In the final stages of the US presidential election, both sides are on edge.
A whirlwind of Trump rallies in battleground states, a slew of last-minute legal challenges aimed at suppressing the vote and cavalcades of truck-driving Trump supporters blocking highways across the country has some Democrats feeling a little nervous.
With this as a backdrop, a row erupted at the weekend over the positioning of a noose at a polling booth in Missouri.
The display is several years old, but angry Democrats labelled its presence next to polling booths as “inappropriate and outrageous”, suggesting it amounted to intimidation of Black voters.
The Missouri Democratic Party posted a picture of the display with several voting booths nearby in a hallway of the Stone County building in downtown Galena, about 32 kilometres northwest of Branson, an Ozark town in southwest Missouri.
Stone County Clerk Cindy Elmore said the display was put up several years ago and had “nothing to do with the election office”.
She said it was a historical exhibit with a replica noose marking the last legal execution by hanging in the state, which occurred in 1937.
But not everyone was happy.
“This symbol's purpose is to stoke the fires of racial prejudice and strike fear in the hearts of people of colour,” Missouri party acting chair Clem Smith said in a statement, adding the appearance of a noose was a painful reminder of the country’s history of lynching African Americans.
“To see one next to a polling booth is offensive, inappropriate and outrageous... It must be taken down immediately.”
Trump convoys block off highways
The noose was later covered up but the incident was just one small flashpoint of tension as millions across the country turn out to vote amid occasional skirmishes, and concerns over voter intimidation and the threat of violence.
With about 48 hours left until polls close, Trump supporters coordinated large caravans across the country dubbed “Maga drag”.
Convoys of Trump supporters blocked highways in New Jersey and New York on Sunday (local time), igniting a furious response from motorists and critics online.
A video posted to social media claimed Trump supporters were also blocking highways in Ohio in a rather disruptive show of support for the president.
— TalkRadio 77 WABC (@77WABCradio) November 1, 2020
Trump supporters have shut down the Mario Cuomo bridge. pic.twitter.com/AFrDRpYXCM
— chris evans (@notcapnamerica) November 1, 2020
It comes the day after a group of Trump supporters surrounded a Biden campaign bus as it drove down the highway on Saturday.
Staff on board reportedly called authorities, prompting an investigation by the FBI, CNN reported.
President Donald Trump tweeted a video of the bus incident with the words "I LOVE TEXAS!" and told a campaign rally crowd on Sunday his supporters were “protecting” the bus.
“But it is something, did you see the way our people... were protecting his bus yesterday, because they're nice,” he said.
He later tweeted his support for those involved after it was reported the FBI was investigating, writing: “In my opinion, these patriots did nothing wrong.”
Candidates make final push as legal battles loom
More than 93 million Americans have voted early, according to a tally by the US Elections Project out of the University of Florida, putting the country on track for a record-breaking turnout.
As of Monday morning AEDT, voters have cast 68 per cent of the total votes counted in the 2016 general election.
Joe Biden spent the final Sunday before election day rallying voters in the all-important swing state of Pennsylvania. If he can reclaim it, Mr Trump’s path to re-election will narrow significantly.
Mr Biden’s return to Philadelphia underscores the significance of Pennsylvania, the so-called Rust Belt state that helped deliver Mr Trump the White House four years ago.
He has visited Pennsylvania more times than any other battleground state this cycle and Philadelphia remains a key base of Democratic support in the state.
Mr Trump says he’s preparing for legal challenges to the counting of mail and absentee votes in Pennsylvania.
“We’re going in the night of — as soon as the election is over — we’re going in with our lawyers,” he told reporters in North Carolina.
A number of court battles have been launched by the Republicans (some won, some lost) over the counting window for mail-in ballots in different states. But on Sunday (local time), the GOP lost its appeal in the Texas Supreme Court to have more than 120,000 votes in a Democratic leaning Texas county thrown out on a technicality that drive-thru voting was not established by the state legislature.
The mayor of Houston was among the many to express their anger at the Republican tactics.
It is hard to fathom there is a group trying to throw out the ballots of more than 120,000 people in Harris County who used drive through voting approved by the Secretary of State and Texas Supreme Court. Totally unacceptable. I pray that most people vote Tuesday for change. st
— Sylvester Turner (@SylvesterTurner) November 1, 2020
An all-Republican court denied the request as judges did last month in a similar lawsuit. However Republicans will try again in a federal court tomorrow and have drawn a Republican-friendly judge.
As part of a final blitz of 10 rallies in the final 48 hours of the campaign, Mr Trump visited Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida on Sunday.
Mr Trump is predicting a “red wave” of election day votes for him, aiming to overcome Democratic leads in registered early votes.
Speaking to supporters in Dubuque, Iowa, he said: “I like Election Day, and most of you do too.”
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