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Former first lady Michelle Obama and her voting-rights organization When We All Vote will back legislation to expand vote-by-mail options amid the coronavirus pandemic, the group said, marking the first time it has endorsed federal legislation.

“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,” Obama said in a statement.

The legislation in question has been introduced by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) in the House, and Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in the Senate. It would allow all registered voters to vote absentee, currently a universal option in 34 states and Washington, D.C., but only available in certain circumstances in the other 16 states.

Voting rights advocates have called for expanded vote-by-mail options amid social distancing efforts, while President Trump has claimed that voting by mail allows for voter fraud despite casting his own ballot by mail in Florida’s primary earlier this year.

Despite an attempt by Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) to delay the state’s primary earlier this month due to the pandemic, it proceeded as scheduled, resulting in long lines that raised eyebrows among both voting-rights advocates and public health experts.

“It was just deeply, profoundly concerning,” Valerie Jarrett, the longtime adviser to the Obamas who chairs When We All Vote, told Axios, which first reported the push. “Our goal is to just try to make sure we maximize the number of citizens who can participate in that most fundamental and important responsibility.”

The Obamas have stayed on the sidelines and declined to make a public endorsement in the protracted Democratic primaries but are likely to stump for presumptive nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden now that he is the only candidate remaining among the once-crowded Democratic field.

— This report was updated at 9:20 a.m.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Coronavirus Donald Trump Earl Blumenauer Jamie Raskin Joe Biden Michelle Obama Ron Wyden Suzan DelBene Valerie Jarrett
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