Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, many voter engagement campaigns are reaching out to millions of Americans to get them registered and ready to vote, including former First Lady Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote initiative which had its virtual kickoff rally this past week.
When We All Vote is a national voting initiative under the organization, Civic Nation, and it was founded by the former first lady in 2018. They had their National Voter Registration Week of Action from Sept. 19-25, hosting different events encouraging folks to get registered and make a plan for when and how they will vote.
“Everything from healthcare to education to climate change to how your communities are policed to the judges that determine the justice we get, all those things are on the ballot,” Mrs. Obama said while speaking at the rally.
Throughout the rally, which was streamed on their Youtube channel, the co-chairs and the directors of the initiative made the goal clear to instill the importance of getting everyone involved and that they can do so in a variety of ways. These include, above all, talking to family and friends and getting them registered with a plan to vote, a major point Obama emphasized during her remarks. She called on all listeners to reach out to six people that they know to discuss their voter registration status and their plan for casting their ballot.
“You know the folks in your community, you know why folks are sitting out. They won’t listen just to me or Rita (Wilson) or Sheryl Lee (Ralph). They will listen to you because they trust you….your grandmother, aunts and uncles. So we need you engaged,” Obama said.
The organization’s website makes it possible for visitors to check their registration status and self-register for their states. Additional information on sending an absentee or mail-in ballot, finding polling locations, knowing deadlines and understanding voter’s rights are available as well.
They also encouraged listeners to join in on the action by signing up to become volunteers, organize voter drives, start a When We All Vote chapter in their schools or communities and more.
Obama serves as a co-chair of When We All Vote alongside various celebrity influencers across different arenas like NBA stars Steph Curry and Chris Paul, award-winning musical artists like H.E.R. and Jennifer Lopez, Broadway stars like Lin Manuel Miranda, movie stars like Tom Hanks and social media personalities like Liza Koshy. The purpose of all of these figures is to reach and engage as many Americans as possible in the voting process and educate American voters on the importance of being civically engaged.
The campaign is partnering with multiple other notable civil rights organizations who, earlier this year, pledged to register more than a million new voters for the midterms. One partner organization, Vote.org, recently outlined their plan to invest $10 million into engaging young voters and voters of color in their Vote Ready campaign. Vote.org CEO Andrea Hailey said that voter engagement to register on their website has increased this midterm season and that they have registered about 380,000 people since 2020.
“We’re all coming together to be in partnership to make sure that every voter has the ability to register and has access,” Hailey said of the partnership.
Hailey provided insight into what they are seeing from voters and how they are feeling during this midterm season.
“After the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe, we saw about a 1,000% spike in registration in Kansas. We also saw an over 500% spike in 10 other states, including states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Pennsylvania … nationwide, we saw an over 300% spike. We just saw an 11% spike in youth voting in 2020. I think people are wanting to have their voices heard. And, I’m pretty excited and optimistic that people will show back up again,” Hailey said.
Student organizations, such as the Howard University chapter of Black Girls Vote, are doing their part to encourage younger voters as well. Libby Spekhardt, the vice president of Black Girls Vote Howard Chapter, said they have worked hard to register students to vote and that turnout for their events has exceeded expectations. Spekhardt also notes that frustration is evident, saying some younger voters are becoming discouraged and disengaged.
“I have seen a large number of young people getting fed up with older elected officials, myself included … every classmate, friend, or neighbor we talk to leading up to this election will make a huge impact,” Spekhardt said.
“What we need is policy change. We need federal policy like the John Lewis Voting act, like the For The People Act … The goal here is to get people vote ready. What we’re trying to do is make sure people have a plan, they are executing that plan early,” Hailey said of voter suppression efforts and how her organization is helping to combat that.
Obama also addressed concerns about voter suppression at the virtual rally.
“I don’t care what laws have been passed. All we have to do is get folks who are eligible and able to vote registered … and we’re counting on you guys to do it,” she said. “Wake up feeling good on Nov. 9, feeling proud knowing you did everything you can to get your entire community registered and ready to vote this year.”
Copy edited by Nhandi Long-Shipman