LeBron James Launches A Campaign to Push for More Poll Workers

More Than a Vote, a collective of athletes headlined by LeBron James that is fighting to combat voter suppression, will announce a multimillion-dollar initiative to increase the number of poll workers in Black electoral districts ahead of November’s general election.The project, a collaboration with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, aims to recruit young people to serve at polling locations in Black communities in swing states, including Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio. The effort will involve poll worker recruitment, a paid advertising campaign and a corporate partnership program that will encourage employees to volunteer as poll workers.Election officials throughout the country have reported a shortage of poll workers to staff in-person voting sites amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has upended every facet of American life — including the electoral process. In April, Wisconsin, one of the first states to hold a primary election after the virus spread nationally, had to cut in-person locations in Milwaukee to five from 180 because of poll worker shortages. Experts said the closures had a particular effect in Black communities, where access to in-person polling locations is already under threat. Residents in line waited for more than four hours, and many complained about not receiving a mail-in ballot after requesting one. The national outcry after the Wisconsin primary left a lasting impression on the group of athletes, which formed More Than a Vote in June in the wake of a national outcry against ongoing racism.Mr. James and several other basketball stars involved in the More Than a Vote effort are currently quarantined at the N.B.A. campus in Orlando, as the league seeks to finish its season and crown a champion. In a phone interview, two other members of the initiative — Michael Vick, the former N.F.L. star, and Renee Montgomery of the W.N.B.A. — framed the efforts as necessary to ensure equitable ballot access.“As someone who had their voting rights restored,” said Mr. Vick, whose record-setting career was sunk after he pleaded guilty to a felony charge in 2007 for his involvement in a dogfighting ring, “I want to influence younger people to be a part of this More Than a Vote campaign.”“We want to get them to register, get involved and try to help society in whatever way they can,” he added. “It’s about becoming a leader in your own right.”Ms. Montgomery, who plays for the Atlanta Dream, is currently sitting out the women’s basketball season to focus on political activism. She is a former college national champion and W.N.B.A. champion with the Minnesota Lynx.“I felt like I needed to do something in my community,” Ms. Montgomery said. “We can’t just protest. We have a responsibility to take those protests and take that energy and march all the way to the polls.”“I live in Atlanta, so this issue is right on my front door,” she added. “We have the long lines, it’s condensed and Covid is being used as a way to have voter suppression.”This is More Than a Vote’s second national campaign. Previous efforts included partnerships with teams in Los Angeles and Atlanta to turn their stadiums into polling places, as well as a statewide effort in Florida to help the formerly incarcerated restore their voting rights. This year, athletes across the country — and particularly Black athletes — have seen a surge in political activism mirroring the national wave. Mr. Vick credited people like Mr. James and Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who knelt during the national anthem to protest racism, for making political advocacy a priority for the modern athlete.“When you’re young, the way you look at life, you don’t think that your vote counts,” Mr. Vick said. “When that was taken away from me, I felt like I had an obligation. I felt like I did myself a disservice.”The Coronavirus Outbreak ›Frequently Asked QuestionsUpdated August 24, 2020What are the symptoms of coronavirus?In the beginning, the coronavirus seemed like it was primarily a respiratory illness — many patients had fever and chills, were weak and tired, and coughed a lot. Those who seemed sickest had pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome — which caused their blood oxygen levels to plummet — and received supplemental oxygen. In severe cases, they were placed on ventilators to help them breathe. By now, doctors have identified many more symptoms and syndromes. (And some people don’t show many symptoms at all.) In April, the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed. Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on their fingers and toes — nicknamed “Covid toe” — but few other serious symptoms. More serious cases can lead to inflammation and organ damage, even without difficulty breathing. There have been cases of dangerous blood clots, strokes and brain impairments.Why does standing six feet away from others help?The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It’s a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it’s windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.I have antibodies. Am I now immune?As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?In focusing on poll workers, the group has landed on an issue that election officials and civil rights organizations believe will loom large in this year’s election. Because election site volunteers had typically been older Americans, a population uniquely affected by the coronavirus, experts such as Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund worry about the effect of them staying home this year — reduced polling locations in November and possibly longer lines, all of which could reduce voter turnout.Ms. Ifill said the push to recruit poll workers was part of a multipronged approach from voting rights organizations, whose persistent concerns about voter suppression and ballot access are now amplified by the coronavirus. Access to mail-in ballots should be ensured, she said, but states should also take precautions to make in-person voting safe and accessible.“Black people, particularly middle-aged and older Black people, prefer to vote in person rather than vote by mail,” Ms. Ifill said. “We need more poll workers and we need younger poll workers who can be resilient and work during early voting as well.”Jocelyn Benson, who as Michigan’s secretary of state oversees the election process there, said she was grateful for the spotlight the athletes will bring to the issue. “We’ve had three successful elections in Michigan so far this year because we have been able to fully staff our poll,” Ms. Benson said. “If we don’t have that, we can’t operate an election.”The increased attention on the issue, however, has been outpaced by the strong need for poll workers. Detroit and Flint, two of Michigan’s urban centers with a high percentage of Black residents, still need 1,000 to 2,000 poll workers, Ms. Benson said.“This is the ballgame,” she said. “This is not just a benevolent effort. This is not just an important partnership. This is critical.”

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