Professional sports teams and voting advocates are working together to turn stadiums and arenas across the country into polling locations.
Although there are people with many questions as to how this will work, several stadiums and arenas are officially set to open for voting in some of the nation's most critical swing states this fall and their impact on this year’s election could be solid.
With the coronavirus pandemic still raging, the facilities allow for space for physical distancing, unlike traditional polling places. Alongside many the venues located within inner cities where polling places are often piled with long lines, the availability at stadiums and arenas may draw in voters who otherwise would not or could not spend hours waiting to cast their voting ballots.
"I want to get between 50 and 100 arenas open across the country," said Eugene Jarecki, co-chair of the Election Super Centers Project. "I think each one of them can process about 40,000 people. So do the math on how huge that could be."
The Election Super Centers Project, a joint venture of the Silver Linings Group and the National Vote at Home Institute, has spent the majority of the summer booking stadium spaces across the four major professional sports leagues. Now the group is seeking out large college venues, according to Jarecki.
The project effort comes in conjunction with another project led by More Than a Vote, a group led by NBA superstar LeBron James and other celebrities, who helped bring the Atlanta Hawks and the Los Angeles Dodgers into the mix this summer.
Arena owners will take care of the bill to have the spaces up and running, while the local boards of election are responsible for providing the ballots, voting machines, and other necessary tools.
"The whole idea is simply that this is a familiar space," Jarecki said. "People love their arenas. They know their teams. They want to vote with their teams."
The idea, which was promoted by voting rights advocates for months, comes from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and multiple venues drawing either no fans or events this fall. Now is considered the perfect time for the advocates to temporarily transform the large spaces into voting locations.
As of Monday (September 7), about 20 of the NBA’s franchises will use their home courts, practice facilities, or nearby venues for election purposes this fall. What exactly can take place in the facilities depends on their partnerships with the local boards of election, state laws, and certain deadlines for designation.
So far, seven of the venues have been designated as voting centers, where any voter registered within the county can show up and cast a ballot. Some will serve as early voting sites, while others will be used as specific voting precincts on Election Day.
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