Atlanta Hawks Arena, Which Played Huge Role in Biden Winning Georgia, to be Used Again for Senate Runoffs

The Atlanta Hawks and the Atlanta Falcons will make their respective homes available for early voting for Georgia's Senate runoffs after both venues were used as voting sites in the presidential election earlier this month.

With the NBA season not starting until December 22, the Hawks have opted to open State Farm Arena to voters from December 14 until December 19.

The Falcons, meanwhile, play their last home game the season on December 20 and will turn Mercedes-Benz Arena into a voting site from December 22 to December 30—the facility will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The runoffs, which will decide the balance of power in the Senate, are scheduled for January 5.

"We are proud of the experience that we've been able to offer Fulton County voters in these important elections," Steve Koonin, the Hawks CEO said in a statement.

"Voting is an important civic duty and as a business that represents this city, it has been a pleasure to give back in such an incredibly meaningful way."

The decision to open the two venues for the Senate runoffs comes after 23 NBA teams used their arenas or training facilities as registration site, polling or voting center for the 2020 election and half of the NFL's 32 teams also made their venues available in some capacity.

The Hawks opened State Farm Arena for early voting on October 12, the earliest of any NBA team. Atlanta was also one of 18 NBA franchises to use their arena as polling site on Election Day, as it turned State Farm Arena into a voting precinct in Fulton County, Georgia.

After the Georgia Primary was blighted by technical glitches and lengthy queues, Atlanta was the first city in the U.S. to offer stadium voting.

The efforts paid off earlier this month as turnout increased sharply, a positive sign for those who have long advocated the use of large venues as polling centers as an effective way to address voters suppression.

According to data from the National Election Pool and Edison Research, just over 518,000 votes were cast in Fulton County this year, up from just under 415,000 in 2016.

The Hawks told Newsweek earlier this month that franchise and county officials were "pleased" with the turnout, even though neither had set numerical expectations.

"We were able to service approximately 40,000 voters, which was more than two times the amount of the second largest location in Fulton County," Garin Narain, the Hawks VP of Public Relations, said.

President-elect Joe Biden won just over 381,000 votes in Fulton County, while Hillary Clinton barely got past 297,000 four years ago.

Considering Clinton lost Georgia by just over 211,000 votes in 2016, the 85,000 extra votes Biden won in Fulton County proved crucial as he carried the Peach State by 13,000 votes and became the first Democrat to flip Georgia blue since 1992.

After the presidential election, the Hawks were one of the NBA teams along with the Golden State Warriors and the Detroit Pistons who told Newsweek they would consider using their arena as a voting site for future elections.

"With COVID-19, franchise CEO Steve Koonin knew there was an opportunity to provide quick, safe voting at the arena," Narain said.

"It [serving as voting site] is definitely something we would consider pending potential scheduling issues."

Georgia held two Senate elections this year. One was regularly scheduled and pitted incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

The second election, meanwhile, was held to determine the replacement for former Republican Senator Johnny Isakson and featured senator Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp to replace Isakson after the latter's retirement last year, and Democrat Raphael Warnock.

Under Georgia law, if neither candidate secures more than 50 percent of the vote, the election has to be decided by a runoff.

Georgia, State Farm Arena
Voters cast their ballots inside of State Farm Arena, Georgia's largest early voting location, for the first day of early voting in the general election on October 12 in Atlanta, Georgia. Early voting in Georgia ran from October 12-30. Jessica McGowan/Getty