Michelle Obama Urges In-Person Voting After Democrats Argued It Posed a Dire Threat

Democrats Hold Unprecedented Virtual Convention From Milwaukee
Getty Images
August 18, 2020

Former first lady Michelle Obama said Americans should vote "in person if we can" in her speech Monday night at the Democratic National Convention, marking a departure from Democrats' approach to in-person voting.

"We've got to request our mail-in ballots right now, tonight, and send them back immediately and follow up to make sure they're received, and then make sure our friends and families do the same," Obama said.

Her remarks come after Democratic leaders warned in the midst of several primary contests this spring that in-person voting would lead to outbreaks of the coronavirus. Democrats pushed unsuccessfully to extend voting in the Wisconsin primary, which took place in early April, arguing the coronavirus posed a threat to voters who visit the polls.

After the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Wisconsin Democrats, DNC chairman Tom Perez said the election was a "dark day" for American democracy.

"In the middle of one of the worst public health emergencies in modern history, the Republican Party forced the people of Wisconsin to choose between their safety and their vote," he said in a statement. "The craven self-interest of the GOP knows no bounds."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) also accused the court of undermining American democracy and said, "People should not have to decide whether they can vote or be sick."

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden said the in-person election should never have happened and the primary should have been conducted by mail-in ballots. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) called for the election to be delayed to allow the implementation of vote-by-mail measures. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D., S.C.) said he was "appalled" by the court's decision. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said the in-person primary was an attempt to suppress the vote.

A working paper found that 71 coronavirus cases were directly connected to in-person voting.

In May, the Democratic National Committee released a statement on further in-person voting. The statement called for ballots to be mailed to all registered voters, no-excuse absentee voting, and expanded days and hours for in-person voting.