Armed guards outside Florida polling place were not hired by Trump campaign, spokesperson says


PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Two people who were dressed as armed security guards and stood outside a Florida early voting location Wednesday were not hired by President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, a spokeperson for the campaign confirmed.

Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus told NewsNation affiliate WFLA Wednesday night the two people set up a tent outside an early voting site in downtown St. Petersburg and claimed to be with the Trump campaign.

“Sheriff [Bob Gualtieri] told me the persons that were dressed in these security uniforms had indicated to sheriff’s deputies that they belonged to a licensed security company and they indicated – and this has not been confirmed yet – that they were hired by the Trump campaign,” Marcus said.

A Trump official said the campaign did not hire the individuals at the site.

“The campaign did not hire these individuals nor did the campaign direct them to go to the voting location,” Thea McDonald, deputy national press secretary, said in a statement.

Marcus, a Republican, is running to keep her seat as elections supervisor after being appointed in May 2020 by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“The sheriff and I take this very seriously,” Marcus said. “Voter intimidation, deterring voters from voting, impeding a voter’s ability to cast a ballot in this election is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in any way shape, or form. So we anticipated many things going into this election. Not only cybersecurity, but physical security and we had a plan in place and executed that plan.”

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, a Republician, is also running for reelection. At a press conference on Thursday morning, Gualtereri said the two individuals did not violate any laws.

“Their mere presence does not constitute voter coercion or intimidation,” Gualtieri said.

The sheriff did say deputies would be stationed at all of the early voting locations in Pinellas County starting Thursday.

In the first presidential debate last month, Trump encouraged his supporters to go to the polls to watch what happens there.

“I’m urging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully,” Trump said. “Because that’s what has to happen. I am urging them to do it.”

It is illegal in the state of Florida to bring a gun to a polling place, and Gualtieri says intimidation won’t be allowed either.

The Joe Biden campaign issued a statement against voter intimidation tactics in Florida earlier this week.

“In the United States of America, we cannot and will not stand for any behavior that could intimidate voters from participating in our democracy. Our country stands for freedom, liberty, and democracy, and these scare tactics have no place in our state. It’s clear that those running scared will try anything in the closing weeks of the election. There are no excuses for this behavior. We are committed to making sure every Floridian can vote and every vote is counted.” 

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