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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 7 March 2021

Anti-vote fraud protests signal ugly weeks of election wrangling ahead

Conservative vote challengers descend on counting places and election offices in Las Vegas and Detroit

Supporters of Donald Trump have taken to the streets and online forums to rally behind the US president’s narrowing chance to clinch the election in what could be the start of weeks of angry street protests and legal wrangling.

Overnight in Michigan, Nevada and Arizona – battleground states with tight vote margins – protesters massed outside vote-counting stations after Mr Trump, a Republican, gave a warning that Democrats were cheating their way to victory.

The race between Mr Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden remained on a razor’s edge on Thursday morning as undecided states got ready to release more results, stoking tensions in the candidates' hardcore bases.

Crowds massed outside a ballot-counting facility on Wednesday night at the TCF Centre in Detroit, Michigan, where Mr Biden later emerged as the likely winner with a 150,000-vote lead over the president.

A protester with signs saying “voter fraud” and “Detroit shame” taped to his chest told The National that he was denied entry to the ballot-counting area, where he wanted to ensure the process was fair.

“There’s a lot of scamming going on in there. I never got in. They said they were filled to capacity," he said.

About 3,200 kilometres away, outside a ballot-counting centre in Maricopa County, Arizona, dozens of protesters draped in Trump 2020 banners and wearing “Make America Great Again” baseball caps chanted at the poll workers inside.

In Arizona, however, Mr Trump was gaining on Mr Biden’s lead, which on Thursday morning stood at about 68,000 votes.

Unlike in Michigan, the conservative protestors were calling on poll workers to count the votes and allow protesters to enter the centre.

Some demonstrators were prompted by “Sharpiegate”, after a video went viral of a woman claiming she saw poll workers deliberately handing out Sharpie marker pens as a way to invalidate votes.

Arizona election officials say all votes will be counted, regardless of the type of pen used.

The protesters, some of them openly carrying guns, rallied for hours. Police escorted some people to their cars.

About 50 conservative protesters and a similar number of counter-protesters demonstrated at an election office in Las Vegas on Wednesday night, complaining of irregularities in Nevada, where Mr Biden holds a slim 8,000-vote lead.

“They are losing confidence and don’t trust the election infrastructure,” Mike Coudrey, a conservative activist, told Fox News.

“If our elections aren’t secure we don’t know who is the true representative for the country and who ultimately, legitimately wins the presidency.”

The Associated Press and Fox News called the Arizona race in Mr Biden’s favour, but the Trump campaign has hopes that about 300,000 remaining ballots could win him the state – one of his few paths to remaining in the White House.

The protests came after Mr Trump insisted without evidence that there were problems with the voting and the ballot counting, especially with mail-in votes, and as White House lawyers launched actions in various states.

“Last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key States, in almost all instances Democrat run & controlled,” Mr Trump tweeted.

“Then, one by one, they started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted.”

After a campaign that exposed deep rifts in a country more divided than at any time in decades, each report of new vote figures stoked varying degrees of anger and concern from rival factions.

Meanwhile, liberal protesters rallied to demand that every ballot was counted. In Detroit, Anna Piccione told The National that elections offered a rare chance for the city’s sizeable African-American community to get attention of politicians.

“In Detroit, there’s a large minority community and it brings attention to the fact that their voices matter and people need to listen,” said Ms Piccione.

“I just want to support the cause and make sure everybody’s vote is counted.”

Updated: November 6, 2020 12:38 AM

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