The World’s Most Famous Arena will turn into the World’s Most Famous Poll Site.
Madison Square Garden will operate as a poll site for the general election, the Garden said Friday afternoon.
The Madison Square Garden Company announced the move as part of a partnership with the New York City Board of Elections.
It’s unclear if voters assigned to another nearby polling location will be instructed to head to the home of the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers.
It’s also not confirmed how much of the Garden, with its hundreds of thousands of square feet of room, will be used for voting, but it could be the largest poll site in New York. The Garden predicts more than 60,000 voters will be able to cast their ballot at the site.
As of this writing, it’s not confirmed if the Barclays Center, home to the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Islanders, will also be used as a poll site. The NBA and the players’ union announced earlier Friday that in every city where a team owns and controls the arena, the location will be converted into a poll site.
That Garden’s move followed NBA players undertaking walkouts Wednesday to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Professional athletes throughout North American followed the NBA's lead, conducting walkouts that resulted in postponements the past few days.
NBA players subsequently pushed the league and owners to amp up support for racial justice initiatives. On Friday, the league announced that arenas for all teams would be used as either polling sites or, if that were not possible, as sites for voter registration or for ballot-receiving boards.
As of this writing, it’s not confirmed if the Barclays Center, home to the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Islanders, will also be used as a poll site. Nets’ owner Joe Tsai also owns the Barclays Center, which has been a gathering ground for police reform protests this summer. NY1 reached out to the Barclays Center for confirmation if the arena would be used as a poll site.
It’s not confirmed if other New York teams will join the effort. The Mets and Yankees could be using their home ballparks for postseason games in October — reportedly possibly as a playoff “bubble” site — during part of early voting, which runs from October 24 to November 1, but the MLB season would be done by Election Day on November 3.
The Rangers and Knicks have not played games at the Garden, nor the Nets at the Barclays Center, for months, and the next NBA and NHL seasons will reportedly not start until after the election, so there is no risk of scheduling conflicts.
Many activists have been concerned about poll site access across the United States due to the coronavirus pandemic, with fears of poll sites closing, making it more difficult for people — especially those living outside cities — to cast their ballot.
Professional athletes, particularly in the NBA, have subsequently honed in on voting rights activism in the past few weeks. For example, Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar LeBron James and other athletes and artists teamed up for More Than a Vote, an organization marshaling efforts to combat racist voter suppression.
This comes as Democrats have sounded voter suppression alarms over United States Postal Service reductions and President Donald Trump attacking mail-in voting and saying he would seek to block funding for the Postal Service, acknowledging that his position would make voting by mail during the pandemic more difficult.
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