They’re not playing basketball at the Smoothie King Center right now, since the NBA moved its games to Orlando and the Pelicans missed the playoffs.
And with coronavirus restrictions, the basketball arena isn’t getting much use.
So it makes sense to use the venue for early voting, which is what Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin and the Superdome Commission and the team have agreed to do. Good for them.
More and more voters are choosing to cast their ballots early, and that trend should accelerate with concerns about coronavirus casting a shadow over the Nov. 3 election. Typically, early voting occurs in government buildings, like city halls or courthouses, but those venues can be cramped.
Which is why voters should be heartened about the Smoothie King Center, with its large, open spaces.
Officials had been discussing the use of the arena for months, but the idea got a push from politically active NBA players who want to use their voices, and their venues, to increase voter turnout.
So far, 22 teams are offering their buildings for voting, according to a list kept by the NBA.
The Pelicans announced the move on Twitter with a video featuring Zion Williamson who, at age 20, is a relative newcomer to voting.
“I hear you guys all the time in the Smoothie King Center where it's loud, but there’s a more important way for your voice to be heard: voting,” Williamson said.
Early voting will run from Oct. 16 to Oct. 27, except on Sundays, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the arena and four other locations in New Orleans. They are open only open to Orleans Parish residents, as each Louisiana parish has its own early voting locations.
But other parishes should follow the example from New Orleans.
Most parishes have a large venue that is available and currently underused. Baton Rouge has the River Center. Lafayette has the Cajundome. Jefferson has the Alario Center.
Republicans and Democrats are currently fighting over what is the best way to hold an election during the worldwide health emergency.
Hopefully, both sides can agree that maximizing in-person voting is a shared goal. And the best way to achieve that is to make people feel safe when they cast their ballots. In Baton Rouge, the city-parish authorities are spreading out early voting in unused courtrooms upstairs in city hall, rather than the registrar of voters' office downstairs.
We look forward to the day when voting returns to normal and the Smoothie King Center is filled with hollering basketball fans.
But for the time being, it makes sense to put the arena into the service of democracy.