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Barclays Center to host voting in November — part of NBA election initiative

Barclays Center will serve as a polling site for the 2020 general election, hosting voters for Early Voting, October 24 to November 1, and on Election Day, November 3, BSE Global, Joe and Clara Wu Tsais’ holding company, announced Tuesday on the arena entrance plaza.

While the current public health crisis has rendered many sports and entertainment venues underutilized, Barclays Center will now serve as the largest voting space in Brooklyn, providing thousands of the borough’s voters with a centrally-located polling site to cast their ballot indoors, while complying with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s safety guidelines.

BSE Global also announced other initiatives, including encouraging arena workers (who are still be being paid) to serve as poll workers.

BSE Global ... will be encouraging its employees to serve as poll workers at Barclays Center or a location of their choosing. Additionally, BSE will work to grow civic engagement and inspire voter participation in the coming election through other ways, including sharing voter education materials on all team and arena social media channels and websites, and displaying similar digital signage on the exterior of the arena. Over the next two months, BSE will also be providing its employees with opportunities to volunteer with voter registration organizations.

Discussions between the city Board of Elections had been underway for two months, said John Abbamondi, the new CEO of BSE Global, the Nets and Barclays Center.

“The Nets and Barclays Center are committed to doing our part in providing a safe and convenient option for the community to vote in the upcoming general election,” said Abbamondi.

“The NYC Board of Elections has been a great partner during our discussions over the past two months to determine the safest way to host polling for early voting and Election Day at Barclays Center. We are proud to be a part of the incredible effort that many NBA arenas have shown to ensure that people exercise their voting power.”

The Nets now becomes at least the 11th NBA team to volunteer its venue for Election Day or earlier voting. Last week, the NBA and NBPA announced a new series of social justice initiatives including a specific commitment on use of NBA arenas as polling places, specifically stating: “owners will work with local officials to turn those arenas into voting locations for the 2020 elections.”

With COVID-19 infections still on the rise around the country, there is concern that voters won’t want to line up in traditional polling places like town halls, schools or fire departments. So larger venues like sports arenas and stadiums have been suggested as an alternative since they can provide larger, safer spaces for voters as well as easy access since many, like Barclays, are located at transportation hubs.

City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo praised the efforts, particularly noting the transit access.

“Casting your ballot in person should be as simple as hopping on a train. “Designating Barclays Center as an early voting site between October 24 and November 1 and a polling place on November 3 are critical steps toward increasing civic engagement throughout District 35 and beyond!”

Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough President ... and a likely candidate for Mayor next year, added, “It is imperative that we provide all possible options to voters so they can safely and securely cast their ballots. I applaud Barclays Center for opening their space to New Yorkers who are looking to vote in person this year, whether early or on Election Day, and supporting our ongoing commitment to expanding civic participation in the borough of Brooklyn. I hope this partnership serves as a model for similar facilities and spaces nationwide.”

The arena’s entrance plaza, where Tuesday’s press conference was held, was the scene of protests in May and June following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. City food banks have also used the plaza as a “pop-up pantry” for Brooklyn residents on two occasions since the emergence of COVID-19. In fact, some have called the plaza Brooklyn’s “accidental town square.”

Also, on Tuesday, the owners of the Philadelphia 76ers, also made their venue, Wells Fargo Center, available for voting.

The New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, Charlotte Hornets and Utah Jazz have already announced that their arenas will be available as polling sites on November 3 or earlier. The Los Angeles Clippers which shares the Staples Center with the Lakers, on Friday announced that The Forum, which owner Steve Ballmer bought this summer from Knicks owner James Dolan, will serve as a “vote center.” In Oklahoma City, Thunder officials said that the local election board told the team there was no need for larger venues. The arena will be open for voter registration, however.