Atlanta Hawks to turn arena into a giant voting center

The Atlanta Hawks will open the State Farm Arena as a voting center.

The Atlanta Hawks want to make voting safer and easier in their home city.

On Monday, the team announced that their stadium, State Farm Arena, would become Georgia's largest-ever voting center. The basketball team also challenged other franchises to follow suit before the presidential election.

This decision follows a chaotic June 9 primary that saw long lines, voting machine issues, and accusations of voter suppression in the state.

"We always felt we were a community and civic asset. We took that oath as an opportunity and a big responsibility," said Principal Owner Tony Ressler.

The move also comes at a time of growing civil unrest and larger conversations around racial justice. Atlanta saw weeks of protests following the death of George Floyd, and earlier this month, the Atlanta police chief stepped down after the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks.

Hawks Coach Lloyd Pierce, a Black man who has been outspoken on social justice and is chair of the NBA's racial justice committee, spoke about the importance of voting following the death of George Floyd: "I was born a Black man, and I know one day I'll die a Black man, just as a lot of players and coaches are on this stage. But I don't want to die because I'm a Black man."

This giant polling center will maintain CDC-recommended social distancing requirements and the Fulton County Registration & Elections will conduct other elections support operations at the site, including absentee ballot processing.

"State Farm Arena is an ideal solution to help us serve thousands of voters while maintaining social distancing requirements," said Mary Carole Cooney, chairperson of the Fulton County Board of Registration & Elections. "We appreciate the Hawks for coming to us with this creative solution."

To provide greater accessibility to voting, the Hawks Foundation will also provide free parking, with more than 1,500 parking spaces around the arena.

Steve Koonin, CEO of the Hawks, tweeted: "Let your voice be heard..get out to vote. We look forward to welcoming Fulton County voters to State Farm Arena."

The polling center will be open for the primary runoff election on August 11 and early voting for the general election scheduled for November 3.

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