An armed man wearing a Donald Trump shirt and handing out Republican sample ballots outside of a Virginia polling place is acting well within his rights, Loudoun County officials said on Saturday.
Erika Cotti, a Loudoun County resident who cast her vote on Friday, told the Huffington Post that she felt intimidated by the man, who offered her a Republican sample ballot and asked if she'd be voting for "Crooked Hillary."
"I had my nine-year-old son with me. I felt intimidated," Cotti said. "And I had to explain to my nine-year-old son why a man with a .357 Magnum is standing outside the polling station."
According to Loudoun's Republican Committee Chairman Will Estrada, the man was a former law enforcement official and veteran with a concealed carry permit.
Man in Trump shirt with gun outside polling place asks woman w/ child: "Who you going to vote for, Crooked Hillary?" https://t.co/vDDqbYfh7e
— Jeffrey Guterman (@JeffreyGuterman) November 4, 2016
Loudoun County registrar Judy Brown confirmed that the man was standing outside her office in Leesburg, Virginia and handing out Republican literature.
"There is a gentleman standing outside the office with a holstered gun. According to law enforcement, because Virginia is open carry, he's allowed to have it," Brown told HuffPost. Brown added that she contacted the local GOP office and got the man to agree to cover his weapon with his Trump shirt.
"Hopefully, nobody else will be concerned about him," Brown said.
Voter intimidation has been a recurring topic this election season, especially in the wake of Trump's claims of rampant voter fraud and a rigged election. In August, Trump's campaign began recruiting "election observers" to monitor voter fraud at the polls—and although both parties recruit poll watchers for elections, Trump's "election observers" (and the GOP in general) have a decidedly racialized take on which groups of people commit the alleged (but in actuality, virtually nonexistent) fraud. Hint: they aren't white people.
"I'll look for... well, it's called racial profiling," one Trump supporter told the Boston Globe last month during a rally in Cincinnati. "Mexicans. Syrians. People who can't speak American. I'm going to go right up behind them. I'll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I'm not going to do anything illegal—I'm going to make them a little nervous."
During a rally in Nevada last night, Trump accused Las Vegas Democrats of engaging in fraud. "It's being reported that certain key Democratic polling locations in Clark County were kept open hours and hours beyond closing time to bus and bring Democratic voters in," Trump said. "Folks, it's a rigged system. It's a rigged system. We're going to beat it."
Nevada's GOP chair Michael McDonald echoed Trump's claims at the same rally. "They kept a poll open until 10 o'clock at night so a certain group can vote," he said. The polls are supposed to close at seven. This was kept open until 10. You feel free right now? You think this is a free and easy election?"
Trump was referring to a Las Vegas supermarket where voters—the majority of whom were Latino—stood in line for hours to vote on Friday night, the last day of early voting. The length of the line meant that the site didn't close until 10 p.m. In many states—including Nevada—anyone who is on line before the polls close is able to cast a vote, even if they have to wait until after the polls have technically "closed."
Various hoaxes are making the rounds on the pro-Trump corner of the internet that allege Democrats across the country were busted stuffing ballot boxes and that undocumented immigrants have been caught voting.
I've just got word that an illegal trying to vote has been arrested.
ICE is watching voting places closely! Thank you ICE!
More to come! pic.twitter.com/TeNiWsMTSR
— Neil Turner 🐸 (@NeilTurner_) October 27, 2016
Last week, Democratic Party officials from Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, and Ohio sued Trump's campaign, Roger Stone, and fraud watchdog group Stop the Steal, alleging that they were planning on harassing voters at the polls. On Friday, Judge James Gwin issued a broad order banning certain activities at or near polling places, including following or photographing voters and informing them of the penalties for voter fraud. A federal appeals court lifted the order yesterday.