MIAMI (WSVN) - Miami-Dade County officials’ decision to reject a request to use the AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami as a voting location for the upcoming general election is courting controversy.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez confirmed the decision in a statement issued Friday.
Instead, officials said, the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, located near the area, will serve as a voting site.
“I fully support that choice. The museum has a free Metromover stop at its location for easy accessibility and transfers from free bus services already being provided by the county,” Gimenez said in his statement. “It also served as an early voting site when the museum was at its old Coconut Grove location, which bodes well for safe and secure voting.”
The rejection of the AAA comes as basketball teams across the nation announce plans to open up their arenas to allow for early voting and for people to vote on Election Day.
The Miami Heat had hoped they would be able to do the same. The AAA, unlike other arenas that are owned by the teams themselves, is owned by Miami-Dade County.
In a separate statement, the county’s Elections Department explained the decision to reject the request. It reads in part, “Since the Arsht Center was not available this year, the Elections Department visited other facilities in the area. We will be using the Frost Museum as an early voting site for the 2020 General Election due to our long-standing relationship with the museum, public transportation accessibility and use of their facility for future endeavors.”
After NBA teams went on strike to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, players told the league they would only return to play if three demands were met.
- establish a social justice coalition
- allow arenas to be used as voting centers
- allow advertising during games to promote voting and civic engagement
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra voiced his displeasure with Friday’s decision.
“Just extremely disappointed about it. It’s a little bit of a surprise,” he said. “We thought that we were on the goal line to be able get it done, and we had really worked with the county to check all the boxes that they seemingly wanted checked. We checked all of those; it didn’t work out.”
The team issued a statement that reads in part, “NBA arenas all over the country, including just up the road in Orlando, are getting approved as polling sites with little to no pushback. We were under the impression that approval was imminent. To say we are disappointed is a huge understatement. The Arena is clearly a better site, with more visibility, more space and more parking.”
Friday night, Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo released a statement that reads in part, “Mayor Carlos Giménez took a page out of Donald Trump’s voter suppression playbook. He shut down an opportunity to protect voters during a pandemic, while simultaneously using the power of his government office to benefit his own political motivations.”
At least 20 NBA teams to date have been approved to set up voting centers for the Nov. 3 election.
Copyright 2020 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.