Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James headlines a group of prominent athletes who will lead an effort to recruit poll workers in predominantly Black districts in the coming weeks, according to a Reuters report.
The program is a multimillion-dollar collaboration between More Than a Vote and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. James founded More Than a Vote in June, along with ex-NBA player turned analyst Jalen Rose, New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, Phoenix Mercury star Skylar Diggins-Smith, Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem, Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green.
The coalition was established to combat voter suppression, and its latest effort will serve polling sites located in Black communities within 12 states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin. Funds will be allocated towards recruiting young people to serve as poll workers through an advertising campaign and a corporate partnership encouraging employees to volunteer, among other initiatives, according to The New York Times.
The news dropped on the same day James addressed the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
“People get tired of hearing me say it, but we are scared as Black people in America,” James said. “Black men, Black women, Black kids, we are terrified. Because you don’t know. You have no idea. You have no idea how that cop that day left the house. ... You don’t know if he woke up on the wrong side of the bed. You don’t know if he had an argument at home with a significant other, if one of his kids said something crazy to him and he left the house steaming. Or maybe he just left the house saying today is going to be the end for one of these black people. That’s what it feels like. That’s what it feels like. It just hurts. It hurts.”
More Than a Vote was inspired in part by the shortage of poll workers in Black communities that shut down polling sites and resulted in hours-long waits during elections in Wisconsin and Georgia earlier this year. The coronavirus pandemic could cause similar shortages nationwide in the November presidential election.
“I live in Atlanta, so this issue is right on my front door,” Renee Montgomery, a More Than a Vote coalition member who opted out of the current WNBA season to focus on voter advocacy, told The New York Times. “We have the long lines, it’s condensed and COVID is being used as a way to have voter suppression.”
More Than a Vote partnered last month with teams in Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee and Los Angeles to transform arenas into polling sites. The group also donated $100,000 to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition’s efforts to pay outstanding court debts of former felons so they can register to vote. Florida lifted its lifetime voting ban on felons in 2018, returning rights to 1.4 million potential voters, but a law passed by the state’s Legislature still requires the payment of outstanding court debts and fees prior to registering.
More Than A Vote outlined its mission in great detail in an open letter to The Undefeated last week, citing specific calls to action combatting “the systemic abuse of political power to make voting more difficult.” The letter encouraged members of the Black community to volunteer at polling sites and with organizations “mobilizing for this fight,” including the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, When We All Vote and Fair Fight.
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