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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Stacey Abrams is Interviewed about Georgia's Voting; Pandemic Rages on Election Day. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired November 3, 2020 - 08:30   ET

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


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[08:32:01]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You are looking at live pictures from Anderson County, South Carolina. This is outside Greenville. Long lines there as people show up to vote. The presidential race maybe not so much in question in that state, but there is a pretty close Senate race there. Lindsey Graham, the incumbent, facing Jaime Harrison. We are seeing lines like that around the country.

Election Day voting underway in Georgia, which could prove to be an important swing state today. Nearly 4 million people in Georgia voted early and the Biden campaign hopes to turn this state blue for the first time since 1992.

Joining me now is Stacey Abrams. She lost a very close race for Democratic nominee for Georgia governor in 2018 and she now leads Fair Fight, a group fighting voter suppression.

Thank you so much for being with us this morning. It is very nice to see you.

When we put this number up on the screen, nearly 4 million people in Georgia have voted already.

What does that number say to you?

STACEY ABRAMS (D), FORMER GEORGIA GUBERNATORIAL NOMINEE: Well, 4 million people is 56 percent of the total eligible voting population in Georgia and we expect at least a million more today if not higher. We know that this signals an intensity, an enthusiasm and an energy for speaking aloud and for making sure people's voices are heard. So we're excited about the numbers and we're excited about the possibilities.

BERMAN: Now, as we mentioned, the Biden campaign wants to turn Georgia blue for the first time in a very long time. Why is that even possible?

ABRAMS: We have had dramatic demographic changes for the last 20 years, but we know that demography is a lagging indicator of electoral power. The -- demography changes first and then the electoral power catches up. We saw in 2018 when we had record turnout and record composition of the electorate that being a battleground state was not only possible it was inevitable. And we know heading into this election we have seen dramatic turnout among communities that typically are not at the top of the -- of top of mind for candidates. And we have seen them be engaged, be encouraged and we've seen them turn out.

BERMAN: How much of a sales pitch did you have to do to the Biden campaign and the former vice president himself to get him to Georgia to campaign?

ABRAMS: Well, we've been working on this since 2018. I've been having conversations since early 2019 with every single major candidate who was running for president. I had two messages, one, voter suppression is real and we've got to plan -- we have to have a plan to fight back. And, two, Georgia is real, and you've got to have a plan to fight here. And we were very privileged to know that by the time Joe Biden won the nomination, he had Georgia on the list and Georgia on his mind and we've been very enthusiastic about having the vice president, his wife, Senator Harris, her husband and President Barack Obama come to Georgia to solidify the fact that we are a battleground state.

BERMAN: So as you sit here this morning, with just a few hours left for Georgians, Americans to cast their votes, what concerns you the most?

ABRAMS: One, I want people to not panic. We've heard rumors of intimidation and challenges across the country. But the reality is, this is a nation that believes in democracy and we need people to believe that their votes matter so do not panic, go and vote.

[08:35:06]

And, two, don't leave the lines. We know there will be long lines, which is not a signal of enthusiasm, it's a signal of voter suppression. But it's important that if we want to improve that, that we stay in those lines, cast our ballots and elect leaders who will work to improve and invest in our democracy. So, don't panic, don't leave. And if you have any questions dial 866-OUR-VOTE. Those are civil rights nonpartisan attorneys who are ready to help any voter who has a question. And if you have questions about where to go and vote, go to iwillvote.com and that will give you information about your polling place and the rules in your state for casting your ballot today.

BERMAN: So, don't panic. I certainly get that as a message when it comes to voter intimidation. No one should have to ever experiencing that -- experience that and I know it's something that people do still experience around the country.

But panic in terms of what Democrats will inevitably go through today, I'm not so sure no matter what happens you'll be able to keep them from panicking. I can already see it. You see people lining up. You see a single Republican get in line and a Democrat will tell you, oh, no, it's all over, the Republicans are coming out in force.

So what's your message for Democrats, how to get through today psychologically? ABRAMS: We have to remember that more than 100 million Americans have

already cast their ballots. And, look, we're a democracy. Our elections process isn't partisan. It is designed for every American to cast their ballot, Democrat, Republican, independent. But we know that if we show up, there are more of us who are ready to be heard, who did not show up in 2016. We've got to correct the record, show up this time, and not worry about what the other side is doing. Our mission is to show up and bring our friends, bring our family, as I said yesterday, bring people you're mad at, people you're afraid of, bring everyone you can because this is a numbers game. There is a math to victory. And that is, it's more of a show up than we can win this election. But we cannot panic. We -- anxiety is natural.

And let's be clear, the other side has it, too. If they didn't, Donald Trump wouldn't have been in Georgia three times. We know that we can win this, but we have to show up, stay in line and not let our panic overwhelm us, but we also have to be calm and patient when it comes to the results. We may not know tonight, but when we get the answer, I'd rather it be slow and right than fast and wrong.

