Bay Area sports arenas to convert into voting centers, ballot drop off locations 

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As part of a nationwide effort to make voting safer during the novel coronavirus pandemic, sports arenas across the country are stepping up to help.

In several major U.S. cities across at least 14 states, well-known sports arenas or convention centers are transforming into vote "super centers."

Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara county is one of many on the list, which also includes Golden 1 Center in Sacramento and Staples Center in Los Angeles.

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The Bay Area's SAP Center and Oakland Coliseum will also be used as ballot drop-off locations.

"It was all the sports arenas that were like, we have space - use it!" Evelyn Mendez with the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters office told ABC7 News.

In California, every single registered voter will be sent a mail-in-ballot this year, but for people who choose to vote in person, the pandemic has made finding voting spaces trickier. Large spaces like sports arenas allow for social distancing (especially if there are lines on Election Day), for storage of PPE and for separate entrances and exits. They're also recognizable and memorable locations within the community.

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Mendez says the county has purchased "pounds and pounds" of cleaning supplies that will be distributed to their 100 vote centers, which open on Oct. 31 through Election Day. Upon arrival, voters will be offered masks and face shields, hand sanitizer, gloves and sanitized electronic pens to use for voting.

Santa Clara county has secured several creative locations for these vote centers beyond sports arenas, including the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, the Wings of History Air Museum, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art and two churches of Scientology.

"We've seen a lot of organizations, companies, facilities that have never ever hosted voting before or even participated with us, now coming on board willing to offer any space that's needed," April Bracamonte with the Santa Clara county Registrar of Voters office explained.

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But the decision to use sports arenas is part of a bigger message. Last month, after a three-day strike, the NBA and NBPA released a joint statement vowing to fight for much-needed change that included a commitment to converting their facilities into 2020 Election voting locations.

See related stories and videos on voting here.
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