To count or not to count? That is the question supporters of Donald Trump are asking across the United States. Even as the counting of votes continued in key states on Friday, both Republican incumbent Donald Trump and his supporters seem to be having a mental breakdown.
While Trump has been demanding an end to the counting of votes and making baseless accusations of voting fraud, his supporters have been staging protests across several states in the US. But as viral videos show, there seems to be a lack of consensus in what exactly they were demanding.
"Count the vote" vs “Stop the count"
In one viral video from Arizona’s Maricopa county, Trump supporters have been demanding officials to finish counting every vote. Protesters wearing MAGA hats and Trump campaign posters gathered outside a ballot-counting centre in Maricopa, one of Arizona’s most populous counties, and chanted “count the vote" slogans.
This, however, is exactly the opposite of what other Trump supporters in another viral video were demanding. In a clip from Detroit, Michigan, Trump supporters can be seen protesting against the ongoing counting of votes and chanting “Stop the count".
The two videos have each been going viral on social media, leaving observers confused about what it was exactly that Trump supporters wanted - stop the count or count all votes?
— The Recount (@therecount) November 5, 2020
Well, it seems both the demands were based on two equally baseless assumptions that have been debunked by experts in the last two days.
Why Trump supporters in Arizona want to ‘count the vote'
In Arizona, the reason for Trump supporters demanding a counting of all votes is the phenomenon that came to be known on social media as “Sharpiegate".
Despite no indication that votes are not being counted, protesters gathered outside Phoenix City Hall Thursday "to demand every vote be counted.""They're protesting to count the votes & that is exactly what Maricopa County election officials are doing," AZ's sec. of state said. pic.twitter.com/u9Vvv78oLo
— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 5, 2020
On Wednesday, social media was flooded with conspiracy theories after Republican voters in Maricopa County claimed that ballots were being invalidated in Arizona.
In what’s come to be known as #Sharpiegate, social media posts suggested that election officials in Maricopa County provided voters with Sharpie company sketch pens (popularly known as ‘Sharpies’) which resulted in several votes meant for Trump being disqualified.
Arizona election officials clarified that voting with a Sharpie would have no impact on the votes being recorded by tabulation machines, and if there was an issue, there is a process that would keep the ballots from being cancelled out. A top official from the Department of Homeland Security in the US even issued a warning against spreading disinformation during tense times like these.
Despite the clarifications, however, about 100 Trump supporters mobbed a counting booth and demanded counting of all votes. They also chanted “let us in" and had to be held off by police, even as officials counted votes for the second straight night.
This is in sharp contrast to what Trump supporters elsewhere and he himself has been demanding, that is, “stop the count".
Why Trump supporters in Michigan want to ‘stop the count'
In Michigan, where officials are still counting mail-in ballots, Trump supporters have been demanding officials to stop the vote. Dozens of angry supporters converged on vote-counting centers in Detroit as the returns went against him Wednesday in the key state, while thousands of anti-Trump protesters demanding a complete tally of the ballots in the still-undecided election took to the streets in cities across the U.S.
Much like in the previous case, these protests were also fueled by unfounded rumours, fueled by Trump himself, about voter fraud being committed. On Thursday, Trump doubled down on his claims of Democrats committing voter fraud and demanded an end to the counting of votes, even as Democratic challenger Joe Biden inched ahead in key states like Arizona and Michigan.
“If you count the legal votes, I easily win," said President Donald Trump. “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us."
Why does Trump want to ‘stop the count’?
Since the election on November 3, Trump has been demanding an end to counting of votes and attempting to declare himself the winner of the election, even as the counting of mail-in votes was underway in nine states. With the number down to the essential swing states, the Trump campaign has amped up on its accusation of ‘election fraud’ being committed by Democrats and also filing lawsuits to stop the counting of votes. On Thursday, he had a meltdown of sorts on social media when he posted ‘Stop the Count’ in caps on Twitter.
According to some analysts, the move is intended to disqualify cast by Democrats for Biden as studies show that more Democrats were expected to vote by mail-in ballots, which are taking longer to count.