Sacramento Kings' Vivek Ranadive thinks voting should be 'as easy as ordering an Uber'

Sacramento Kings owner and chairman Vivek Ranadive thinks the way Americans vote in elections is long overdue for a change.

"Let's make voting as easy as ordering an Uber," Ranadive told ESPN in a phone interview this week. "We're kind of in the digital era right now. I call it Civilization 3.0. You know, 1.0 was kind of the agricultural era. It was the start of civilization and people were farmers and land was the raw material. And the Industrial Revolution was 2.0. It was all about the factories and it was about efficiency and energy and steel were the raw materials.

"And now we've fully entered the digital era, where the world's largest book seller has no bookstores and the world's largest taxi company has no cars, and so on. But we're still in the agricultural era in terms of how we vote. So it's time to bring it up to speed."

But before an overhaul of the system can occur, there's a presidential election around the corner in November. Ranadive is doing what he can to "eliminate the friction from our democracy," by helping streamline the process citizens must undergo to register to vote and cast a ballot.

In order to do so, the Kings announced Wednesday the relaunch of "Rally the Vote" -- a coalition of 20 professional sports franchises across the NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS, WNBA and NWSL, working together to encourage fans to register to vote and participate in elections.

The nonpartisan group, which started with nine teams in September 2018, before the midterm elections that year, has more than doubled since. The Kings have joined with the Chicago Bulls, Chicago Sky, Chicago White Sox, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and Fever, Los Angeles Football Club, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx, New York Giants, Phoenix Mercury, Portland Trail Blazers, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Storm, Washington Wizards and Mystics, Washington Spirit and Athletes Unlimited on the initiative.

"We started this, as you know, a couple years ago, and when I bought the Kings, I laid out a mission statement for the Kings, and the mission was to build a winning franchise that enhances the lives of those it touches and leaves the world a better place," Ranadive said.

"And now, two years later, we're having another election and we think that no matter what views you have, no matter what your political affiliation is, no matter what your ethnicity, or religion, or sexual orientation, [voting is important]. The beauty of basketball is, like, we just care whether you got game and we're saying, 'Hey, get in the game,' with Rally the Vote. And many of our initial initiatives now other teams have picked up on and they've kind of done their own thing. Which is great."

It's not just teams. LeBron James brought together a collection of primarily Black athletes and artists for his own voting rights organization, More Than A Vote, established in June. MTAV announced the formation of a bipartisan arena voting advisory group this week, which includes Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) and New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way (D), as well as David Becker, the executive director for the Center for Election Innovation & Research, and Pamela Anderson, the former clerk and recorder for Jefferson County, Colorado, and the executive director of the Colorado Clerks Association.

More Than A Vote's goal is to have more professional sports teams commit to converting their arenas, stadiums and facilities to large-scale voting centers in an effort to allow for social distancing while voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Kings already announced last month that the Golden 1 Center will be transformed into the largest vote center in Sacramento County history come the fall and be open to the public from Oct. 24 to Nov. 3, leading up to the presidential election. Some Kings employees will serve as poll workers and assist citizens in registering to vote and casting their ballots. Those who come to the vote center will have access to free parking close to the arena. The team also announced it would provide its employees a paid day off for election days.

Ranadive praised the activism of NBA players at a time of social unrest.

"We're blessed to be in a league where the players are very, very engaged and really smart and educated," he said. "And so they too have been involved."

According to Census data cited by Rally the Vote, only 53% of registered voters participated in the 2018 elections, while nearly 90 million eligible voters are not even registered.

Ranadive believes the coalition can make a significant dent in those numbers by having teams use their social media channels to enhance awareness about voter participation and present information -- such as voting-related deadlines -- to their attentive follower bases.

"I would say that we're going to reach tens of millions of people collectively," Ranadive said. "So I think again it's just getting people to understand -- just eliminating the friction -- so they can do this easily and then making them aware."