Former first lady Michelle Obama is urging teachers throughout the country to make sure students who are eligible to cast ballots actually register and “are ready to vote.”
Obama made her call through a video address at two recent teachers union conferences: the annual convention of the National Education Association, the country’s largest labor union, and the American Federation of Teachers. Together, the organizations have as many as 5 million members, most of them educators.
Her outreach to teachers is the first piece of a voter registration initiative that she helped launch last year, a national, nonpartisan organization called When We All Vote. Other co-chairs include Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monáe, Chris Paul, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. The teachers unions are partners with the nonprofit initiative, as are other organizations including the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote.
“I’m asking you to join me in helping make sure every eligible student is registered and ready to vote when the time comes,” she said, adding that nobody should tell students how to vote.
She said that registering young people to vote is about “empowering the next generation to make their mark on our future,” and she hopes it will become “as timeless as homecoming dances or Friday night lights.”
She did not provide specifics about how teachers should do this but said When We All Vote will provide resources and training to educators who want it.
She is also tweeting the initiative, saying:
To all the teachers and school professionals out there: This fall, I need your help to show our young people that their voices matter — and that voting can make a real difference in their lives. Head over to http://weall.vote/school to team up with me and @WhenWeAllVote!
In her address, first reported by Education Week, Obama noted that only one-third of eligible voters ages of 18 to 29 voted in the 2018 midterm elections. According to this Washington Post story, the U.S. census found that 36 percent of citizens ages 18 to 29 reported voting in last year’s midterm elections, jumping 16 percentage points since 2014. But it’s not good enough, Obama said:
Maybe they don’t think they understand the issues well enough. Maybe they don’t see how their vote will make a difference. Or maybe they just don’t think their voices matter. Whatever the reason, it’s up to us to flip that script — to show young people how crucial their voices are, and how just a few votes can be decisive on issues that matter to them and their community.