May 21 (UPI) -- Former first lady Michelle Obama launched a coalition aimed at increasing voter registration and civic engagement for the 2020 election on Thursday.
The Civic Cities program, launched under her non-partisan voting initiative When We All Vote, includes 31 mayors from across the country who will work to brainstorm and promote methods to ensure Americans can safely and securely cast their ballots amid the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This current crisis is a clear reminder of how critical it is to have competent leadership at all levels of government," Obama said on a Zoom call with the U.S. Conference of Mayors and activists. "Voting is bigger than any one party, any one issue, any one candidate, any one election."
Obama said the pandemic will "likely have a significant impact" on the November election and told the mayors it was important to ensure the economic crisis caused by the pandeimc "doesn't turn into a crisis of democracy" as well.
"Already in state and local elections, we've seen voters forced to choose between protecting their health and making their voices heard and that's absolutely not acceptable," she said.
Civil Cities will advocate for safe voting policies, including online voter registration, early in-person voting and vote-by-mail, she added.
"No matter what party or ideology, we want everyone to participate and we need your voices in this with us -- and your constituents desperately need your leadership," Obama said. "It's why I'm going to keep pushing to help get you what you need to run a safe and fair election."
President Donald Trump has repeatedly opposed vote-by-mail and earlier this week threatened to withhold federal funding from Michigan and Nevada for further pursuing methods to widely distribute mail-in ballots.