By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

An effort by pro athletes called More Than a Vote is working to increase the number of poll workers in Black electoral districts has amassed 10,000 volunteers since it began.

State elections officials in many cities have sounded the alarm regarding a shortage of poll workers to handle in-person voting. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has caused an unexpected problem for local officials. The problem is a bigger issue in Black communities that have far longer wait times to vote than polls in white communities. 

The specific plan to increase workers at the polls is called We Got Next. The efforts will include a partnership with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and was focused on during the first game of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers. As the national anthem was played for game one, players on both teams knelt and wore shirts with the word “vote” on them in large letters. 

“We are Black athletes and artists working together. Our priority right now is combating systemic, racist voter suppression by educating, energizing, and protecting our community in 2020. Please read our letter asking fans to join us in the fight against Black voter suppression,” reads the website for the initiative which can be viewed at www.morethanavote.org. 

The cities that will be focused on feature thousands of Black voters and include Birmingham, Montgomery, Jackson, Houston, Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, Flint, Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

A second phase of the initiative would be even more targeted and will be aimed at 11 cities, “where significant poll worker shortages remain.” 

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist for NNPA and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is also a political strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke