LeBron James Takes on Voter Suppression With ‘More Than a Vote’ Coalition

People line up to cast their ballots at a Michigan polling station in 2016. (NOVA SAFO/AFP via Getty Images)

LeBron James has joined forces with other athletes and celebrities to launch a campaign to fight racist voter suppression. More Than a Vote promises to do more than merely encourage people to cast ballots. “Yes we want you to go out and vote,” James told the New York Times, “but we’re also going to give you the tutorial. We’re going to give you the background on how to vote and what they’re trying to do—the other side—to stop you from voting.”

Crucially, More Than a Vote is working to raise awareness around the common misconception that being convicted of a felony means a lifetime ban from voting. In California, for example, voting rights are restored in full once a convicted person has been released from prison and successfully completed parole.

In Florida, convicted felons have to complete their sentences, parole periods and pay off any outstanding fines and fees before they can cast a ballot. Last month, More Than a Vote donated $100,000 towards helping to pay off those debts, via the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition.

The initiative is also collaborating with other voting rights organizations, including When We All Vote, which simplifies the registration process, and Fair Fight, which is building “voter protection teams” and raising awareness about voting suppression tactics.

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In a letter published this week, the More Than a Vote collective shared specific plans to ensure that in-person voting can still take place safely and efficiently in 2020, even under the threat of COVID-19 infection. It reads in part:

One solution that More Than A Vote is working on is to convert as many arenas and sports facilities as possible into voting precincts. These are large, open spaces, often in city centers, that allow for social distancing. They are also going totally unused (we should know) and should be put to use in every city that needs more space. Atlanta and Detroit led this effort. Charlotte and Sacramento are on board as well and we are working with a number of other cities that should be ready soon. We just announced Dodger Stadium as the first MLB facility. Sports venues not in use need to be converted into voting locations and we are here to help the teams and universities ready to step up.

The letter also encourages people to take the places of elderly volunteers who usually man the majority of polling stations, but are unable to this year because of their heightened risk of contracting the coronavirus. “And don’t just volunteer to work polls,” it says. “Volunteer to work in the most vulnerable communities where you are needed.” The letter was signed by 47 celebrities, including musicians Toni Braxton and Bun B, actor Kevin Hart, and sports stars like Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, Oaklanker Damian Lillard, and WNBA players Arike Ogunbowale and A’ja Wilson.

Talking to Good Morning America, another More Than a Vote member, LA Sparks’ Chiney Ogwumike said, “We are at a point in society where we need to turn activism into action. LeBron James knows that, and the best way to accomplish that is getting our community out to vote.”