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Barclays Center to be polling site; arena manager offers full paid day off for poll workers, but only to full-time employees

BP Eric Adams, Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo;
 BSE Global CEO John Abbamondi; Board of Elections
 Executive Director Michael Ryan (l-r, BSE Global photo)
With Borough President Eric Adams and Council Majority Leader (and local representative) Laurie Cumbo at the podium, the Barclays Center yesterday announced--as expected--that it would serve as a polling site for both early voting, from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1, and on Nov. 3, Election Day.

This comes in the wake of a national NBA ownership/players initiative after player protests over racial injustice, and after Madison Square Garden also agreed to be a polling site, as Gothamist noted.

As Gothamist's Brigid Bergin wrote, in-person voting is available only to voters assigned to the arena location, but absentee ballots can be deposited at the Barclays Center or any early voting or poll site in the city. Barclays, which is located near numerous transit options on the border of Downtown Brooklyn, could serve 30,000 voters.

As I wrote last week, arena managers--and elected officials--have ignored a more complicated request for the arena to be used for public school purposes. Update: Adams, according to Kings County Politics, actually raised the issue at the press conference, as far as I know for the first time:
"I think we have to look at all the spaces that are available that are not being utilized now. Any creative way that we can make that happen, Barclays, movie theaters,” said Adams. “One thing we have to be clear on, our children did not receive an education at the end of the school year. We have to be honest about it, let’s stop pretending as though every child was educated, and I’m concerned that we didn’t spend the entire summer being properly prepared, so wherever spaces are available for use I think we should use them. We must make sure our children receive a quality education. This can’t be a continuation of failure.”

Workers paid to be poll workers?

The well-orchestrated event was complete with a new message at the oculus encourating people to be poll workers--see photo above. When I walked by in the early afternoon, that message was gone, replaced by the static Martin Luther King Jr. quote that was added in June after nearly ten days of protests.

The press release (below) said that BSE Global, which manages and operates the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, "will be encouraging its employees to serve as poll workers at Barclays Center or a location of their choosing."

As the text of the tweet below indicates, BSE Global's CEO announced a full paid day off for BSE Global employees to work as poll workers. His words in the video, however, cited only full-time employees, which are a tiny fraction of the total pool of workers for both the arena holding company and the arena itself.
I suspect few workers will take them up on it, because full-time workers are less likely to need the money, especially compared to those out of work, and they might fear COVID-19 risks. Plus, as I've learned, the work can be arduous and frustrating.

The press release
BROOKLYN – Barclays Center will serve as a polling site for the 2020 general election, hosting voters for Early Voting, Oct. 24 – Nov. 1, and on Election Day, Nov. 3.

The announcement was made today by Executive Director of the NYC Board of Elections Michael Ryan, BSE Global CEO John Abbamondi, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and NYC Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo at a press conference on the arena’s 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.

“I am so pleased that Barclays Center has stepped up in such a crucial election,” said Executive Director Ryan. “The more options voters have, the smoother and safer the voting process becomes, especially in what is still a uniquely trying time for the city.” In addition to the site itself, Ryan took note of the venue’s “various transportation options, which gives voters who may have to travel a bit to cast their ballots some convenience.”

Today’s announcement marks exactly two months until Election Day, and also falls on National Poll Worker Recruitment Day, which is meant to bring awareness to the increased need for poll workers, and inspire more people to sign up to become election workers for the general election. More info here on becoming a poll worker.

BSE Global, the company that manages and operates the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, 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.

“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.”

“This year’s election will be one of the most important in our city and country’s history, and it comes amid a deadly pandemic that has upended every aspect of our daily lives,” said Borough President Adams. “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.”

“Voting rights are under attack in this country,” said Majority Leader Cumbo. “As a global pandemic threatens our ability to safely access the polls, and we have executive leadership whose continued attempts to suppress voters threaten the future of our democracy, it is up to local governments and leadership to innovate and ensure equal voting opportunities. 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! I stand alongside fellow community leaders in applauding Barclays Center and the NYC Board of Elections for making this possible.”