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Marla Aufmuth/Getty Michelle Obama
With the 2022 midterm elections on the horizon, Michelle Obama has issued a call to action through her organization When We All Vote to protect voting rights and set an ambitious goal to register a million new voters across the country.
"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," the former first lady wrote in a letter that was published as an ad on Sunday in The New York Times.
"This type of voter suppression is not new," Obama, 57, continued. "Generations of Americans have persevered through poll taxes, literacy tests, and laws designed to strip away their power — and they've done it by organizing, by protesting, and most importantly, by overcoming the barriers in front of them in order to vote. And now, we've got to do the same. We've got to vote like the future of our democracy depends on it."
The letter, also published at WhenWeAllVote.org, is signed by Obama but was written in solidarity with 31 organizations — "representing millions of Americans," she wrote — focused on voting and voter rights.
In 2020, millions made their voices heard at the polls. But now, folks who oppose that progress are making it harder to vote. That’s why I’m asking you to join @WhenWeAllVote and 30 other organizations to turn out more voters and urge Congress to pass voting rights legislation. pic.twitter.com/hwgyyuTGy9
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) January 9, 2022
With the help of the Senate's filibuster rule requiring 60 votes to proceed on legislation, Republicans have blocked voting rights proposals three times since President Joe Biden took office a year ago.
Conservatives argue the reforms amount to federal intrusion, though advocates say such reforms are needed to reverse mounting restrictions on mail ballots, polling place access and more parts of the voting process.
Since then, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the president have expressed their support for changing the filibuster rule by allowing a "carveout" — or an exception to the 60-vote threshold required in the upper chamber — for such legislation, though it's unclear if they have enough Democratic votes to enact the change.
A push for the move is expected early this year — and Obama has stated another well-timed goal related to that fight in her letter: to "organize at least 100,000 Americans to contact their Senators, calling on them to do everything they can to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act."
Paras Griffin/Getty Former First Lady Michelle Obama
She quoted Rep. Lewis, a former Georgia lawmaker and civil rights icon who died in July 2020 and whose name is on the voting rights bill currently held up in Congress.
"As John Lewis said, 'Democracy is not a state. It is an act.' And protecting it requires all of us," Obama wrote. "That's why his generation organized, marched, and died to defend the very rights that are under attack today. And it's why we're calling on community leaders, organizations, businesses and all Americans to join our efforts in this critical moment for our history and the future of our country."
Among the other goals mentioned in the letter are training 100,000 volunteers to register voters and ensure they turn out at the polls on Election Day (Nov. 8), recruiting "thousands of lawyers to protect voters in the states where the freedom to vote is threatened" and to "educate voters on how to vote safely in their state."
The coalition of organizations listed on Obama's letter will work to "ensure that every voice is heard and every vote is counted in the 2022 midterm elections and beyond," she wrote. "We're asking you to join us."