"Voting should never, ever be difficult and it should never be a partisan issue," the former first lady said

By Adam Carlson
April 20, 2020 08:46 PM
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Former First Lady Michelle Obama had a few special guests — namely, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson — with her at Monday night’s voter registration event with When We All Vote.

The couple, who like Obama are co-chairs of the nonpartisan group, joined her and thousands of volunteers and others for a literal call-to-action on Monday night before the second When We All Vote #CouchParty.

Obama spoke about the importance of vote-by-mail being accessible to all voters — especially during the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic — noting that she and husband Barack Obama have sent in their ballots for “every election for the last decade.”

“Voting should never, ever be difficult and it should never be a partisan issue,” Mrs. Obama said, speaking of the recent Wisconsin primary that took place despite social distancing restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The former first lady previously tweeted that “no American should ever have to make” the choice between “making their voice heard and keeping themselves and their family safe.”

“This pandemic, this crisis that we’re facing is proving that measures like vote by mail, early, in-person voting and online voter registration are not only long overdue, they are essential for the future of this democracy,” Mrs. Obama added Monday.

Later on during the livestream, Hanks and Wilson took over to discuss the importance of every voter’s voice being heard — whether or not they are well enough to travel to a polling place.

“We as Americans and as voters should be able to request the options that work for us,” Wilson said. “We don’t want to have to risk our health or our vote. So to make that easy, mail-in ballot, absentee ballot, I think that’s a really great compromise.”

Hanks chimed in to thank essential workers amid the public health crisis, noting that “our democratic principles mean that I want to vote [even if] I’m sick.”

“We can wash our hands, we can responsibly social distance, we can wear the masks,” the actor said. “We can do these things. Some of it is literally the least we can do. But the most we can do is give some props and some credit to all those people who are out there: first responders, delivery people, shelve stockers, food folks. Everybody that’s working on food banks all around the country in order to keep us all moving.”

“In November, we need to have every voice heard,” Wilson said. “It’s important.”

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“As Michelle once said, democracy moved forward, man. It’s always on the march,” Hanks added. “And that means we gotta join the parade.”

The virtual parties started in late March with a musical assist from DJ D-Nice. They aim to increase voting participation through registration and raising awareness about voting access, including voting by mail.

Last week, Mrs. Obama announced a new initiative with the group, which she started in 2018 with Hanks, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and others: They are backing legislation that would increase vote-by-mail options amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced millions of people indoors and away from public places out of health concerns.

It’s the first time the voting-rights organization has endorsed federal legislation.

From left: former First Lady Michelle Obama, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson
| Credit: Paras Griffin/Getty; Gregg DeGuire/Getty

“We know that barriers to voting existed before this crisis, especially for young people and communities of color,” Mrs. Obama said in a previous statement. “Expanding access to vote-by-mail, online voter registration and early voting are critical steps for this moment — and they’re long overdue.”

“There is nothing partisan about striving to live up to the promise of our country; making the democracy we all cherish more accessible; and protecting our neighbors, friends and loved ones as they participate in this cornerstone of American life,” said the former first lady, who spent much of last year touring with her bestselling memoir, Becoming.

Hanks and Wilson know firsthand the disruption the novel coronavirus can cause: They were in quarantine in Australia after contracting the respiratory illness.

“I was wiped after 12 minutes [of exercising]. I laid down in my hospital bed and just slept,” he said in a recent radio interview.

“Rita went through a tougher time than I did,” Hanks said of his wife, who was at times “so nauseous she had to crawl” out of her bed.

“She had a much higher fever and she had some other symptoms,” he said. “She lost her sense of taste and smell. She got absolutely no joy from food for a better part of three weeks.”

• With CLAUDIA HARMATA

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