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Election Day Underway in U.S., Nearly 100 Million Votes Already Cast; Most Drive-Through Voting Locations to Close in Houston Area Today. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired November 3, 2020 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: NEW DAY continues right now.

[05:59:02]

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have made America proud again, and we will make America great again.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: In this election, let's vote like our democracy depends on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The campaign is cautiously confident they may have closed the gap somewhat with Joe Biden with these raucous rallies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to fight for this country that we love so much and get out and vote.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Nothing, nothing is going to stop the people of this nation from voting, period! It's time for Donald Trump to pack his bags and go home!

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. We have a double open. OK? We have a double open. That's how big today is.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, November 3, election day, 6 a.m. here in New York.

Welcome to a special edition of NEW DAY and, yes, it's happening. Don't adjust your sets. Election day is finally here. The day that so many of you have been waiting for.

Polls are open as of this hour in these nine states in the northeast, as you may be able to see on your screen. In half an hour, polls open in key battleground states of Ohio and North Carolina, as well as West Virginia.

And by this time tomorrow, we might know who will be president for the next four years. Or we might not. What we do know is that this election is historic. Nearly 100,000 -- no. Scratch that, 100 million ballots have already been cast. That is a record.

Joe Biden closed out his campaign in Pennsylvania, where he began it more than a year ago. He ripped into President Trump for his handling of the coronavirus, which this morning is spiraling out of control.

President Trump, meanwhile, threatened legal action to stop vote counting in Pennsylvania beyond election day.

BERMAN: Overnight, an extra layer of fencing around the White House, where the president plans to host hundreds of people at an election night party tonight, presumably inside.

This as another 84,000 new coronavirus cases were reported overnight. That's the fourth highest daily total since the pandemic began. More than 231,000 Americans have died so far.

There's new reporting this morning that Dr. Deborah Birx, the leader, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, is pleading with the White House for much more aggressive action, contradicting the messaging from the White House.

Let's begin, though, with this final day of voting in America. Gary Tuchman, live at a polling location in the battleground state of Ohio. Gary, one of the most famous pieces of trivia, no Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Great final "Jeopardy" question, John. That's absolutely true.

I will tell you, I want to start off this election day by thanking the people behind me, the election workers.

Thank you, everybody, for being here, especially during this time of COVID. We really want to thank you for that.

This is the Strongsville, Ohio, senior center. And the picture (AUDIO GAP) -- small city of Strongsville, Ohio, which is 20 miles south of Cleveland.

These polls open at 6:30, so in 30 minutes, the voters will start coming in here and all the precincts throughout the state of Ohio.

It's really important to point out we have no idea how crowded these precincts will be, because there was so much early voting. Three point four million Ohioans voted early. That's 60 percent of the total vote from 2016.

Back in 2016, Donald Trump won the state by 8.1 percentage points. But right now, it's too close to call.

Joe Biden, because of that, made a campaign stop, a last-minute campaign stop, here in Ohio.

Now, ultimately when they count the votes here in Ohio, it could be fairly quick, because the early voting has been processed. At 7:30 tonight, when the polls close, they will immediately start counting the early in-person voting and the absentee ballots, and then today's voting.

As you pointed out, John, Ohioans really know how to pick presidents. They've only missed twice in this century and the 20th Century combined. 1960, they picked Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy; 1944, they picked Thomas Dewey over Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

There are 19 electoral votes. That's the seventh biggest haul in all 50 states and the District of Columbia -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Gary Tuchman for us. Thank those people behind you. Strongsville strong, the ultimate location for this last day of voting in America.

Polls open this hour in the battleground state of North Carolina, as well. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux live in Charlotte with a look there -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John.

Well, it's cold. It's dark, and it's a little bit early. And so voters have not yet quite come out to this polling center, but it is going to be open in about 20 minutes or so.

We've just started to see the door open and some of the workers come in. They're going to be setting up shop for a busy day. They do expect it to be busy, but perhaps not as busy as the last go-round.

It has been quite extraordinary, the energy and excitement around North Carolina, which of course, is a toss-up. It was just yesterday that we saw President Trump and Melania. I covered in Fayetteville out there, that the supporters there were very enthusiastic.

Jill Biden will be here today.

And if you just take a look at the sheer numbers, you're talking about 4.6 million voters who have already turned out and voted early. That is more than 62 percent of all registered voters in this state. And if you -- just to put it in perspective, 96 percent of all those who voted back in 2016 in North Carolina.

So what are they expecting? Perhaps up to a million voters throughout the state who will be casting their ballots. They also have an opportunity for those absentee ballots, mail-in, if it's postmarked today, then it will actually count and be counted up until November 12. That was an extension because of COVID to allow more time for the postal service to get those ballots, make their way to that tally.

