Why the Lightning’s Amalie Arena probably won’t be a polling place

The team offered its building to the county Supervisor of Elections, but it’s not likely to be used for voting.
Lightning players on the ice during training camp in July at Amalie Arena. The Lightning reached out to Hillsborough County to offer the arena as a polling place for this year’s elections.
Lightning players on the ice during training camp in July at Amalie Arena. The Lightning reached out to Hillsborough County to offer the arena as a polling place for this year’s elections. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Aug. 28, 2020|Updated Aug. 28, 2020

Several weeks ago, the Lightning reached out to Hillsborough County’s elections office to offer up Amalie Arena as a polling place.

The Lightning thought, based on current happenings around the country, their large building — which is owned by the county and operated by the team — could be of use.

Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said in a statement that his office has spoken to the Lightning and hasn’t ruled anything out. He noted that large arenas work well as “super sites,” with large numbers of voters from multiple precincts able to cast ballots at the site.

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 the governor, only the precincts around Amalie Arena could use the site.

Tampa’s downtown area already has “plenty of Election Day sites” to accommodate voters, Latimer said.

“Right now, we have a primary that went really well with the polling places we had in place,” said Gerri Kramer, spokeswoman for the county’s elections office. “We’re in the process of looking at how things went, what we’re expecting and what we should plan for going forward, but no decisions have been made.”

When asked if the arena would potentially be a better location for social distancing or other accommodations than an existing polling place in the area, Kramer said no such comparison had been done.

The Lightning 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.

Today, the NBA announced that its buildings will be used as polling stations, part of the agreement to resume the playoffs after players sat out games in protest of racial injustice. The NBA shares 11 buildings with the NHL, most prominently Staples Center in Los Angeles and Madison Square Garden in New York.

The Hockey Diversity Alliance has asked the NHL to make its arenas available as polling stations as part of its proposal to the league with actionable items to advance the fight against racism both in hockey and in society. The NHL has not publicly shared that it will be doing so.

Brian Hedger of the Columbus Dispatch reported that Nationwide Arena, where the Blue Jackets play, would be made available if necessary.

Related: NHL postpones games at the request of players, as protests of racial injustice continue

“We have come with tangible plans and ideas that we want to bring to the table and ultimately see come to fruition,” Hockey Diversity Alliance co-founder Evander Kane said on NBCSN. “We’re just wondering if they want to be a part of that and be a part of the process.”

Kane said the alliance has discussed with the league funding grassroots programs, social justice initiatives and anti-racism education as well as implementing hiring targets to promote Black individuals and businesses.

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“We’ve been talking with the NHL for just over two months now,” he said. “We made it very clear in our first statement that we sought to work with the National Hockey League. We haven’t wavered from that yet. It’s definitely been a little bit more difficult than we would have probably anticipated because of the importance of these issues.”