More Than a Vote, the collective of athletes headlined by the basketball superstar LeBron James, will announce Wednesday that its initiative to increase the number of poll workers in Black electoral districts had amassed 10,000 volunteers since it began.
The effort, which is called “We Got Next” and is a collaboration with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, will be highlighted during the first game of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers, the team featuring Mr. James. During the game, first-time poll workers will be among the virtual fans, seated alongside basketball legends including Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal and Julius Erving.
In a release provided to The New York Times, More Than a Vote and the Legal Defense Fund said the second phase of their push would be more targeted, aimed at 11 cities “where significant poll worker shortages remain,” the release said.
Those cities include Black voter hubs in the South, like Birmingham, Jackson, Houston, San Antonio and Montgomery, as well as cities with significant Black populations in critical battleground states: Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, Flint, Milwaukee and Philadelphia.
Elections officials throughout the country have cited a shortage of poll workers to staff in-person voting sites as a major problem for November’s election, which has been upended by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The shortage has been particularly acute in Black communities, which have historically experienced longer wait times and have had fewer polling locations than many white communities.
In an earlier interview, Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said increasing the number of poll workers was critical to fighting attempts at voter suppression. Ms. Ifill also said it was important to create trust among Black voters, a population that has been targeted by suppression efforts in the past and has traditionally relied on in-person voting even more so than other demographic groups.
“We need more poll workers, and we need younger poll workers who can be resilient and work during early voting as well,” Ms. Ifill said.