Harry and Meghan encourage Americans to vote

VIDEO: REUTERS

LONDON (NYTIMES) - Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, appeared in a video encouraging Americans to register to vote, dipping a toe into US politics in a way royal family members typically avoid.

The video statement, created as part of a Time magazine feature that aired on ABC on Tuesday evening (Sept 22), was hardly partisan by the era's fire-and-brimstone standards.

The couple, known formally as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, did not endorse any candidates, and much of the focus was on building compassion and better discussions.

But Meghan, a US citizen who has said she plans to vote in November's presidential election, made clear she believed the stakes were high this year.

"Every four years, we are told the same thing: that this is the most important election of our lifetime," she said.

"But this one is. When we vote, our values are put into action, and our voices are heard. Your voice is a reminder that you matter, because you do, and you deserve to be heard."

Prince Harry added, "As we approach this November, it's vital that we reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity."

By tradition, members of the royal family are expected to stay out of politics, both domestic and foreign.

The couple, who gave up their royal duties in January and are now living in California, have openly conveyed their interest in the US presidential election and the importance of voting but have stopped short of endorsing a candidate.

In August, Meghan said those who did not vote would be "complicit" in its outcome. The comments inflamed some in the British press who demanded the couple be stripped of their royal titles.

A similar reaction in parts of the British press followed the couple's comments on Tuesday, with some coverage accusing the couple of going "against royal protocol."

 

A spokesman for the couple, James Holt, said Prince Harry was "not speaking about a candidate or a party, he is speaking about the tone of debate - especially online."

"It was a call for decency and respect, and for people to consider how they access information to keep informed," he said.

"This is a topic he has been speaking about for some time."

There is also precedent for a member of the royal family encouraging voting: Queen Elizabeth II made such comments about voters in Wales in 2003.

In September, the couple signed a deal with Netflix to create documentaries, docuseries, feature films, scripted shows and children's programming. They agreed to forgo public funding of their activities when they split from their royal duties and in September paid back £2.4 million (S$4 million) in taxpayer money they had used to renovate their residence on the grounds of Windsor Castle.

The video was published on National Voter Registration Day, a nonpartisan effort that saw a wide range of celebrities, organisations and tech platforms encouraging Americans to register. Registration numbers have plummeted across the country, partly because the coronavirus pandemic has made organising in-person events difficult to impossible.