Home Hotels Hotels’ New Use: Voting Locations During COVID Pandemic

Hotels’ New Use: Voting Locations During COVID Pandemic

by SharonKurheg

The coronavirus pandemic has lead to a lot of changes. Kids are learning virtually. People are working from home. And here’s another cool one: hotels are being asked to become polling locations for the 2020 election.

The continuation of COVID on top of record numbers of Americans planning to vote means more polling places are needed, and some locations require more space than their usual church, school or community center can offer.

It was big news over the summer that multiple sports arenas would be used as polling centers, but The Washington Post reports that hotels across the country have also been approached to take the place of some typically smaller voting centers.

It’s a perfect match. Hotels, especially larger ones used for special events, tend to be sprawling, with long, wide hallways and large conference rooms. Renting those spaces for voting gives the hotels some much-needed money and voters some much-needed space.

A perfect example is the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. From WAPO:

“D.C.’s board of elections reached out to us, given our size in this world of social distancing,” said Mark Roche-Garland, Omni’s general manager. “We have plenty of space, across several ballrooms and 104,000 square feet of meeting space, to accommodate this unique election cycle. The hotel was built in 1930, and in terms of space, they just don’t build them like that anymore.”

“We will be able to accommodate more voters at a quicker pace,” said Alice Miller, executive director of the D.C. Board of Elections told ABC News. “There will be more machines — and more space.”

Similar stories are being played out in California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, and other states. In fact, Harris County, Texas, has tripled its typical number of voting locations this year and has safer locations that account for social distancing, thanks to hotels stepping up to handle part of the crowds.

In Los Angeles, the Hotel Figueroa opened as a WYCA hostel in 1926, and has a history of showcasing female artists. They lobbied to become a voting location this year, quoting its roots that served the early 20th-century movement for women’s rights. While the hotel considers itself “lucky” to currently have 50% occupancy due to house medical workers and victims of the California wildfires, they will proudly have their Gran Sala ballroom in use as an in-person voting facility.

According to Hotel Figueroa spokesperson Meghan Patke, the ballroom has a large portrait of the Supreme Court’s female justices, called “The Four Justices,” hanging on one of its walls. She hopes it inspires voters.

“It’s this portrait of our female founders standing in that same Gran Sala space, looking down on you,” said Patke. “I like to think they will be looking down on everyone there voting, with a lot of pride.”

Feature Photo: GPA Photo Archive / flickr

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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