Anxiety exacerbates US poll uncertainty

Michael Martina and Heather Timmons and Ernest Scheyder
·3-min read

Weary from one of the most bruising US presidential races in modern times, Republican and Democratic voters alike are in a state of high anxiety with the election outcome still unsettled a day after polls closed.

President Donald Trump's false declaration of victory in the early hours of Wednesday, as ballot counting continued in several pivotal states, roiled supporters of Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Biden supporters expressed heightened fears the Republican incumbent might not accept the election result if he were to lose.

Many in Trump's voter base, meanwhile, echoed his unsubstantiated allegations of widespread electoral tampering.

"Election fraud is running rampant," said Trump voter Jimmie Boyd, 48, a North Carolina gun rights activist with ties to local militia groups.

Boyd said he worries "left wingers" could "destroy entire cities," while protesters on the right will be demonised as "racist, phobic freaks of nature."

Anna Drallios, a Biden voter who immigrated to the US from Albania in 1967, said Trump's questioning the legitimacy of the normal election process while demanding a halt to the vote count had a familiar ring.

"I come from a communist country and I know what it is like not to have the vote, not to have the voice," said Drallios, one of a few hundred protesters who rallied in Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania capital, chanting, "Count our votes."

"If we allow our votes to be stolen from us, we are heading toward dictatorship, toward oppression," she said.

In Detroit, about 30 observers, mostly Republicans, were barred from entering a vote-counting hall by election officials who cited indoor capacity restrictions imposed to prevent spread of the coronavirus. Police were called to enforce the decision.

Many of those excluded stood outside the hall voicing their protest and singing "God Bless America" while a second group of Republican observers who were denied entry held a prayer circle nearby. They also broke into chants of "stop the vote" and "stop the count."

CNN and Edison Research later declared Biden the winner in Michigan.

Legal experts have said the election outcome could become bogged down in state-by-state litigation over a host of issues, including whether late-arriving ballots can be counted.

Activists demanding that vote counts proceed unimpeded rallied in several cities, including Oakland, California, Atlanta, Detroit and New York City.

Hundreds of protesters waving American flags and signs that read, "Count every vote, every vote counts," demonstrated peacefully at Washington Square Park after marching through midtown Manhattan.

City police posted pictures on social media of debris fires in lower Manhattan that they said were set by protesters. They said at least 20 people were arrested, accused of blocking traffic, disorderly conduct and similar offences.

US officials said they have kept a wary eye on right-wing militias, worried that Trump's allegations of ballot fraud could bring heavily armed groups out onto the streets. So far, they appeared to be keeping a low profile.

Judy Mowery, 60, a Biden voter from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, said she worried about violence between opposing political blocs regardless of the outcome.

"Even if Biden wins, which I think he may, we as a country have lost," Mowery said.

"We are even more divided than I thought."