Two people dressed as armed security guards claiming to be with the Trump campaign showed up on Wednesday at the downtown St. Petersburg early voting location today, according to Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus.
Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus told 8 On Your Side 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 in a video interview with 8 On Your Side’s Chip Osowski Wednesday night.
Thea McDonald, the deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, said the guards outside a Pinellas County early voting location on Wednesday were not hired by the campaign.
“The campaign did not hire these individuals nor did the campaign direct them to go to the voting location,” McDonald said in a statement.
Marcus, a Republican, is running to keep her seat as elections supervisor after being appointed in May of this year by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. Gualtieri, also a Republican, is running for re-election as well.
“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 said that the mere presence of armed guards standing 150 feet away from a polling location is not against the law.
“If those guards who are here by their conduct,” Gualtieri said. “Their actions, their demeanor, their words, did something that rose to the level of voter coercion, intimidation, that’s a whole different story, a whole different topic.
“Then it is something that we would address.”
What Gualtieri did say was that the Sheriff’s Department will now use deputies to guard the five early polling locations until early voting ends on November 1.
He added the move is not just because of this incident, but also because there have been reports of Trump and Biden supporters getting rambunctious at early polling locations in Palm Harbor and Clearwater.