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Source: Charlotte’s Spectrum Center might be used as early-voting polling place

The RNC is gone, leaving Charlotte to sort out millions in contract liabilities
The RNC is gone, leaving Charlotte to sort out millions in contract liabilities(David T. Foster III | The Charlotte Observer | David T. Foster III | The Charlotte Observer)
Published: Jul. 17, 2020 at 2:19 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Rick Bonnell/The Charlotte Observer) - The Charlotte Hornets and the city of Charlotte are in talks about providing Spectrum Center as an early polling place for the November election, per a source familiar with the discussions.

The uptown arena on Fifth Street would provide a massive space, allowing for social-distancing for voters, in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The facility is owned by the city and managed by the Hornets. It has not been used for public events since the NBA paused its season March 11.

The Hornets would become the fourth NBA team providing facilities for voting in the upcoming election cycle, joining the Atlanta HawksDetroit Pistons and Sacramento Kings.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because plans are still being finalized, said Spectrum Center is not being considered as an election-day polling place on Nov. 3.

One of the hurdles for the upcoming election is providing for voter safety in the COVID-19 pandemic. Spectrum Center, with a basketball seating capacity of 19,077, is one of the larger public indoor spaces in Charlotte, along with the Convention Center and Bojangles’ Coliseum on Independence Boulevard.

Spectrum Center was designed to host a wide range of events, so the building could be configured in ways to ease social-distancing concerns for both voters and poll workers, many of whom are retirees in age groups at greater risk from the pandemic.

The Hornets announced Friday that election day will be a paid holiday for its employees, and that employees will be encouraged to volunteer at polling sites or within the community.

Hornets owner Michael Jordan and Jordan Brand, his sneaker-and-apparel division of Nike, have pledged $100 million over the next 10 years to address social justice and educational-access issues.

Voting access will be part of the Hornets’ community-outreach programs in the coming months. Jordan spoke with the Observer June 5 on how the George Floyd killing in Minneapolis drove him to make this large pledge.

“We have been beaten down (as African Americans) for so many years. It sucks your soul. You can’t accept it anymore,” Jordan said. “This is a tipping point. We need to make a stand. We’ve got to be better as a society regarding race.”

Spectrum Center was scheduled to host the Republican National Convention in August. However, the major events of the RNC have been moved to Jacksonville, Fla., after N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper couldn’t ensure that the arena could be run at full capacity during the pandemic.