Trump voters in Michigan, Arizona and Nevada want more counting in some states, less in others.
While Donald Trump remained out of sight on Wednesday, as the counting of absentee ballots in several states put his reelection increasingly in doubt, the president’s supporters took it upon themselves to make their presence felt at election offices around the country, voicing complaints about unsubstantiated rumors of fraud circulating online.
In Nevada, where former Vice President Joe Biden led narrowly but ballots postmarked by Election Day will still be counted if they arrive within nine days, a news conference in Las Vegas was disrupted by a man who charged toward the Clark County registrar of voters, Joe Gloria, screaming: “The Biden crime family’s stealing the election; the media’s covering it up!”
“We want our freedom from the world! Give us our freedom Joe Biden!” the man added, like an incoherent internet comment come to life. “Biden’s covering up this election — he’s stealing it!” he shouted, before logging off as abruptly as he had logged on.
“Where were we? What was the last question?” Gloria asked reporters as the man stormed away.
In Michigan, where Biden’s lead grew throughout the day on Wednesday, Trump supporters chanted “Stop the count!” outside the Detroit Board of Elections central counting center.
Many Trump voters were convinced that the counting of ballots in Michigan was fraudulent because a Republican consultant had claimed on Twitter that Biden had received more than 130,000 votes in one county that gave the president none. The consultant later retracted the claim, after learning that it was simply a typo on an election news site that was caught and fixed, but not before Trump himself had shared it with his millions of followers.
In Arizona, where the Trump campaign argues that it can still win despite projections of a narrow Biden victory from Fox News and the Associated Press, about 200 of the president’s supporters, some armed with assault rifles, made the opposite demand, chanting, “Count those votes!” outside the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office in Phoenix, where ballots were, in fact, still being tabulated.
Several far-right activists, including Jennifer Harrison, the leader of an anti-immigrant group, AZ Patriots, briefly entered the election office, posing as journalists, while livestreaming video to Facebook.
Members of extremist group AZ Patriots came in the Maricopa Co. Elections Center live streaming - one wearing a military vest.— Briana Whitney (@BrianaWhitney) November 5, 2020
They’re angry about #SharpieGate claiming the county changed pens within 24 hrs. This is NOT true. They were kicked out, still arguing outside #azfamily pic.twitter.com/xA0SYtxXB4
After being escorted outside, they angrily peppered an election official with questions about “Sharpiegate,” a viral conspiracy theory endorsed by close allies of the president — including Eric Trump, CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp, and Students for Trump founder Charlie Kirk — who claimed, incorrectly, that ballots marked with Sharpie markers provided at polling places would not be counted by the scanning machines.
Harrison was widely mocked last year, when video of her loudly disrupting a Tucson city council discussion of a “sanctuary city” initiative went viral because of how hard a man in a green shirt laughed at her as she was shouted down. Her attempt to pose as a journalist on Wednesday came just weeks after she was charged with felony identity theft by prosecutors in Maricopa County.
The gathering outside the election office took on a menacing air as protesters loudly demanded that the officials inside provide them with an update on the count. At least one journalist covering the count reported that she was confronted by an armed man who threatened to find out where she lived.
Like a Trump rally, the protest also had a mix of solemn and profane moments, as the president’s supporters paused to pray for his success, and then launched into an angry chant of “Fox News sucks!” that channelled Trump’s own anger at the network for its early call of Arizona for Biden.
The rally was apparently organized by the far-right activist Mike Cernovich, who addressed the gathering, as did Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican.
Congressman Paul Gosar in the middle of this protest outside the county recorder’s office. Protestors, many armed, talking about debunked Sharpie conspiracy. Some chanting “count the vote.” County deputies now clearing reporters from the lobby out of caution. #12News pic.twitter.com/3yyMBiF3dU— JOE DANA (@JoeDanaReports) November 5, 2020
A live stream of their remarks showed that after Cernovich led the crowd in the chant “Stop the steal,” Gosar took the megaphone and urged them to direct their anger away from the Fox News opinion hosts who have echoed the president’s false claims of election fraud. “Hey folks, we’ve also got to acknowledge the people at Fox that have been helping us: Tucker Carlson! Sean Hannity! Laura Ingraham!”
After naming another string of opinion hosts, Gosar added, “We’ve got to make sure we know who our friends are.” He then turned the crowd’s anger on the election officials inside the office, leading them in the chant, “Show us the vote!”
In another sign of how Arizona politics is shifting, the deputies protecting the election officials and reporters inside the facility, from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, worked just four years ago for Joe Arpaio, the archconservative whose hardline anti-immigrant stance paved the way for Trump. The current Maricopa County Sheriff, Paul Penzone, is a Democrat who was re-elected this week with a 13-point margin over his Republican challenger.