Four days after Madison Square Garden announced it would serve as an early voting and Election Day poll site, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn is following suit.

The 18,000-seat multi-purpose arena, which sits above a massive public transit hub and is easily accessible by residents in Prospect Heights, Fort Greene, Boerum Hill, Clinton Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, and Park Slope, will be the largest poll site in Brooklyn serving approximately 30,000 voters, according to the New York City Board of Elections. 

The arena is home to the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and the WNBA’s NY Liberty basketball teams. Last week, as part of a deal to resume its playoff games after players stopped playing in protest of Wisconsin police shooting of an unarmed Black man named Jacob Blake, arenas across the country agreed to serve as poll sites or venues for voter registration. (Barclays has also been a regular meeting place for protests against racist police violence this summer.)

But officials with the New York City Board of Elections and Barclays Center insist they were in discussion over using the site ahead of the deal between the NBA and the players’ union. 

“It is clear that there was a prescient outlook as the rest of the NBA has now followed their lead and are making these arenas poll site realities throughout the country,” NYCBOE Executive Director Mike Ryan said at the announcement Tuesday outside the arena.

“The NYC Board of Elections has been a great partner during our discussions over the past two months to determine the safest way to host polling for early voting and Election Day at Barclays Center,” John Abbamondi, CEO of BSE Global, which manages and operates the venue, said in a statement. “We are proud to be a part of the incredible effort that many NBA arenas have shown to ensure that people exercise their voting power.”

Similar to the site at The Garden, only voters who are assigned to the Barclays Center for early voting or Election Day will be able to vote in person at this location. But any voter can drop off their absentee ballot at Barclays—or any early voting or poll site across the city, according the NYCBOE. Any registered New York voter can request their absentee ballot online now.

Further, Abbamondi revealed Barclays Center employees will get paid time off to vote as well as a full paid day off if they decide to serve as poll workers.

While the addition of two large poll sites will reduce the burden on the NYCBOE as it tries to find enough locations during the ongoing pandemic, the agency still faces pressure to open enough locations for early voting and to notify voters about their assigned site. 

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a series of executive orders intended to improve how the election runs this November. One of those orders requires all Boards of Elections statewide to mail voters a notice by Tuesday, September 8th, which details how a voter can apply for an absentee ballot, the hours of early voting, and the voter’s assigned early voting site, which is applicable here in New York City (other parts of the state allow voters to cast ballots at any site in their county.)

Among the challenges facing the Board, before there was a pandemic, was pushback among parents over the use of public schools for early voting, which takes place this year from October 24th - November 1st. Schools are traditionally closed on Election Day, so using them as poll sites on that day poses less of a risk of COVID-19 exposure risk for students and faculty.

Asked Tuesday during a press conference announcing a plan to delay the opening of in-person school from September 10th to September 21st, neither Mayor Bill de Blasio nor  Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza would say whether public schools would be used for early voting sites.

“We have to make sure our schools are safe. We have to make sure our schools can function. Now granted, our schools will have a lot fewer students in them than is normally the case, so that does affect the equation,” de Blasio said before turning to Carranza for more details. 

“I was a government teacher, I believe in democracy. But I also believe that students should be in school in the safest possible environment, especially during a pandemic. So we continue to engage with the Board of Elections to find alternate locations to be used as voting locations,” Carranza added. 

The NYCBOE routinely seeks out alternative locations for poll sites across the city. Earlier this year, Gothamist/WNYC reported on dozens of the city’s top cultural institutions that rejected a request from the board to open their doors to voters, despite receiving $580 million in tax benefits. Most of those institutions told the NYCBOE that hosting a poll site would interfere with their normal operations. Many of those locations are currently closed for public programming or operating at a lower capacity.