Having said that, however, we've been talking to election officials. And they say that, unlike some of the other states, these battleground states, they believe they're going to be able to tally about 97 percent of the ballots cast. That they'll have a very good idea, the outcome of the election.

Of course, as you know, John, it is unofficial, that tally, but they are confident that we will know whether or not it's President Trump or Biden at the end of the day -- Alisyn. CAMEROTA: Really good to know, Suzanne. Thank you so much for all of

that.

Joining us now, we have Anna Palmer. She's a senior Washington correspondent for "Politico." And CNN political analyst Toluse Olorunnipa. He is the White House reporter for "The Washington Post."

OK. So here's what we know. 100 -- close to 100 million people have already voted. That's 73 percent of the total turnout in 2016. What we don't know, Anna, is what that means for today. If the numbers today will also be record-breaking or if that early vote eats into some of the voting numbers today? What are you watching?

ANNA PALMER, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "POLITICO": Absolutely. I think that's the big unknown question. A lot of experts are shocked even by what was expected to be an historic turnout in terms of voting has really broken past what most people thought it was going to.

I think the real question is going to be for the president and his allies, because they need a strong ground game going into today to get the vote out in order to actually compete in some of these states. In Florida, in North Carolina, Pennsylvania certainly. And so that, to me, is going to be the big question.

I think the other side that's been very interesting to watch in the last couple of days is Democrats. And really almost wearing it as a badge of honor to wait in line. So voter suppression, the concept of, Oh, I don't want to stand in line for hours now has been almost, you know, something that's gone social, gone viral. There's block parties almost happening. So you're really seeing a very different energy around the concept of waiting in lines right now.

BERMAN: Toluse, what does the numbers say to you? What does that nearly 100 million people have already voted say to you in terms of enthusiasm, in terms of where the available vote might still be, in terms of Texas, where more people have already voted this time than they did in 2016. North Carolina, where practically more people have voted than they did last time? What does it all say to you?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. It says that, despite this pandemic and despite the fears that going out to participate in the democratic process could be dangerous to one's health, everyone has decided that they are going to have their voices heard. It shows that people are very enthusiastic about weighing in on this election for various reasons.

There are a large number of people who are unhappy with what we've seen over the past four years, especially over the past year. In particular, people have lost loved ones. People feel like this pandemic did not have to be as bad as it was. And they decided to go out in force and show their displeasure with the president.

Now, the president also has a large number of people on his side. I was just at the White House just a few hours ago when he came back from his fifth rally of the day, and all of these rallies are packed with people who support him, and a large number of those people have already turned out to vote. The president is hoping that a large number of his supporters will turn out to vote today.

And it does show that there is a large amount of enthusiasm in the country to weigh in in this election and have -- have your voice be heard, with the idea that you can change the course of the country if you don't like the way that things are going.

And based on the polling, there are a large majority of people who do not like the course that the country is on. We'll have to see if the president can bring enough people to the polls who want him to have four more years to account for the fact that, in the early vote, the Democrats seem to have the lead; and the president needs to make up a lot of ground if he's going to have a chance tonight.

CAMEROTA: And President Trump is not very comfortable with vote counting beyond today, though it always happens. I mean, all sorts of election officials, county executives, keep warning us, it always happens. It's commonplace. It's how it's done.

But he is not comfortable with it. And, in fact, he's resorting to, I think, basically threatening that violence could erupt if -- if the vote weren't decided tonight.

I mean, in Kenosha, just yesterday -- well, I'll play it for you, what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: When the Supreme Court gave you an extension, they made a very dangerous situation, and I mean dangerous, physically dangerous. And they made it very, very bad. They did a very bad thing for this state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Sorry. That was Pennsylvania, not Wisconsin. So he's saying that -- a dangerous, physically dangerous situation. Why? Why is that his closing argument?

[06:10:06]

PALMER: This has been one of his arguments he's been making over the past week or so kind of much more frequently this concept that, you know, it's game day; and then, once the votes are in, it's going to be over after election day, which clearly is not the case historically.

In Pennsylvania he's been kind of in a tit-for-tat with the attorney general there, who has tweeted and said, No, actually the votes in Pennsylvania often take several days after to certify the actual winner of the state.

I think this is clearly because he doesn't think that he's going to do well with some of these absentee and mail-in voting. The president has really cast aspersions upon this and tried to say, you know, you need to vote in person. And they're trying to really suppress the vote as much as possible, because larger numbers of voters does not look like it's going to be a good night for the president. BERMAN: And as Toluse was saying, maybe this message is backfiring.

Maybe it is motivating people to go out and vote. The threat of having your vote taken away sometimes make you -- makes you want it all the more.

