Pro-Trump disruptions in Arizona county elevate fears for the 2024 vote

Pro-Trump Disturbances in Arizona County Heighten Concerns Over 2024 Election Integrity

In Phoenix, a sudden end to a meeting of Arizona’s largest county board of supervisors sparked a rush of people toward the stage. They were loudly claiming the board members were not legitimate. The leaders of Maricopa County quickly left the room through a side door, escorted by security guards who immediately called for additional support from the sheriff’s office. As the live broadcast of the meeting was cut off, shouts of a “revolution” starting could be heard from the crowd.

Michelle Klann, co-founder of a pro-Trump group, took over the podium to announce that the officials were not recognized as elected by the people. She claimed their positions were invalid due to alleged voter fraud, labeling the situation as an act of insurrection. This incident brought back memories for many Maricopa employees and others of the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election. At that time, false claims of fraud by Trump supporters aimed to intimidate elected officials into altering the results in Maricopa County, which houses over half of Arizona’s population.

With another presidential election on the horizon and Arizona poised to play a key role again, concerns have resurfaced. There’s fear that Maricopa County election officials might face a renewed wave of threats and harassment. A top county official described the incident as a coordinated attack, hinting it was a trial run for the upcoming election.

Since the 2020 election, the Maricopa supervisors, mostly Republicans, have endured public ridicule, conspiracy theories, and threats for their refusal to support attempts to overturn the election results. Trump’s narrow loss in Arizona has made Maricopa County a focal point for efforts to undermine election confidence. In 2022, Arizona voters rejected Republican candidates who denied the election results, but the issue remains a significant force within the state’s GOP. Some Republican lawmakers have even proposed splitting Maricopa County as a form of retribution.

Maricopa supervisors are now familiar with being heckled in public meetings, a tactic seen across the United States. They have started taking stronger measures against disruptions to prevent viral confrontations. However, the chaotic end to a recent meeting signaled a new level of threat, reminiscent of the events leading up to the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Despite debunked fraud claims, Trump’s staunchest supporters continue to disrupt proceedings.

Tammy Patrick, a chief executive at the National Association of Election Officials, noted that people believe in these false claims and think they need to act on them. The recent meeting ended without arrests, as security staff managed to escort out the crowd peacefully. Before their next public meeting, the board practiced emergency evacuation drills and increased security measures, including video cameras and a significant law enforcement presence.

A popular pet showcase was moved online to minimize chamber activity and ensure employee safety. Jack Sellers, the board chairman, explained that the new security measures were for everyone’s protection. Outside the meeting, Klann and others made baseless claims about the county board representing foreign interests. Klann refused to answer questions.

The group confronting the county leaders was part of a new Arizona-based anti-government group co-founded by Klann, which uses false claims about the 2020 election to challenge U.S. laws and structures. This tactic of delivering paperwork claiming leaders are illegitimate has been used against school boards nationwide, now echoed in Arizona’s election denial movement.

Some group members outside the chamber said they did not recognize the county supervisors’ authority, citing disbelief in the 2020 election results. They had connected during a review of ballots in Phoenix, which confirmed Biden’s win. Inside the chamber, the board swiftly moved through its agenda. When pro-Trump activists entered and began to complain about not being allowed to speak, the situation escalated. Supervisor Thomas Galvin thanked officers for their protection as shouting began.

Galvin and the board chair warned disruptors they would be removed if they continued. Amid another contentious election season, county leaders are considering rules to enforce civility in meetings and outline consequences for disruptions. Supervisor Bill Gates emphasized the importance of maintaining control during difficult meetings.