Nationals Park could become ‘Super Vote Center’ in November

Some D.C. voters could get a chance to cast a ballot in the general election while overlooking the baseball field where D.C.’s World Series champs play.

The Washington Nationals have offered up Nationals Park to be the site of a “Super Vote Center” in D.C.

Michael Bennett, the chair of D.C.’s Board of Elections, said the team called his office several days ago and offered to make space available at the park for ballot boxes.

“I thought they were talking about some other location, and I said, ‘Are you talking about the real Nationals stadium?’ And they said, ‘Yes,’” Bennett said.

After staff from the park examined the stadium, he said, all signs point to the stadium being a good fit for a large voting site. Final details still need to be worked out.

“This fall, we can help make sure one of our most important civic responsibilities can be completed as seamlessly and safely as possible. We are thrilled to help alleviate some of the challenges associated with voting during a pandemic and support the Board of Elections by opening Nationals Park as an election site,” Nationals owner Mark D. Lerner said in a statement.

While voters won’t be able to vote for president while standing on home base, Bennett believes they’ll still get a great view of the field.

Capital One Arena has already agreed to become what the District is calling a “Super Vote Center,” and Bennett said in addition to Nationals Park, other potential large voting sites are being considered. He said the sites allow for the processing of more voters at one time, which would help speed up the process.

Nationals Park and Capital One Arena also offer a large space where voting can happen rain or shine, Bennett said. It will also offer ample room for social distancing. Another plus: Both sites could attract people to come vote who might not have considered voting before.

From Oct. 27 through Nov. 2, Bennett said, voters will be able to vote early. And then on Nov. 3, vote on Election Day at the two sites. The District is calling the period from the first day of early voting through Election Day, “Election Week.”

On Election Day, D.C. intends to open more than 80 polling places, and have 16 locations open for early voting. Those numbers do not include the additional Super Vote Centers.

Due to the pandemic, D.C. voters will also be encouraged to use mail-in ballots. The District will send ballots to every registered voter ahead of the election. With some concerned about mailing in completed ballots, 55 drop boxes for the ballots will be set up across the District.

Bennett said one of the biggest struggles is making people aware of these drastic changes to a process many people have grown accustomed to.

“Because of the pandemic, we are really trying to change cultural norms,” Bennett said.

Like many states, D.C. is also facing an Election Day worker shortage. Bennett said the District currently has about 2,600 poll workers but needs 4,000. He said the Board of Elections is encouraging young people to step up and help.

“We need to get those numbers up as soon as possible because they need to be trained, as well,” Bennett said.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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