Former first lady Michelle Obama wants more Americans to vote, and she’s enlisted a new celebrity “squad” to help her continue to push the message.
When We All Vote is a national, nonpartisan organization aimed at increasing participation in every election. Mrs. Obama launched the initiative in 2018 along with co-chairs Janelle Monáe, Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Faith Hill and Chris Paul.
Today, Mrs. Obama released a new video message introducing its seven newest co-chairs. Included in the group are actors Tracee Ellis Ross and Kerry Washington, mega-producer Shonda Rhimes, singer/actress Selena Gomez, plus Megan Rapinoe, Rita Wilson and Liza Koshy.
Voters in states such as Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Texas and Mississippi went to the polls on Tuesday, November 5. Moreover, with one year until the 2020 general elections, the video is timely.
In the message, Mrs. Obama urges everyone to join When We All Vote’and create their own “Voting Squads” of volunteers who can encourage friends, family, classmates and community members to get registered and vote.
“Last year... millions of new voters made their voices heard for the first time,” said Mrs. Obama, who served as first lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017.
“Now the stakes are even higher and we are looking to you. Our country—our democracy—is counting on you.”
U.S. Census Bureau data released in April showed record voter turnout in the November 2018 midterm elections. Some 53 percent of the voting age population cast ballots, up 11 percentage points from the previous (2014) midterm election.
The statistics show that voter turnout increased across racial groups, as well as by age. For instance, Black voter turnout increased by 11 percentage points. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, voter turnout was 36 percent in 2018 — up from 20 percent in 2014.
Still, those numbers reveal that millions of Americans did not vote.
When We All Vote hopes to encourage Americans to exercise their civic duty, and they’re building on a robust 2018 digital campaign. Leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, officials with the nonprofit say they organized more than 2,500 local voter registration events nationwide; engaged 200 million Americans online about the significance of voting; and texted nearly four million voters with the resources to register to vote and go to the polls.
And this past summer, When We All Vote kicked off “My School Votes” -- a new initiative involving educators, students and parents around the country to help register voters. Since the July launch, thousands of teachers and students have reportedly joined the effort and launched voter registration programs at their schools.
In its mission statement, When We All Vote indicates the organization is “committed to closing the race and age voting gap and empowering all eligible voters to cast their ballot by harnessing grassroots energy, establishing strategic partnerships, and implementing digital organizing strategies.”
In a statement, Janelle Monáe told BET why she became involved.
“Deep in my heart I have always felt a burning responsibility to my community. I come from a very big family with over 50 first cousins, and growing up, we were responsible for each other. Because of my family, I know how important it is to take care of your people,” she said.
“Whenever I vote, I feel like I am helping to take care of my community. I am so proud to join Michelle Obama,” she continued. “My biggest responsibility to my community is to help shed light on their power to make change in our government. After being gerrymandered and having the power of my voice taken away during a midterm election, I never wanted anyone else to feel powerless and unable to have their right to vote."
When We All Vote has released a commemorative poster featuring Mrs. Obama and her fellow co-chairs. Meanwhile, there are multiple community, corporate and media partners, among them BET Networks.
Additionally, other partners include: Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Jack and Jill of America, Inc., The NAACP, National Basketball Players Association, National Education Association, National Urban League, The Women's Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, XQ Institute, YMCA Youth and Government, and Voto Latino.
Mrs. Obama, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, has been busy since leaving the White House. Long a champion of civic causes, she started her career as an attorney at a Chicago law firm, where she met her future husband, Barack Obama.
She later worked in the Chicago mayor's office, at the University of Chicago, and at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Mrs. Obama also founded the Chicago chapter of Public Allies, an organization that prepares young people for careers in public service.
She is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir BECOMING, which has sold more than 11.5 million copies around the world, and of the #1 New York Times bestseller American Grown. The Obamas, whose daughters Malia and Sasha are college students, still reside in Washington, D.C.
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images