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Suns can make big impact by providing Election Super Center for fall elections

The Phoenix Suns can join a dozen other sports franchises in making the arena a polling super center for elections.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

America is facing a crisis, and Robert Sarver’s Phoenix Suns can help to relieve it. The NBA players are fed up with lack of real tangible action on social justice and the NBA owners are being asked to make commitments to the cause. If you don’t believe some of the richest men in the world have political influence, you haven’t been paying attention.

Basketball’s owners already do a lot of good with their money. They can start directing and/or withholding the money in certain ways to force policy change. They can also help politicians make choices in lawmaking that direct public funds in different ways. Suns owner Robert Sarver just last year used his political connections to secure $150 million in public funding from the city of Phoenix for renovations to his arena. Yes, he has influence.

I want to highlight a small but very impactful way that the Suns can make a good-faith effort to support protests against systemic racism in public safety. Some of the systemic racism in this country is being supported by the policies of public offices and racist leanings of those in elected positions. Sometimes making big change means rooting out the bad seeds in power.

Every city, county and municipality, as well as the state government itself, has a budget, a lot of which is directed to law enforcement and the court system. Many of the people in positions of power over public policy and those tax-paid budgets are elected positions. Many of those positions, as well as lawmaking measures, will be up for vote in November. And that’s not to mention the federal election this fall.

Yet our right to vote in November for the candidates of our choice is being threatened this fall.

The COVID-19 pandemic might make people fearful of standing in long lines to vote in person. The pandemic is also threatening to leave polling centers under-staffed, since many of the volunteers at polling centers are older, and in the highest risk category for getting COVID-19.

Additionally, the under-funded USPS is threatening to be too slow for proper counting of mailed-in ballots. Unfounded claims of mail fraud are making even more people fearful of even mailing in their vote in the first place.

The result of those threats could be a low turnout on voting for elected positions this fall.

THAT is a crisis that Robert Sarver and the Phoenix Suns can help alleviate in November.

Sarver has oversight over three large facilities in the Phoenix area that can be turned into physically-distant voting centers thanks to their open spaces, indoor and out, and dozens of entrances to help control lines.

Several professional sports teams have already made their own arenas available under the Election Super Centers project, and Sarver needs to join them.

This year, professional sport and cultural luminaries have become increasingly involved in civic engagement activities, including the announcement last month by LeBron James and his group More Than a Vote that the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks would open their arenas as polling places in 2020. Now, the Election Super Centers Project is working with more than a dozen additional teams and arenas to open as supplemental voting and registration centers this year.

These teams/arenas include the LA Clippers at The LA Forum, Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, New Jersey Devils, Dallas Mavericks, Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Milwaukee Bucks, and Washington Capitals, all of whom have signaled their intent to open their doors and are now working closely with election officials.

Project co-Chair McReynolds first proposed the idea of using arenas as polling places three years ago when she was Denver Director of Elections. Now, with COVID-19 resurging, the idea has gained renewed currency.

“We are using arenas to protect the most precious of our constitutional rights, the right to vote, says Wilkerson, ”and we have convened some of the best minds in the country to deliver on that commitment.”

Why aren’t the Suns already on this list of participants?!

I know that the downtown Talking Stick Resort Arena is a construction zone right now, as is the new practice facility in East Phoenix. But the former should be completed by the end of September and the latter by end of August. Plenty of time before elections.

And, the Suns also had already negotiated the use of Veterans Memorial Coliseum for NBA and WBNA basketball this summer, so I am sure the arena can be made available as a voting center as needed.

I don’t know the ins and outs of turning a facility into a voting/polling location, but all those other teams can do it so can the Suns.

Make it happen!