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Fiserv Forum, Miller Park Won't Be Used as Voting Sites Due to Legal Challenges

Blake SchusterAnalyst IIIOctober 6, 2020

FILE - This July 29, 2020, file photo shows the Fiserv Forum, home of the Milwaukee Bucks NBA basketball team, in Milwaukee. Voting will look a little different this November. NBA owners have pledged to open arenas in Salt Lake City and elsewhere as part of an agreement they made with players to combat racial injustice. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)
Morry Gash/Associated Press

Two of Milwaukee's professional sports venues will no longer be used for in-person absentee voting during the presidential election following a Tuesday ruling from the Milwaukee Election Commission. 

Fiserv Forum, home of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Miller Park, which hosts the Milwaukee Brewers, were announced as early polling sites August 31. Barely a month later, those plans have been scrapped due to concerns over legal challenges, according to election commission executive director Claire Woodall-Vogg. 

Per Alison Dirr of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, there were concerns over whether or not votes from those locations would get counted:

"[Woodall-Vogg] cited a ruling in which U.S. District Judge William Conley rejected requests to expand early voting and a notice from the Wisconsin Elections Commission to clerks stating WEC has 'no ability to authorize' clerks to designate alternate or additional sites for in-person absentee voting for the November election. Those sites must have been designated by June 12, according to the WEC notice.

"'We just want to make sure that we protect every city of Milwaukee vote and ensure that it counts,' she said, adding that based on Conley's ruling and the WEC notice 'it would just be irresponsible, I think, to proceed with Fiserv and Miller at this point.'"

Following the August shooting of Jacob Blake by police officer Rusten Sheskey in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the NBA and the players union resumed the postseason after reaching an agreement that included the use of arenas as polling places during the election. 

NBA @NBA

Joint NBA and NBPA statement: https://t.co/EFp6fG9oZs

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Team governors further agreed to work with local officials to find another election-related use for the facilities should clubs run into any voter issues.

That deal came together more than a month after Fiserv Forum partnered with LeBron James’ voting rights group, More Than A Vote. 

"We are focused on systemic, targeted voter suppression in our community and have a specific mission: educate, energize and protect Black voters," members of the More Than a Vote coalition, including LeBron, wrote in a signed letter in July.

Bucks senior vice president Alex Lasry expressed his disappointment with Tuesday's update in a series of tweets Tuesday afternoon:

Alex Lasry @AlexanderLasry

However, it’s clear one side wants to make it harder to vote while the other wants it easier and more accessible. We will continue to work with all our partners to engage, educate and register voters.

Woodall-Vogg was an early supporter of the decision to use Fiserv Forum and Miller Park as polling locations, noting the venues would help increase voter access while remaining within the health and safety guidelines dictated by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We were trying to find a way to allow people to come to a facility where there would be easy access, where it would be very, very important to provide the social distancing and that was centrally located in the city of Milwaukee so all residents could benefit from it,” Barrett said Aug. 31.

At the time, the executive director also held out hope there would be no legal gripes over adding the two locations, saying the city should recognize "that our voters' safety comes first." 

Less than a month before the election, those concerns forced the MEC to cancel its plans. 

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