Armed 'Guards' Outside Florida Early Voting Site Claimed They Were Hired by Trump Campaign But the Campaign Denies It
For months, President Donald Trump's campaign has baselessly warned against nonexistent widespread voter fraud in favor of Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
In addition to fighting expanded voting rights measures in court, the campaign and Trump himself have urged their supporters to get involved in a way that's drawn criticism from Democrats.
The campaign is reportedly gathering an army of "poll watchers," to monitor polling places for suspicious behavior or disruptions in the voting process. Poll watchers are legal and they're used by both parties, but Trump's rhetoric has signaled an increasingly militarized view of the job.
At the first presidential debate last month, Trump urged his supporters to "go into the polls and watch very carefully" The President has also called for law enforcement officials to watch polls. As a result, groups of Trump supporters have appeared with signs and campaign gear to badger those waiting in line to vote.
With early voting underway in over 40 states, at least 14 of those states have seen cases of voter intimidation. In Florida, Officer Daniel Ubeda was seen armed and in full uniform while wearing a "Trump 2020: No More Bulls**t" mask.
It seems some other Floridians may have heeded the Trump campaign's call.
In Pinellas County, Florida, two armed men dressed as security guards set up a tent outside of a polling station. When questioned by local officials, the men said they were hired by the Trump campaign.
Deputy National Press Secretary for the Trump campaign, Thea McDonald, said:
"The Campaign did not hire these individuals nor did the Campaign direct them to go to the voting location."
Despite the campaign's denial that it directly hired these men, many Americans agreed that they were still encouraged by Trump's rhetoric.
This is dangerous, not normal, and 100% Trump's fault. https://t.co/jocFBKrwlW
— Chelsea Parsons (@ChelseaCParsons) October 22, 2020
.@gop's goons are on the prowl! https://t.co/y8fFNcVcgW
— BroncosColtsHendrick #EXGOP (@BroncosColts) October 22, 2020
The thread goes on to state that the White House disavows hiring these armed men.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri of the @SheriffPinellas very publicly endorsed Trump this summer. I'm sure he and his department will aggressively investigate this matter. *ahem*#TrumpsAmericahttps://t.co/OfHJrFGX2H
— SFDB (@sfdb) October 22, 2020
Every millisecond of everyday, Trump makes the case for our dire need as Americans to protect ourselves against him. https://t.co/EWCx9hGptl
— belle (@upchuck66) October 22, 2020
Trump's America. https://t.co/Jisjz2XLzP
— Bokonon (@CaughtInABlog) October 22, 2020
They were just following directions Trump gave?https://t.co/moqjtg0lcF
— Judy Kate (@JudyKate18) October 22, 2020
Others warned that there would likely be more similar cases as the election—12 days away—draws nearer.
This does not happen in a functioning democracy and it will only get worse if things continue on their current path. Vote. No one can stop you and if they try to intimidate you call the police. If the police won't help you call the Attorney General or local FBI field office. https://t.co/nnPRkx8QVf
— Matthew Rodier (@mattrodierphot1) October 22, 2020
This is just the beginning of what the GOP will do to steal this election. https://t.co/YycIVvicp2
— Arthur K. Dallas (@ArthurKDallas1) October 22, 2020
A sign of more to come. https://t.co/aye4zRAx2i
— Ronald Johnson (@bookgirlRon) October 22, 2020
Election Day is on November 3rd, but early voting is underway in over 40 states.