When the United States rules over Donald Trump’s latest attempt to suppress the vote in the November presidential election by undermining it via mail-in-vote, an alternative route to casting votes takes shape can provide for hundreds of thousands of Americans: turn sports arenas into giant polling stations.
At least 12 professional sports teams and their stadiums from the worlds of baseball, basketball, football and hockey are preparing to open their doors to allow fast, safe and socially distant voices. The masterminds behind the idea, the non-partisan Election Super Centers Project, expect that number to rise to 25 within weeks, and hope that universities and colleges will participate as well.
The teams that signaled their intent to open their stadiums on Election Day, and potentially before it is for early voting, include the Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins. They are all in dialogue with local election boards.
In a parallel initiative, LA Lakers star LeBron James has announced that he is teaming up with several teams, including the LA Dodgers and Detroit Pistons, to open their arenas as polling stations in November. James has formed a campaign, More Than a Vote, which seeks to use the influence of black athletes and artists to combat systemic, racist voter oppression and unleash the electoral power of black voters.
Filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, co-chair of the Election Super Centers Project, said the goal was to open access to potentially millions of voters and ensure that ‘their voting experience meets the highest standards of safety, security and electoral integrity “.
But the initiative will also have to deal with this year’s huge shortage of poll workers. Nearly six out of 10 workers in the U.S. are older than 61, according to the Pew Research Center, which makes them vulnerable to Covid-19 seeing the increased danger of the virus for older people.
Organizers hope poll workers will be recruited and trained to run the new arena polling stations among the thousands of stadium staff stranded in the pandemic. In the same way, students will be recruited and trained to run the polling stations at locations on college and college sports.
Leading figures in election organization, crowdfunding and public health have been recruited as advisers.
“No one should have to choose between exercising their most precious democratic right and their personal security,” said singer-songwriter John Legend, who supports the arena project.
The presidential election in 2020 constitutes one of the most brutal controversies and potentially ugly in generations. Trump has publicly said he is blocking $ 25 billion in federal funding for the U.S. Postal Service to block postal voting. The movement has been condemned as a threat to democracy in the US by leading Democrats including Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama.
At the state level, this election cycle is also being hampered by a wave of voter repression tactics, such as technical challenges exacerbated by coronavirus. Several primary elections are riddled with problems, including dysfunctional voting machines, lack of polling stations and a consistent lack of polling stations. In Georgia’s primary election in June, Atlanta voters had to wait up to five hours to vote. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which has a 40% African-American population, had only five personal polling stations open for its primary in April, down from the usual 180.
In both cities, large sports arenas designed for quick and easy public access and the space to allow sufficient social distance could make a substantial difference on election day. The Atlanta Hawks are working with LeBron James on plans to open, while another NBA team, the Milwaukee Bucks, is in similar talks with the Election Super Center Project.
Rapper Chuck D said in a statement: “Election super-centers are tackling the obstacles that prevent people from voting. Instead of an election day in which people are rejected or hindered, arenas and stadiums will welcome them. ‘