A group of pro-Trump demonstrators gathered in front of the Maricopa County Elections Department on Wednesday night and Thursday morning as the election workers counted a trove of outstanding ballots that will determine the results of the presidential race in Arizona.
Arizona has been gradually reporting votes since election night, cutting down Democratic candidate Joe Biden’s lead from 9 points when the race was called by Fox News (and later by AP) to just 2.8 points as of early Thursday morning, with the Trump campaign insisting it can still pull off a come-from behind victory in the critical state.
A large group of demonstrators, some carrying Trump flags and others armed with rifles, gathered outside the building where the votes are being counted in Arizona’s largest county to chant pro-Trump slogans, as well as “let us in” and “count the vote,” according to CNN and local news channel AZFamily.
Reporters were ejected from the building for safety reasons Thursday morning, according to CNN and NBC, as election workers continued to count ballots, protected by local police armed with riot gear, though the protest has not turned violent.
Furious at Fox News for calling the race for Biden, protesters turned on the normally Trump-friendly outlet and chanted “Fox News sucks!”
Demonstrators promoted Sharpiegate, according to the local CBS affiliate, a debunked conspiracy theory spread online by right-wing activists claiming that officials were giving Trump supporters Sharpies to to fill out their ballots, which the conspiracy theorists asserted would invalidate their votes.
Similar protests sprung up in battleground states on Wednesday, including one in Detroit where, unlike in Arizona, demonstrators chanted “stop the count” as mail-in ballots there cut into President Trump’s lead and eventually handed the state to Biden. The protests have been stoked by Trump, who has repeatedly made false claims about mail-in ballots and sued to stop them from being counted in states where they skew heavily Democratic.
“Staff at the Maricopa County Elections Department will continue our job, which is to administer elections in the second largest voting jurisdiction in the country. We will release results again tonight as planned. We thank the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office for doing their job, so we can do ours,” Megan Gilbertson, a Maricopa County Elections Department spokeswoman, told Forbes in a statement.
550,000. That’s how many ballots NBC reports are still outstanding in Arizona, where Biden leads by just under 80,000 votes, according to the New York Times. Local Democrats are hopeful that, even though recent ballot dumps broke for Trump, the remaining ballots will be more favorable for Biden, with Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) tweeting “My district hasn’t reported yet. Looks likes Stanton barely did also. Lots of Dem ballots left.”