CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - Bank of America Stadium and Spectrum Center, homes to Charlotte’s NFL and NBA teams, will serve as early-voting poll sites this fall.
The Mecklenburg County Board of Elections approved the facilities among 33 sites for early voting in a Tuesday night meeting. Bojangles Coliseum on Independence Boulevard also is part of the plan. Details for the poll sites still need to be arranged.
The board is exploring large spaces that could facilitate social-distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mecklenburg election officials anticipate heavy use of early-voting options before election day on Nov. 3. Large facilities with multiple entrances and exits are desirable to avoid voters crowding together to cast ballots. The plan is for voting machines to be spaced 6 feet apart, twice the distance the Board of Elections previously used.
Mecklenburg election officials are preparing for up to 40% of local voters to cast ballots early, either in person or by mail. That could mean 300,000 or more early ballots.
The Board of Elections also is preparing for the possibility of positive COVID-19 tests popping up at early-voting polling places, which could shut down those facilities for several days for cleaning.
POLL SITES WITH PLENTY OF SPACE
The Hornets, who manage the city-owned Spectrum Center, had proposed using the arena as a polling place, The Observer reported Friday. The huge floor space — Spectrum Center has a 19,077-seat capacity — is attractive as a poll site while maintaining social distancing.
Bank of America Stadium, where the Carolina Panthers play, and Bojangles Coliseum offer similar expansive spaces.
Spectrum Center hasn’t hosted a public event since the NBA halted its season March 11. The arena was scheduled to host the Republic National Convention, but the major convention events next month 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.
In-person voting is a concern in the upcoming election as the pandemic continues. Many poll workers are retirees and are in age groups that would put them at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
The Hornets will be the fourth NBA team to provide facilities for voting in the upcoming election cycle, joining the Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons and Sacramento Kings.
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.