Dozens of Donald Trump supporters converged on a vote-counting centre in the key battleground state of Arizona as election staff continued to plough through uncounted ballots with local sheriff’s deputies posted outside.
The protesters, some of whom the local TV network ABC 15 Arizona reported were carrying weapons, briefly attempted to push inside the centre on Wednesday evening before being asked to leave. They appeared to be a mixture of Trump supporters and several far-right figures familiar at demonstrations in the state.
Arizona has been called by some media outlets for the Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, who holds a slim lead in the state. But the Trump campaign has tried to insist it has the votes to overtake Biden, who has a 69,000 lead, according to the most recent tally.
In contrast to pro-Trump protests witnessed in Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Trump supporters called for vote counts to be halted, protesters in Phoenix have been chanting “Stop the steal!” and insisting remaining ballots be tabulated.
The situation in Arizona has been complicated by the decision by Fox News and Associated Press – whose assessments are used by the Guardian – to call the state for Biden on Wednesday when there were still hundreds of thousands of votes to be counted.
On Wednesday night, with Biden’s lead narrowing in the state, a newly tallied batch of 74,000 votes from Maricopa county, benefiting Trump 59% to 41%, were released.
The remaining votes to be counted, however, mainly come from the largely Democratic Pima county, which is expected to benefit Biden. Maricopa county’s next update is not due until after 9pm ET on Thursday.
Despite the Trump campaign’s insistence that uncounted votes could swing Arizona, other observers were sceptical. The Washington Post’s analyst Philip Bump suggested that even if the advantage for Trump in the last batch of votes to be released held firm for the rest of the uncounted votes it could “close most – though not all – of the existing gap”.
The protests at the Maricopa county election centre in downtown Phoenix came as Trump insisted falsely that there were major problems with the voting and the ballot counting, especially with mail-in votes, and as Republicans filed suit in various states over the election.
Wearing Trump gear, the Phoenix protesters filled much of the parking lot at the election centre, and members of the crowd chanted: “Fox News sucks!” in anger over the network declaring Biden the winner in Arizona.
The representative Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican and staunch Trump supporter, joined the crowd, declaring: “We’re not going to let this election be stolen. Period.”
However, observers from both major political parties were inside the election centre as ballots were processed and counted, and the procedure was livestreamed online at all times.
Several sheriff’s deputies blocked the entrance to the building and the vote-counting went on into the night, Maricopa county elections department spokeswoman Megan Gilbertson said.
Two top county officials – one a Democrat, the other a Republican – issued a statement expressing concern about how misinformation had spread about the integrity of the election process.
“Everyone should want all the votes to be counted, whether they were mailed or cast in person,” said the statement signed by Clint Hickman, the Republican chair of the Maricopa county board of supervisors and the Democratic supervisor Steve Gallardo. “An accurate vote takes time … This is evidence of democracy, not fraud.”
Associated Press contributed to this article