Voting-in-Gerogia Kelsey Luker reads as she waits in line to vote in the primaries in Atlanta. Luker said she had been in line for almost two hours. The opening of the State Farm Arena as a giant voting precinct aims to avoid another voting snafu in Georgia.
Image via AP Photo/John Bazemore)

After a myriad of voting issues during the primary election in Georgia, a new solution is finally here to serve hundreds of thousands of voters in the primary runoff election on August 11 and the upcoming presidential election. 

GEORGIA — Long voting lines could be over for good. Georgia, which has 767,667 registered voters in Fulton County, will soon have a much-need reprieve to the state’s urgent voting issues and adhere to social distancing rules.

The Atlanta Hawks are joining forces with Fulton County to transform the State Farm Arena into the largest-ever voting precinct. It will be open in time for the August 11 primary runoff and the November general elections, however, it will officially open on July 20 for early voting. 

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, in a released statement on Monday. “We appreciate the Hawks for coming to us with this creative solution.”

Related: Georgia Voters Outraged as Long Lines and Broken Machines Make a Mess of State’s Primaries

Voto Latino, an organization that seeks to register marginalized communities to vote, praised the decision to expand voting opportunities in Fulton County and want to see more cities develop this kind of initiative. The organization reports that 74% of the voters they’ve registered this cycle are between the ages of 18 and 34. In Fulton County alone, there are currently 321,238 Black registered voters, and 20,223 Latino registered voters.

“The move to open the State Farm Arena as a polling place is a good one,” Danny Turkel Communications Manager for Voto Latino told The Americano. “It will provide a large space for voters to cast their ballots while physically distancing. We need more proposals and ideas like this as we close in on the general election in November. COVID-19 is not under control and is likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future. What we must do, as a nation, is push politicians and policymakers to, not only provide logistical support for safe elections but to aggressively communicate to their constituents how serious this pandemic is, where exactly we are in fighting it and what is expected of every individual to do their part.” 

Atlanta Hawks Principal Owner Tony Ressler released a statement on Twitter, saying, “We always felt we were a community and civic asset. We took that oath as an opportunity and a big responsibility.”

On June 9, voters in Georgia experienced several problems while attempting to vote during the primary elections, including waiting in line to vote all day. Other issues on election day also included broken voting machines

On June 15, Hawks Coach Lloyd Pierce, who’s chair of the NBA’s racial justice committee and speaks on social justice issues, said in a Black Lives Matter rally that he was working on transforming the arena into a polling precinct. He talked to the crowd about the importance of voting as a Black man. 

Related: Long Lines and Broken Machines Couldn’t Stop These Black and Latino Voters In Georgia

“We’re committed to trying to make State Farm Arena a polling place so that Fulton County, Dekalb County, and every citizen in this city has a right to vote and the opportunity to vote,” Pierce said. “So we oppose Senate Bureau 463 that limits the ability for us as citizens to exercise our right to vote. I want to finish by saying, 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.”

To provide greater accessibility to voting, the Hawks Foundation will be offering free parking to individuals accessing the venue to vote. More than 1500 parking spots surrounding the arena will provide complimentary parking for vehicles with a voter.