More Than a Vote, a collective of athletes headlined by LeBron James that is fighting to combat voter suppression, will announce a multimillion-dollar initiative to increase the number of poll workers in Black electoral districts ahead of November’s general election.
The project, a collaboration with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, aims to recruit young people to serve at polling locations in Black communities in swing states, including Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio. The effort will involve poll worker recruitment, a paid advertising campaign and a corporate partnership program that will encourage employees to volunteer as poll workers.
Election officials throughout the country have reported a shortage of poll workers to staff in-person voting sites amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has upended every facet of American life — including the electoral process.
In April, Wisconsin, one of the first states to hold a primary election after the virus spread nationally, had to cut in-person locations in Milwaukee to five from 180 because of poll worker shortages. Experts said the closures had a particular effect in Black communities, where access to in-person polling locations is already under threat. Residents in line waited for more than four hours, and many complained about not receiving a mail-in ballot after requesting one.
The national outcry after the Wisconsin primary left a lasting impression on the group of athletes, which formed More Than a Vote in June in the wake of a national outcry against ongoing racism.
Mr. James and several other basketball stars involved in the More Than a Vote effort are currently quarantined at the N.B.A. campus in Orlando, as the league seeks to finish its season and crown a champion. In a phone interview, two other members of the initiative — Michael Vick, the former N.F.L. star, and Renee Montgomery of the W.N.B.A. — framed the efforts as necessary to ensure equitable ballot access.
“As someone who had their voting rights restored,” said Mr. Vick, whose record-setting career was sunk after he pleaded guilty to a felony charge in 2007 for his involvement in a dogfighting ring, “I want to influence younger people to be a part of this More Than a Vote campaign.”
“We want to get them to register, get involved and try to help society in whatever way they can,” he added. “It’s about becoming a leader in your own right.”
Ms. Montgomery, who plays for the Atlanta Dream, is currently sitting out the women’s basketball season to focus on political activism. She is a former college national champion and W.N.B.A. champion with the Minnesota Lynx.
“I felt like I needed to do something in my community,” Ms. Montgomery said. “We can’t just protest. We have a responsibility to take those protests and take that energy and march all the way to the polls.”
“I live in Atlanta, so this issue is right on my front door,” she added. “We have the long lines, it’s condensed and Covid is being used as a way to have voter suppression.”
This is More Than a Vote’s second national campaign. Previous efforts included partnerships with teams in Los Angeles and Atlanta to turn their stadiums into polling places, as well as a statewide effort in Florida to help the formerly incarcerated restore their voting rights.
This year, athletes across the country — and particularly Black athletes — have seen a surge in political activism mirroring the national wave. Mr. Vick credited people like Mr. James and Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who knelt during the national anthem to protest racism, for making political advocacy a