With the U.S. presidential election just days away, people flock to voting stations to cast their votes. But with the ongoing pandemic, a voting venue is one of the main problems.
The initiative, mostly led by professional athletes, seeks to expand election accessibility, focusing on Black and Latino voters, who continue to experience voter suppression.
About 40 stadiums, arenas, and ballparks that host WNBA, NBA, NFL, Major League Soccer, and even Major League Baseball, are used as election venues or other election-related activities.
Besides, the vast size of these major sporting venues is designed to encourage more citizens to secure their votes following increased early voting in many counties, which resulted in record voting participation.
As COVID-19 case numbers surge around the nation, the venues are willing to accommodate hundreds of election machines and booths and accommodate more voters even while allowing social distancing.
Arenas, stadiums, and ballparks are used in many instances as additional election venues whereby the voter of a city or county may participate regardless of the precincts or districts in which they live.
That being said, in some instances, smaller polling places in suburban communities are replaced by larger venues, which may harm the very voters they are seeking to aid.
"It depends on how many polling places are open in each city and how easy it is for people to get to these stadiums," U.S. managing director at Human Rights Watch, Alison Parker, stated. "If they're being used as a replacement because they're large and people think they can close some of the locations they've previously used, that runs contrary to voting access."
On the one end, the possibility of spreading COVID-19 may be increased by bigger event spaces since they permit large crowds to gather. But on the other hand, they could also encourage greater social distancing, a key measure of spread prevention. When thinking of election venues for communities for two reasons, Parker said, duality is especially important.
Sports stadiums offer a unique advantage for citizens who have been willing or able to drive, in that so many are built to be conveniently accessible on game days by public transportation. It is something that Mark Cuban, founder of the Dallas Mavericks NBA, took into account in the intention to use the venue of the group as an early voting venue.
Cuban had stated in an email: "We are adjacent to public transportation and walking distance to several lower-income communities."
Cuban pays both expenses, and the team compensates many of the venues utilized for election or stadium owners' expenses, that Parker stated may further boost election opportunities.
"If the stadiums are being provided or donated as an additional location - not a replacement and not a consolidated venue - hopefully that saves the election board money to rent additional locations, provide personal protective equipment or offer more pay so younger people will be willing to man the polls," Parker said.