Tuesday marks six weeks until Election Day and is National Voter Registration Day, a moment to turbocharge sign-ups before it's too late. But the significant blow the coronavirus has dealt to civic engagement this year leaves in doubt how many millions of eligible but still unregistered Americans can be found and converted on the unofficial holiday.
Fresh national numbers from the Brennan Center for Justice, a progressive think tank which does some of the most extensive research on democracy's challenges, confirm the drop in registration compared to the last presidential election. The organization's analysis of 21 states found 17 have watched registration rates plummet since four year ago.
With the first deadlines coming the first week of October in 15 states, a bevy of groups with sometimes similar sounding names have refocused — or been formed — to push the uphill goal of finding millions more willing first-time voters, with an emphasis on younger people.
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Michelle Obama has joined the increasingly politicized debate over making voting easier during the coronavirus outbreak.
On Monday she endorsed the sort of national mandates for voting at home, online registration and expanded in-person early voting that fellow Democrats have returned to pushing in Congress despite the emphatic opposition of President Trump and congressional Republicans.
The rare foray by the former first lady into a policy dispute threatens to overshadow and complicate the more immediate efforts by civil rights groups and democracy reform advocates: enlisting officials in red as well as blue states to ease the rules on their own, and to help press Congress to deliver hundreds of millions in federal aid to respond to the surge of absentee voting and other stresses on the electoral system because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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When We All Vote is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that is on a mission to increase participation in every election and close the race and age voting gap by changing the culture around voting, harnessing grassroots energy, and through strategic partnerships to reach every American. Launched in 2018 by co-chairs Michelle Obama, Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monae, Chris Paul, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, When We All Vote is changing the culture around voting using a data-driven and multifaceted approach to increase participation in elections. In the months directly before the 2018 midterm elections, When We All Vote organized 2,500 local voter registration events across the country, engaged 200 million Americans online about the significance of voting, and texted nearly four million voters the resources to register and get out to vote. And we're just getting started. We're helping bring even more people into the voting process because when we all vote, we all do better.
College students were once hailed as a crucial voting bloc in 2020, but their momentum may be halted by the coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered campuses from coast to coast.
Registration drives, absentee ballot parties, political forums and new voter trainings are all on hold. Students are scrambling to chase down absentee ballot forms that were mailed to campuses but must now be forwarded to a home or other address. Newly designated campus polling places will stand empty for the remaining primaries, several of which have been delayed in any case. And students who return this fall will have little time to prepare for Election Day.
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