Toluse, I don't want predictions. Today is not about predictions, because we're going to have results. We're going to have the numbers soon enough. But what I want to know from you is what you will be watching when as this day unfolds?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. As a Floridian, I'll be watching a number of different counties in Florida. They tend to put out their numbers pretty quickly. Sumter County in Florida is home to a large number of senior citizens, and we've seen some movement with senior citizens towards Joe Biden. It's home to The Villages, the largest retirement community.

So when those numbers come in and that -- that county has actually had a very high number of early votes -- when we understand sort of what the breakdown is, that might give us a sense of where Florida is going.

If Biden's able to do relatively well with the elderly voters in Sumter County, that may be a sign that he's doing well in Florida and that he may pick up that state.

I'll also be watching Georgia and North Carolina, which have had very high numbers of turnout in the early vote, and it shows that both parties are really competing in both of those states, not only for -- at the presidential level but also in Senate races that are going to be key.

So will that high -- high level of turnout that we saw in the early vote period continue today? And will there be enough Democrats turning out to vote on election day to make it harder for President Trump and the Republicans to make up the ground that they've been trying to make up over the course of this day?

So I'll be watching sort of that Sun Belt -- Florida, Georgia, North Carolina -- and then the Rust Belt seems like it's going to maybe potentially come in later with a final vote. But we may have a good sense of where things are going once we see the numbers out of Florida, and Georgia, and North Carolina.

CAMEROTA: Anna, specifically, what will you be watching tonight?

PALMER: Yes, I mean, I think he gave a good roundup. The one state that he didn't mention, you guys were talking about earlier, is Ohio. I think they are able to count their early votes. So we'll have a pretty good sense of where their votes are, I think, fairly early.

If Trump doesn't get Ohio, it's hard to see his pathway. Between that and Florida, I think that's the key for the president early tonight. So that's where I'm kind of focused.

CAMEROTA: Guys, thank you very much. Great to talk to you and get all of your insight.

And be sure to join us for CNN's special coverage of "ELECTION NIGHT IN AMERICA." It begins at 4 p.m. Eastern.

So officials in Harris County, Texas, are closing all but one drive- through voting location today. Why? That's next.

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[06:17:40]

BERMAN: A win for more than 100,000 voters who have already cast ballots in Texas. A federal judge there ruled that votes cast over the last several weeks in drive-through voting in Harris County -- that's the most populous county in the state -- those votes will count.

Now, officials there overnight have decided to close almost all of those drive-through locations for today, because a different legal standard might apply on this final day of voting.

CNN's Brian Todd is live in Houston at the one drive-through location that will still be open today. I know this is complicated, Brian. The bottom line is, the votes already cast, they count, but you should vote differently today, by and large?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: By and large, yes, John. Except if you vote here. You can go to a drive-through place. This is, as you mentioned, the only one in Harris County that's going to be open.

This is a significant development overnight, where they -- they closed nine of the ten drive-through locations, because the county clerk for Harris County, Chris Hollins, is concerned about the legality of drive-through votes. Maybe even in a place, the one place here where he's opened it.

Because the judge in the case, when he made that ruling yesterday in letting the votes that had previously been made at drive-through places count, Judge Andrew Hanan said if he were voting today, he would not drive -- do a drive-through vote, because he would be concerned about the legality of it.

Well, that caused some concern among officials in Harris County. Chris Hollins, the county clerk, decided to close nine of the ten locations.

The reason the judge said that was because he cited a Texas election law that said that, on election day, all polling places have to have walls and a roof, and all the other places except this one that had drive-through voting, they had people drive under a tent, vote, and then drive away. But this place at Toyota Center, of course, has walls and a roof.

This is where people will come in. This is the parking garage at the Toyota Center. This is the sign for the entrance here. And I'm going to walk you over here. It's kind of a long way up a ramp. They'll -- they'll be directed to turn right and then go all the way up this ramp over here. You'll see that shadowy figure at the end of the ramp. That's not a

shady character, as he may appear. That's our producer, Brad Hodges (ph). He's waving to tell you where voters are going to drive up, turn left, and the tables that are going to be set up where they can stop and cast their votes are about 50 feet from Brad.

[06:20:00]

So they do have a system here in place. The question is, will the votes who -- that are cast here today count later? Because the Republicans have mounted several legal challenges to these votes.

An appeals court yesterday blocked their latest challenge to -- denied their latest challenge, rather, to block the votes being cast today via drive-through.

But so the Republicans have lost these battles up to this point, but they could still challenge these drive-through votes, John.

And that could be significant. Because yesterday, Chris Hollins, the county clerk, told me that before they decided to close the nine of the ten stations, that they expected 20,000 to 25,000 possible drive- through voters on election day in Harris County.

