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Professional sporting venues increasingly playing role as voting locations

Ballparks, arenas and stadiums can be found in cities around the country. During this election season, when there isn't a game going on, these venues are playing a big part in the democratic process. In Philadelphia, the stadium hosted a ballot drop-off event for the 2022 midterms.
Recently, a team of researchers - including some from the University of Maryland -- conducted a study, which looked into the role professional sporting venues played in the 2020 election cycle.
On this fall day, the vehicles come into the stadium parking lot in Philadelphia aren’t carrying fans – but voters.
Outside Lincoln Financial Field - home to the Philadelphia Eagles -- a ballot drop-off event was held for early voters, ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
The Philadelphia Eagles' stadium parking lot hosted a ballot drop-off event for early voters in the 2022 midterm elections – part of a growing trend across the country of sporting venues becoming a site for America's elections.
Posted at 11:49 AM, Nov 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-04 11:49:59-04

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Outside Lincoln Financial Field, home to the Philadelphia Eagles, fans don't always get a reception quite like this.

"I think it's fabulous,” said Julie Pardo, as she looked at the fanfare. “I think it's wonderful."

As vehicles come into the parking lot, though, they aren’t carrying fans—but voters.

"It's so good; they have Swoop there and the cheerleaders,” Pardo said. “So, it really is nice and it makes you feel like you're doing your duty."

On this fall day, the stadium parking lot is hosting a ballot drop-off event for early voters, and it's part of a growing trend across the country of sporting venues becoming a site for America's elections.

"We thought it was really unique that so many pro sports stadiums opened up for voting and other civic activities. So, we wanted to learn whether it worked or not,” said Michael Hanmer, a professor and director of The Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement at the University of Maryland.

Recently, he and a team of researchers conducted a study that looked into the role professional sporting venues played in the 2020 election cycle.

"One of the biggest takeaways was that it worked very well. People were happy about it—from local election officials, the voters, the teams themselves,” Hanmer said. “Stadiums are large, open spaces that have a lot of room for people to move about. And during the pandemic, that was crucial because people worried about their health and safety."

In 2020, the voting sites spanned the country. For the 2022 midterms, the NFL lists sites including football stadiums in California, Colorado and Florida, among others.

So, who is voting there? Researchers found they came from all over the political spectrum.

"You didn't see a natural advantage for Democrats or Republicans or even people that were nonaffiliated," Hanmer said. "We saw that this was pretty spread out by race and ethnicity."

At the same time, researchers say professional sports teams are in a unique position to attract people who may not usually vote.

"There's this added appeal that you might be reaching some people who might otherwise not being contacted through the normal mechanisms," Hanmer said. "The teams, they're spreading their message or spreading their message to their fans, which are going to be diverse in terms of voters and nonvoters."

Back at Lincoln Financial Field, voters offered up another reason this year's midterms brought them out to a stadium.

"I think, to me, it's more secure,” said Palmo, after she dropped off her ballot. “I know for sure that my ballot is going to be counted, and I just trust it."

It is a trust placed in new locations, which are now part of a centuries-old tradition of having your say.