Weary from one of the most bruising US presidential races in modern times, Republican and Democratic voters alike were in a state of high anxiety on Wednesday 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 of those 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 demonized as “racist, phobic freaks of nature.”
Judy Mowery, 60, a Biden voter from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, also worried about violence between opposing political blocs.
“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.”
The highly charged atmosphere reached a fever pitch in Detroit where 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.”
The confrontation began not long before CNN and Edison Research declared Biden the winner in Michigan, where the Trump campaign challenged the results in court.
The post-Election Day tension proved too much for some to bear.
Some Americans said they would march in the streets against Trump’s overnight call for a halt to ballot tabulations. Others turned to caffeine or distracted themselves with gardening as they fretted at home.
“It’s like the twilight zone,” said Tanya Wojciak, 39, who reckoned she had downed 17 cups of coffee and found herself pacing the floors of her home in Cortland, Ohio, as she watched results trickle in from battleground states deluged by record-breaking numbers of early mail-in ballots.
“Trump’s scary, premature declaration of victory has me unnerved,” said Wojciak, who said she voted for Biden even though she is a Republican.
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.