Now, of course, a lot of these people may change their plans. They may just park and walk in. We don't know how many voters that may be reduced, you know, given that nine of the ten drive-through stations are closed, but it could, you know, alter the count significantly.

And as we know, Texas is now considered to be a fairly close race between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and Harris County is a Democratic stronghold. If Joe Biden wants to drive up his margins, this is the place to do it -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Brian Todd inside a parking garage, which may be one of the most closely watched polling locations in America this morning. Brian, thank you very much for giving us that terrific explanation.

Joining us now, CNN analyst Jessica Huseman. She's a reporter for "ProPublica." Also with us, CNN contributor Ben Ginsberg. He's a Republican election lawyer who served as national counsel of Bush- Cheney presidential campaigns. And by the way, filed an amicus brief, if I'm not mistaken, Ben, in this case dealing with the drive-through voting in Houston.

I just want your take on where it stands now. The fact that the votes that have already been cast, do they count but by and large, a change in how it's used today. Your take, Ben?

BEN GINSBERG, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think Houston election officials have done what they needed to do to preserve the votes, not only of people who voted before but who will vote today.

I mean, actually, John, it's one of a sort of series of shameful episodes where my Republican Party is, unfortunately, instead of trying to bring people into the party with good conservative principles, now come to the point at Donald Trump's re-election of trying to exclude people. That's not the place to be.

CAMEROTA: But Ben, didn't you just tell us yesterday that there was nothing wrong with drive-through voting?

GINSBERG: Yes. There is nothing under -- under Texas law. I mean, what the judge said and the fear that he raised was the notion that there is a different requirement for buildings on election day. It's a really literal reading.

By the way, the people who brought this case, while they are Republican, they are not the Republican Party. Kind of gadflies to the party. And this is not an official Republican action.

BERMAN: Jessica, you, in fact, are a Texas resident. Texas already has voted in greater numbers this year than all of 2016. You also are watching election challenges around the country. What do you see as the biggest issue this morning?

JESSICA HUSEMAN, CNN ANALYST: You know, I think that the biggest issue is still some uncertainty in a couple of states over when the ballots are going to be fully counted and the litigation that has brought us to this point and has made it more difficult for election administrators to have a clear path forward in terms of how they count the ballots and when, and how many ballots count and how many won't.

And I think that that's something that we're going to see continue to be litigated. And so the back and forth over that and the confusion that will bring to the process is really what alarms me the most.

CAMEROTA: And to that point, Ben, is it our imagination, or is it Republicans that keep putting up these road blocks, these different road blocks to means of voting, means of counting? And if so, why?

GINSBERG: No, it is not your imagination. I mean, I think the "why" really does have to do with this great fear that we, as a party, have not appealed to -- to certain groups of people, and a Trumpian fear that those are the people who will cause his defeat.

I think the thing to watch today in polling places is how many challenges the Trump lawyers make against individual voters, because that will determine the strength of any of these post-election actions that keep getting threatened.

BERMAN: Yes. I'm going to quote from the latest op-ed you wrote over the weekend here. You said, quote, "My party is destroying itself on the altar of Trump. Republican elected officials, party leaders and voters must recognize how harmful this is to the party's long-term prospects."

So clearly, you feel strongly about this.

Jessica, one of the things that might happen tonight --

GINSBERG: I do.

BERMAN: -- is that someone might come out and declare victory before all the votes are counted here. And obviously, the president has the power of the federal justice system, but how far does the federal justice system go in terms of how states decide to count their votes?

[06:25:04]

HUSEMAN: You know, the president can declare victory tonight if he likes, but that won't have any bearing on whether or not the votes continue to be counted. He has very little authority to sort of unilaterally stay in office of his own accord. There are a lot of legal principles that go back quite a few years that -- that walk us through this process.

And so I think that if the Republican Party is willing to stand up to him and to make sure that their message is consistent with, you know, the underlying principles of our American democracy, then I think he'll have very little success in sort of usurping the -- the day and making it a -- a clear Trump victory when there -- when there likely won't be one.

BERMAN: Counselor, one-word answer here. Who actually sets the election laws for how votes are counted in the states?

GINSBERG: The states.

BERMAN: Exactly.

CAMEROTA: Hmm. That's two words, but OK.

GINSBERG: The legislature, the governor.

BERMAN: And that's the beginning and the end of it, largely. When you hear the president riff, you hear that tonight.

GINSBERG: I'm a lawyer.

CAMEROTA: Ben, Jessica, thank you both very much for all of the submissions.

GINSBERG: Thank you.

BERMAN: So Dr. Deborah Birx sounding the alarm about the deadly phase we are now in in the coronavirus pandemic. Taking on the White House in a startling memo that came to light overnight. That's next.

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