Michelle Obama calls on women to show their power through voting

The former first lady says women must stand up to threats against voting rights to ensure their voices are heard.

Marguerite Reardon
Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
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Former first lady Michelle Obama launched her When We All Vote organization in 2018 to encourage more Americans to register to vote and to be civically engaged. 

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Michelle Obama is taking her crusade to protect voting rights to women, as she encourages Americans to register to vote and calls for action against new election regulations across the country.

"I encourage every woman within earshot of my voice to think of ways that they can be involved," the former first lady said during an appearance Friday at The 19th's Virtual Summit. The 19th is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that focuses on reporting on gender, politics and policy.

Obama said that at a time when people are trying to take away "the very power that we have to use our voice ... making it harder for us to vote, and doing the most undemocratic things you can imagine," women must "step up and make sure that our communities are protected."

Obama's appearance at the conference comes as Republican state lawmakers in 49 states across the US have introduced legislation this year to tighten access to voting by making mail voting and early voting more difficult and imposing harsher voter ID requirements.

Democrats and voting rights activists have repeatedly criticized the new laws, which have popped up in the wake of former President Donald Trump's unfounded allegations that the 2020 presidential election was "stolen." In March, the Democrat-led House passed the For the People Act of 2021, which would reverse the voting rights restrictions pushed by Republican-controlled state legislatures this year. The bill was blocked by Senate Republicans in June.

A popular figure, Obama is seen as a key messenger for Democrats on a variety of issues, including efforts to help encourage Americans to get vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus. She was a featured speaker during the 2020 Democratic National Convention. 

Her appearance at the virtual conference comes just weeks after she and Stacey Abrams, the voting rights activist and former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate, teamed up to release a video urging the public to help "protect our freedom to vote" by supporting updates to federal rights legislation.