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Amalie Arena will serve as early voting site for November election

Hillsborough County will have 25 early voting sites for the general election.
A 2015 photo of Amalie Arena during the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in Tampa. DIRK SHADD   |   Times
A 2015 photo of Amalie Arena during the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in Tampa. DIRK SHADD | Times [ SHADD, DIRK | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Sep. 4, 2020|Updated Sep. 4, 2020

Amalie Arena, home of the Tampa Bay Lightning, will also be home beginning next month to voters wishing to cast their ballots early.

The arena will become the 25th early voting site offered in Hillsborough County, the supervisor of elections office announced Friday afternoon.

Any registered voter in the county will be allowed to cast a ballot there or at any of the county’s other early voting sites from Oct. 19 through Nov. 1.

The Lightning reached out to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office several weeks ago, offering the arena up as a polling place.

Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said last week that nothing had been ruled out but added that large arenas tend to work best as “super sites,” with large numbers of voters from multiple precincts able to cast ballots at the site.

Related: Why the Lightning's Amalie Arena probably won't be a polling place

Florida statutes require polling places to be located within the voters’ precinct or a contiguous precinct, which would mean that, under current law and absent an executive order from DeSantis, only the precincts around Amalie Arena could use the site on Nov. 3.

By instead using the arena for early voting, people from across the county could choose to cast their ballots at the arena.

“I’m seeing our community come together in a very powerful way to support this election,” Latimer said in a statement Friday. “The Tampa Bay Lightning is one of many community partners who are getting involved through voter registration drives, voter education, poll worker recruitment and more.”

Latimer noted that Amalie Arena did not have other scheduled events during the early voting period.

Jeff Vinik, chairman and governor of the Lightning, said in a statement that “the Lightning share in the community goal of increasing participation in our elections and we are pleased to offer up Amalie Arena this fall to those that wish to cast their ballots early.”

Lightning officials have already offered their employees Election Day off and plan to share information on how to volunteer to work the polls, if their employees are interested.

Nationally, there has been a push for sports arenas to be made available as polling locations, particularly as some states have seen large numbers of polling place closures amid the coronavirus pandemic. Given their size, the arenas may be attractive options for their ability to provide social distancing and accommodate large numbers of voters, although other considerations such as their locations and proximity to public transportation are also considerations.

Last week, the NBA announced a plan for its arenas to be used as polling places in the upcoming election.

Voters in Florida have three options when it comes to casting their ballots. They can use a vote-by-mail ballot, which can be returned by mail or dropped off at an elections office or designated drop box locations, which include early voting sites. They can vote in person at an early voting site in their county, or vote on Election Day at their designated precinct.

Times reporter Diana C. Nearhos contributed to this story.

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