Tampa, FL -- As soon as government officials announced a possible al Qaeda attack threat Monday – the day before the presidential election, people started questioning the timing of the alert.
Some have even suggested putting out a frightening message this close to Election Day is an orchestrated conspiracy aimed at scaring people away from the polls.
“It sort of suppresses turn out, doesn't it?” asked Gary Garrison, casting his ballot Friday.
Garrison hadn’t yet heard about the threat, but he admits it would have made him think twice about heading to the polls any later than this.
“I don't want to stand in a big group of people when there's an actual terror threat,” he said.
The report has dominated social media.
Comments on the 10News WTSP Facebook page suggest a "scare tactic" conspiracy to keep people from going to the polls. The goal - "disrupt the election".
The problem, said some voters, is that this election cycle has bred distrust.
“I think it's very hard for the average person to figure out who's telling the truth and who's not telling the truth,” said Merewyn Roosevelt, casting her ballot in South Tampa on Friday. “And who is making this happen and who’s making it up?”
University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus says it's happened before.
Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge later wrote he was pressured by other members of President George W. Bush's Cabinet to raise the terror alert just before the 2004 election.
“So it's not unprecedented,” said MacManus. “But this time out, it seems like with the snap of a finger, the whole tenor of the election changes.”
MacManus says national security officials have been planning for the possibility of violence at voting spots for months now. And that a recent poll found 51 percent of Americans to worry about some sort of violence at the polling place.
10News political expert Lars Hafner doesn't doubt the threat.
But Hafner thinks if it was meant to keep people from voting, it could have just the opposite effect.
“Our country tends to rally behind the idea that no one messes with America,” said Hafner.
And that’s exactly what most people voting Friday said as well.
“No, that would not stop me. That wouldn't stop me at all,” said voter Dave MacPherson.
“We may not have any choice over that if they decide to try some sort of interruption. But I swear they're not going to decide how I live. And voting is my right,” added voter Lee Adams.