the likelihood of voter fraud.
Valerie Jarrett told viewers that “voting transcends politics” while speaking via video from her apartment in New York.
“Everyone should be able to vote by mail,” she said. The former Obama advisor appeared on MSNBC last week to push the initiative, saying that the federal government should make it “as easy as possible” for people to vote.
Jarrett also said Monday that online voter registration should be universal. “Every single American should be able to register to vote online,” she said.
Co-chairs Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson appeared remotely from Los Angeles, to liven up the virtual party with star power.
“I want to vote no matter where I am,” said Hanks, who played a toy xylophone and appeared in a giddy mood. “I have Diabetes type 2 and I still want to be able to vote.”
Wilson called vote by mail a “great compromise” and said that “we as Americans should be able to request the options” of a mail-in ballot.
The virtual couch party also featured an appearance by Vanita Gupta, who heads the The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Gupta worked as an attorney at the Justice Department during the Obama administration.
She said the U.S. as a history of “denying voters of color to the ballot box,” adding “we will not back down.”
“In light of COVID-19, states need to loosen their requirements,” she said. “It should be easy and accessible for everyone.”