A crowd of Donald Trump supporters, some armed with rifles and handguns, gathered outside an election center in Arizona on 4 November night after unsubstantiated rumors that votes for the Republican president were deliberately not being counted.
Chanting “Stop the steal!” and “Count my vote”, the mostly unmasked protesters stood in front of the Maricopa County Elections Department in Phoenix, as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden held a razor thin lead in the critical battleground state. Some news outlets have called Arizona for Biden, but Trump’s campaign says it is still in play.
A victory for Biden in Arizona would give the Democrat 11 electoral votes, a major boost in his bid to win the White House, while severely narrowing Trump’s path to re-election, in a state the Republicans won in 2016.
On Election night Fox News and the Associated Press (AP) called Arizona for Biden, even though only just over 70% of the vote had been counted, a move that infuriated Trump and his aides.
Some of the roughly 200 protesters, who were faced by a line of armed county sheriffs, chanted “Shame on Fox!”. Some said they came out after a tweet from Mike Cernovich, a right-wing activist.
Chris Michael, 40, from Gilbert, Arizona, said he came to make sure all votes are counted. He said he wants assurances that the counting was done “ethically and legally.”
Rumours spread on Facebook on 3 November night that some Maricopa votes were not being counted because voters used Sharpie pens to mark their ballots. Local election officials insisted that was not true.
A confident president, however, is going to make an announcement of victory tonight.
With the count still under way in several key states, Trump has accused the Democrats of trying to steal the election without evidence and filed lawsuits in several states related to vote counting.
A similar scene played out on 4 November afternoon in downtown Detroit, where city election officials blocked about 30 people, mostly Republicans, from entering a vote counting hall amid unfounded claims that the vote count was fraudulent.
Trump has filed a lawsuit in Michigan to stop vote counting that the secretary of state called “frivolous.”
The protests echoed the “Brooks Brother riot” during the 2000 recount in Florida that ultimately handed the presidency to Republican George W. Bush. A crowd of blazer clad Republican protesters stormed a building where a hand recount was underway in a heavily Democratic district, forcing poll workers to stop counting ballots.
The protest is now viewed as a significant event in keeping Bush’s slender vote advantage in Florida intact. The US Supreme Court ultimately stopped the Florida recount, handing Bush the presidency and defeat to Democrat Al Gore.
But fact checkers say Republicans have been spreading fake news with fabricated figures.
Meanwhile, in Detroit, the scene at Detroit’s absentee ballot counting centre heated up as the counting agency covered the windows of the building to block the public view of the process.
President Trump complained about the process in Pennsylvania and Michigan too.
Bernie Sanders had tried to explain what America is witnessing today months in advance.
The question is how come in several states, the number of votes is greater than the number of voters. Sanders’ byte does not explain that. If Democrats are mostly voting via mail, did each one of them vote twice, that is via mail as well as by walking into the booths, exploiting some loophole in the American vote-counting system? How does the US system ensure that every citizen gets just one vote?
A comical take on the vote-counting process from the character Hershel Greene of the popular web series The Walking Dead: