Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Stadium voting will return to Atlanta for the Senate runoffs

Voting will return to State Farm Arena for the Jan. 5 runoff election in Georgia.
Voting will return to State Farm Arena for the Jan. 5 runoff election in Georgia.
Image: (Getty Images)

Last week, Deadspin wondered whether or not Fulton county would offer stadium voting for the runoff election. A week later, we have an answer.

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Early voting at two Atlanta arenas will be available, and yes, it is a big deal.

Both Georgia Senate runoffs are set for January 5, 2021; one featuring Deadspin favorite Kelly Loeffler. The two races will determine the balance of power in the United States Senate as if the democrats win both, the Senate will be split 50-50, with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris becoming the deciding vote.

For three weeks in October, over 40,000 Atlantans cast their early ballots at State Farm Arena, home of the Hawks. Next month, voters will get another chance to vote early at a pro sports stadium.

But stadium early voting will look a bit different than what we saw in October.

Because of the upcoming NBA season, Atlanta voters can vote at one of two stadiums: State Farm Arena (December 14-19) or Mercedes-Benz Stadium (December 22 - 30), where the Falcons play.

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The NBA and NFL facilities are across the street from one another. And no voting will take place at the Falcons’ stadium on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

The Hawks and the rest of the NBA won’t start regular-season play until December 22. Conveniently, the Falcons play their last home game in Atlanta on Sunday, December 20 (they ain’t making the playoffs, no need for a recount).

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The announcement comes as COVID cases across the country, including in Georgia, rise. Last month, thousands of voters used State Farm Arena as a place to properly socially distance and vote in person for the general election. The arena was the largest voting precinct in the state, but it barely had any problems and saw relatively short lines.

Why not give it another go?

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Atlanta was the first city to offer stadium voting after a disastrous June primary saw long lines and blatant examples of voter suppression, primarily against its Black citizens.

While stadium voting won’t change the outcome of an election, and it won’t solve the deeply entrenched issues that go along with voter suppression, what the arenas will offer is another option to get involved in the political process.

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That can only help democracy.

“We are proud of the experience that we’ve been able to offer Fulton County voters in these important elections,” Steve Koonin, CEO, Atlanta Hawks & State Farm Arena said in a statement. “Voting is an important civic duty and as a business that represents this city, it has been a pleasure to give back in such an incredibly meaningful way.”

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Across the street, Steve Cannon, CEO of AMB Sports and Entertainment said, “[w]e are thrilled to offer Mercedes-Benz Stadium as an early voting location for the Senate run-off election... We are grateful to the Hawks and State Farm Arena in partnering with us and we will ensure that Fulton County voters continue to have the best voting experience possible.”