When We All Vote encourages mayors to use their voices

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Michelle Obama

When We All Vote, a national nonpartisan organization, launched Civic Cities, a new initiative that encourages mayors to use their voices, governing authority and convening power to mobilize civic leaders, business leaders and community members to increase voter participation in their communities.

The initiative launched with a bipartisan group of 31 founding mayors from across the country with the goal of recruiting more of our nation’s mayors. 

On a call with the United States Conference of Mayors Thursday, When We All Vote Board Chair Valerie Jarrett joined Co-Chair Michelle Obama as she announced the new Civic Cities initiative and urged more mayors to join this effort.


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As mayors continue to work hard to keep their cities safe amid the ongoing impact of Covid-19, When We All Vote’s Civic Cities initiative will work with local leaders to help ensure their constituents have fair and safe access to polls. Mayors interested in being a part of this effort to increase voter participation can get involved here.

Launched in 2018 by Michelle Obama, and co-chairs Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monae, Chris Paul, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, When We All Vote is committed to closing the race and age voting gap and empowering all eligible voters to cast their ballot by harnessing grassroots energy, establishing strategic partnerships, and implementing digital organizing strategies, with the ultimate goal of changing the culture around voting. Joining the effort is fellow Co-Chairs Selena Gomez, Liza Koshy, Megan Rapinoe, Shonda Rhimes, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kerry Washington, and Rita Wilson.

“Voting is bigger than any one party, one issue, one candidate or one election,” Michelle Obama said. “We’ve got to strengthen our democracy from the bottom up and ensure that more Americans participate in every single election, from the local school board to Congress. That’s why I launched When We All Vote, and it’s why we’re partnering with our nation’s mayors to make sure that every eligible voter in every community can freely, fairly and safely make their voices heard.”

“My first job in public service was working for the city of Chicago. I learned that change begins at the local level and saw firsthand the tremendous impact mayors have on the lives of their constituents. In the White House I had the privilege of working closely with all our nation’s mayors,” said When We All Vote Board Chair Valerie Jarrett. “Mayors know their cities best and have the power to use their voice, their governing authority and convening power to help change the culture of voting in their cities in order to significantly increase participation.” 

Civic Cities will also celebrate and recognize mayors who use innovative and high-impact approaches to engage voters and share successful practices among mayors nationally. By joining Civic Cities, mayors commit to increasing voter registration and participation in their cities by:

  • Mobilizing local civic leaders, business leaders, community members and stakeholders in voter engagement efforts to safely register and get out the vote in their communities; 
  • Sharing promising practices with the Civic Cities network of mayors; and, 
  • Acting as trusted messengers in their communities to share information and resources for voters to safely make their voices heard.

Many Civic Cities founding mayors are already working to ensure their constituents do not have to choose between their health and safety and exercising their right to vote. Milwaukee, WI Mayor Tom Barrett supports the Safe Vote Program – a proposal to mail absentee ballot applications to all of Milwaukee’s roughly 300,000 registered voters. Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and the DC Board of Elections announced the Vote Safe DC campaign to ensure every vote is counted and everyone, from voters to election workers, feels safe. 

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock:
“In Denver, we work across city government to ensure that voting is accessible and secure. We provide ballots in seven languages; offer same day voter registration and vote-at-home ballots for people with disabilities; and we have 37 ballot drop boxes across the city that are open 24 hours a day. We also recently deployed a mobile vote center to reach traditionally underserved areas and those with fewer public facilities. As the national push for vote-by-mail continues to grow, I am excited to work with my fellow mayors to share what works in Denver and how we can ensure our voters are safe and healthy”.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price:
“As mayors, we know that our cities thrive when our residents are engaged, and that’s why in Fort Worth we engage our constituents before they head to the polls. We created the city’s first online public forum for our residents to share and vote on new ideas to improve the city, and our younger residents help us address some of our toughest challenges through SteerFW. Even amid a pandemic, we will continue to engage our voters and ensure they feel civically engaged, empowered and safe.”

In the 2016 election, almost half of eligible voters did not cast a ballot, and in local elections, the statistics are even more alarming – fewer than 15 percent of eligible voters turned out to elect the mayors and councilmembers who make decisions every day that directly impact their communities. As trusted voices, mayors have the power to substantially increase the number of people in their communities who cast a ballot, and are uniquely positioned to mobilize civic leaders, business leaders, school systems, local colleges, community members and stakeholders.


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Many cities are working to improve voter engagement and participation, and Civic Cities creates a national platform for mayors to learn from one another. All mayors are invited to join the 31 founding mayors to participate in the Civic Cities program, and can learn more and get involved here.

The full list of 31 Civic Cities founding members is below:

  • Atlanta, GA: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
  • Augusta, GA: Mayor Hardie Davis
  • Austin, TX: Mayor Steve Adler
  • Boston, MA: Mayor Marty Walsh
  • Carmel, IN: Mayor James Brainard
  • Chattanooga, TN: Mayor Andy Berke
  • Chicago, IL: Mayor Lori Lightfoot
  • Dayton, OH: Mayor Nan Whaley
  • Denver, CO: Mayor Michael Hancock
  • Detroit, MI: Mayor Mike Duggan
  • Durham, NC: Mayor Steve Schewel
  • Ft. Worth, TX: Mayor Betsy Price
  • Grand Rapids, MI: Mayor Rosalynn Bliss
  • Houston, TX: Mayor Sylvester Turner
  • Lansing, MI: Mayor Andy Schor
  • Los Angeles: Mayor Eric Garcetti
  • Louisville, KY: Mayor Greg Fischer
  • Madison, WI: Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway
  • Mesa, AZ: Mayor John Giles
  • Milwaukee, WI: Mayor Tom Barrett
  • Minneapolis, MN: Mayor Jacob Frey
  • Orlando, FL: Mayor Buddy Dyer
  • Parkland, FL: Mayor Christine Hunschofsky
  • Philadelphia, PA: Mayor James Kenney
  • Phoenix, AZ: Mayor Kate Gallego
  • Reno, NV: Mayor Hillary Schieve
  • San Leandro, CA: Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter
  • Scranton, PA: Mayor Paige Cognetti
  • Tacoma, WA: Mayor Victoria Woodards
  • Washington, DC: Mayor Muriel Bowser
  • West Sacramento, CA: Mayor Christopher Cabaldon
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