Pro-Trump protesters convinced the fix is in

11/5/20 - Atlanta - President Donald Trump supporters line the sidewalk outside of State Farm Arena.   (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
11/5/20 - Atlanta - President Donald Trump supporters line the sidewalk outside of State Farm Arena. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@

Partisan divide fueled by partisan media

As former Vice President Joe Biden continued to chip away Thursday at President Donald Trump’s narrowing lead in Georgia, Lauren Youngo said she was confident her candidate received the most votes.

“Trump won. I have no doubt,” said Youngo, one of about 100 pro-Trump protesters, who gathered Thursday afternoon outside State Farm Arena chanting “Stop the cheat!” Inside, poll workers feverishly counted ballots, most coming from heavily Democratic parts of the state favoring Biden.

Youngo, who lives in DeKalb County, said she doesn’t trust the process.

“Georgia is a red state,” she said. “The truth is President Trump was way ahead. Now they’re suddenly finding all these Biden votes.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, outlined the numerous steps the state is taking to ensure an accurate, complete vote count. Absentee drop boxes were locked at 7 p.m. Tuesday evening, surveillance cameras are in use and the public is welcome to observe, he said.

“We’re well aware that with a close presidential election and the possibility of runoffs in some elections that the eyes of the state and the nation are upon Georgia at this time,” Raffensperger said in a statement. “We’re as anxious as anyone to see the final results and to start work on certification and planning for our runoff elections. As the work goes on, I want to assure Georgia voters that every legal vote was cast and accurately counted.”

Still, Trump has fanned doubts on his Twitter feed, tweeting Thursday morning, “STOP THE COUNT!”

That call to action from POTUS led Nicole Wilson to make the two-hour drive to Atlanta from Oconee County, South Carolina, where she works as a registered nurse. Though she acknowledges Georgia’s demographics are changing in ways favorable to the Democrats, she refuses to believe a state that’s been reliably red since 1996 would turn blue so fast.

Wilson said she’s convinced Biden’s vote total is artificially high, although she can’t say who is behind it. It’s worth noting that Georgia’s Secretary of State, who oversees elections, is a Republican

“I want every legal vote to count,” Wilson said. “Both sides should want the same thing.”

But that’s unlikely as long as each side works with a different set of facts. A 2019 study by the Pew Research Center found that distrust of traditional media outlets by Republicans and right-of-center independents had increased significantly since Trump took office.

To them, CNN, The New York Times and even Fox News are not to be believed. Instead, protesters cited as trusted sources Project Veritas, which uses undercover techniques (and deceptive editing) to expose alleged liberal bias and corruption, and Trump surrogate Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch.

They were among those who pushed a claim out of Michigan that an update in the state’s vote count showed 138,339 votes for Joe Biden and zero for Trump.

“It’s the clearest case of voter fraud ever,” said protester Larry Mayo, 57, of Brookhaven. “That’s not even mathematically possible.”

It also wasn’t true. The overwhelming surge in Biden votes was captured on an election map from Decision Desk HQ and widely shared on Twitter. According to PolitiFact, the change resulted from a glitch in the file sent by Michigan election officials. The error was corrected, and so was the map.

Still, doubts linger.

“Something is up. They’re cheating,” Mayo said. “2016 is going to stand as our last free and fair election.”

So what happens if Biden is declared the winner?

Mayo said Republicans, who control legislatures in many of the most closely contended states, could appoint alternate electors who would vote for Trump.

“That’s a hand grenade,” Mayo acknowledged. “But that’s how corrupt the system is.”

The anger felt by Trump supporters is real, said Matt Gault, a 34-year-old electrician who took the day off from work to join in the protest. He voiced suspicion over the broken water pipe Tuesday at State Farm Arena that delayed the counting of absentee ballots.

“That’s a real stretch,” said Gault, whose fervor for the president led him to protest outside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while working on a job there.

Wilson said she expects widespread protests if Biden is declared the winner. “We’re upset," she said.

As ever, Trump supporters say they will follow the president’s lead.

“He’s going to fight, we know that,” Youngo said. “And we’re going to fight right alongside him.”

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