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Scotiabank Arena not opening for U.S. citizens to register to vote anymore

Last Updated Oct 1, 2020 at 12:59 pm EDT

Scotiabank Arena sits empty on April 14, 2020. CITYNEWS/Tony Fera

The Toronto Raptors and Scotiabank Arena have announced they will not be opening the arena to allow for U.S. citizens to register to vote due to concerns with the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Instead, voters are urged to register online and request their absentee ballots that way instead.

Teams across the NBA and other pro sports have offered their facilities for election-related activities, and volunteers had planned to be at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena this week to assist Americans registering for absentee ballots.

A statement from the team said given the restrictions on indoor gatherings, it was decided that “hosting large groups of people at Scotiabank Arena was not appropriate at this time.”

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, who is American, said they would have loved to have had the chance to help voters in person but added they have to look out for the well-being of the community.

He also shared his experience registering for an absentee ballot online.

“I know firsthand how easy it is to register for an absentee ballot – I did it on my computer during our time in the NBA bubble and it was really fast and simple. The FVAP.gov site walks you through the steps and it pretty much takes no time at all,” said Nurse.

Racial and social justice messages were a major theme of the NBA’s restart at Walt Disney World. Nurse and the Raptors launched a social media campaign as well to encourage the some-650,000 Americans living in Canada to vote.

According to the statistics the Raptors shared, only seven per cent of the hundreds of thousands of eligible U.S. voters who live in Canada returned a ballot in the 2016 election.

Voters are recommended to request their ballot as soon as possible. The U.S. election will be taking place on Nov. 3.