Claims by Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Marco Rubio, and President Donald Trump that Democrats are "stealing" the 2018 elections in Broward County have sparked the expected reaction. Despite the fact there appears to be zero evidence backing up the claims, conspiracy theorists, right-wing grifters, and pro-Trump protesters are now descending on the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office.
The "Broward County Election Theft" demonstration seems to have been co-organized by a former Trump-campaign volunteer from Miami, Juan Fiol, who has been posting online. Miami Herald reporter Alex Harris has already posted that roughly 60 people appear to be outside right now chanting "Lock her up!" at Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes. The incident calls to mind the infamous 2000 "Brooks Brothers riot" — a pro-Bush "protest" that right-wing provocateur Roger Stone later admitted he organized.
Republican protest crowd doubles to about 60. Chant of lock her up breaks out pic.twitter.com/PfBHkbokha— Alex Harris (@harrisalexc) November 9, 2018
"If you want to be on FOX NEWS or CNN," come to the Broward Elections Office today, Fiol encouraged followers on Facebook.
He added in subsequent post: "Democrats are trying to steal this election with a sneaky recount, we need volunteers to monitor the machines NOW."
A Facebook group called Americans for Trump has also blasted out news of the protest/election-monitoring event.
And a slew of outright conspiracy theorists and right-wing propagandists have announced plans to descend on Broward County. Laura Loomer, the former Project Veritas employee so dumb that just last week she asked online if a Wi-Fi network labeled "FBI Surveillance Van" was, in fact, that of a real FBI surveillance van, has announced her plans to "monitor" the Florida recount.
All these 3rd rate provocateurs heading for Broward County Florida today for what?! pic.twitter.com/pXdAlXg92K— Djinn (@ARAEveryDay) November 9, 2018
Likewise, Jacob Engels, an Orlando-based InfoWars contributor and journalist "embedded with" (read: likely part of) the alt-right, semifascist Proud Boy movement in Florida, also announced today he is traveling to South Florida to, in his words, "#StopTheSteal."
Floridians do not despair. I am en route back down to South Florida to handle this situation in Broward. I refuse to let SNEAKY AND CORRUPT BRENDA SNIPES steal this election. @LauraLoomer and I will STOP THE STEAL! She is flying to FL today! #FloridaRecount— Jacob Engels (@JacobEngels) November 9, 2018
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Also en route is Ali Alexander, a self-described Republican activist who runs a political action committee financed by Robert Mercer, the billionaire known for propping up Trump, Steve Bannon, and data firm Cambridge Analytica.
Many of the protesters seem to be sharing videos from former congressional candidate Tim Canova, who in 2016 earned an endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders. But Canova is no longer a reliable source of information: He has since come out as a Seth Rich "truther," claimed his opponent Debbie Wasserman Schultz tried to fry the surge protecters in his house, and said Wasserman Schultz somehow stole the 2016 election. To be fair, we must note that Canova caught Snipes illegally deleting ballots tied to his 2016 campaign, but there has otherwise been no proof of any kind of election fraud in 2016 or 2018. Canova — and Rubio — this week shared a video allegedly showing Broward elections employees improperly handling ballots, but the video has not been independently verified.
In reality, truth doesn't exactly matter to folks like Rick Scott right now. The claims of election theft have had their intended effect: The governor's supporters no longer think this is a legitimate election. And that's a dangerous sign for democracy.