In an Election Unlike Any Other, Americans Pack Sports Stadiums to Vote

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With Americans sharply divided into red and blue teams, it seems like politics has replaced a more benign form of American rivalry: sports. 

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For months, stadiums and arenas across the country have lain largely empty and silent, as the coronavirus pandemic forced most teams to compete without fans in the stands. But, as election season approached, many of these stadiums opened their doors to voters instead of fans.

More than 40 sports venues were transformed into voting centers nationwide, some for early voting, some for election day voting, and some for back-office voting logistics. In Georgia, where some early voters waited more than 11 hours to vote, residents of Fulton County had 300 voting booths available at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, home of the Atlanta Hawks. In Los Angeles, almost every major sports arena was transformed into voting stations, including the Staples Center, Dodger Stadium, SoFi Stadium, the Rose Bowl, and more. In Boston, voters lined up in Red Sox jerseys to cast their ballot at Fenway Park. 

The push to use sports arenas as voting centers began with National Basketball Association players, who encouraged the league to do more for social justice in the wake of the May killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests. In July, three NBA teams, including the Hawks, the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks, agreed to use their facilities as polling stations. In late August, the Bucks went on strike, refusing to play in a scheduled game against Orlando, to bring attention to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. 

After 48 hours, the strike resulted in a deal where the NBA promised to support a range of social justice issues, including allowing its facilities to be used as voting sites, according to a statement the league issued. 

By then, the idea had taken hold and all of the major sports leagues Major League Baseball, the NBA, National Football League and the National Hockey League had made some of their facilities available for Americans to show up for their (political) team. 

Voters cast their ballots inside of State Farm Arena, Georgia's largest early voting location, for the first day of early voting in the general election on Oct. 12 in Atlanta, Georgia. The arena was open to voters until early voting ended on Oct. 30.
People vote on the first day of early voting at Los Angeles’ Staples Center, home to the L.A. Lakers, on Oct. 24. The arena will be open to voters through election day, and also offered a dropbox for mail-in ballots.
A view of SoFi Stadium before the game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Chicago Bears on Oct. 26 in Inglewood, Calif. The stadium opened to voters on Oct. 30, and remains open for election day voting.
Registrants sign in to Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland, where a voter registration event took place on Sept. 21. The arena is also serving as a polling station on election day.
Madison Square Garden in Manhattan served as an early voting site from Oct. 24, and remains open for voting on election day. Due to the coronavirus and social distancing concerns, New York state is allowing early voting for the first time this year.
Lines stretched for blocks outside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, when early voting began in New York on Oct. 24. Barclays served as a polling site for the 2020 general election until Nov. 1, and then on election day.
Voting booths are prepared by the City of Orlando and the Orlando Magic in the Disney Atrium at the Amway Center, the home arena of the NBA’s Magic. The arena hosted voters for early voting from Oct. 19 to Nov. 1.