BERMAN: The president, talking about Pennsylvania specifically and the Supreme Court allowing ballots to arrive for three days after today, he said somehow it could lead to violence on the streets. Some people read this as a threat of violence.

How do you see it?

ABRAMS: I think that it's more proof that we need a new president. His willingness to sow chaos, to encourage intimidation and to provide disinformation to American citizens is not only deeply wrong, it is highly problematic and that's why I encourage everyone today, don't pay attention to the president. Ignore him. Make the choice for the future. Ignore someone who's willing to traffic in lies and focus on the truth. And the truth is, you're an American citizen, your vote counts. Don't leave the lines once you're in it and don't panic about what's out there. Don't let distractions and intimidation and chaos keep us from our mission, and that is casting our votes and having our voices heard.

BERMAN: Stacey Abrams, we appreciate you being with us this morning. Thanks so much. Don't panic. Good luck, everyone, over the next few hours.

ABRAMS: And don't leave.

BERMAN: Making that happen. Appreciate your time.

ABRAMS: Take care.

BERMAN: So an urgent, new warning overnight about coronavirus. What a top doctor advising President Trump wants him to do, next.

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[08:42:35] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: On this Election Day, the coronavirus pandemic is raging across America. Overnight, more than 84,000 new cases were reported. That's the fourth highest single day since the pandemic began. Thirteen states are reporting record hospitalizations. In the last month, the number of Americans hospitalized has soared more than 50 percent.

Joining us now is CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

So, Sanjay, these two things meet today in terms of the pandemic and people wanting to exercise their vote. And so for people who are rightfully worried, they maybe haven't been out in big crowds for months, they have been trying to do all the right things, how can they vote safely today?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, I think it is possible, and I actually did this myself a couple of weeks ago and checked out these voting centers, obviously they're going to be different in different parts of the country, but they actually had a lot of these safeguards in place.

There's a few things just to sort of keep in the back of your mind, and we created this go bag, if you will, of things that you think about before you're going to vote today. But one thing just in terms of your mindset, sort of think of it like you might think of a grocery store trip. You want to be mindful, you want to slow down, be thoughtful about things that you're touching, but also plan ahead. Bring your personal ID. Maybe even do a sample ballot ahead of time, voter registration, obviously. Masks, hand sanitizer, those are musts. That is the age in which we live. Think about any surfaces that you might touch, pen, take your own pen with you, for example, and you might have to wait a little while to the extent that you can if you're going to be outside, make sure you bring enough warm clothes for that sort of thing.

It's going to be a different sort of experience, for sure. But, you know, when you -- when you talk to public health officials in different places around the country, I think it is quite possible to do this safely, as long as you keep some of those basic measures in mind.

BERMAN: So it's interesting, Sanjay, because the CDC says even if you have tested positive, there is a way for you to go vote. They basically say, wear a mask, stay socially distanced, but when you arrive, make sure you tell the poll workers there that you're sick.

What do you think of this, especially given that so many volunteers at polling locations are elderly?

GUPTA: Yes, I was a little concerned by that.

[08:45:00]

I caught that as well, John. I mean I think that the -- you know, the -- the basic rule of thumb I think for most people who have active COVID is that you should be in isolation. I think certainly if you have symptoms you should be in isolation. In this sort of situation, if you can -- if you can go and you can truly maintain your distance, I mean the virus can't jump that far. It's not -- and if you're wearing a mask it's fairly easily contained by a mask, but you can't make any mistakes. You don't want to inadvertently potentially expose somebody. You have to let people know at that time and there are protocols in place, my understanding at many of these centers where you can actually then be in a position where you don't have to come in contact with people. Sort of go to the polling place, to the voting place yourself and not come in contact, which is the key. But it's challenging. Certainly if you know you have COVID, if you are symptomatic for sure, then I think the bar is going to be much higher for you to leave the house.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, that's a tough one. But, obviously, you must disclose it, as you're saying, to the poll workers.

GUPTA: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And so, Sanjay, we want to just get your take on what is happening with Dr. Deborah Birx. She was such a visible part of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. She's been sidelined since then it appears. And it seems as though she's had enough. She is speaking out in a more vocal way than at least, to my ears, I have heard her say before, and breaking with the White House in a more public and vocal way. She's going around, as you well know, packing her own suitcase, going around to states and trying to get their attention and tell them what to do.

She -- there's this internal memo that was released that she wrote, "The Washington Post" is reporting on it. They say that she says, we are entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of the pandemic leading to increasing mortality. This is not about lockdowns. It has not been about lockdowns since March or April. It's about an aggressive balanced approach that is not being implemented.

Her point is, is that, you know, the president and Scott Atlas keep talking about lockdowns. That's the boogie man. Uh-oh, you don't want to lock down. There's so many things that we could do, she's saying, that don't involve lockdowns but we're not doing those either.

GUPTA: Yes, I think you're absolutely right. I mean she's had it in the sense that she's actually saying this stuff, although I think she has felt it for a long time. I mean, you know, I met her right after she got appointed. We were at the White House. We met. She had just flown in from Kenya at that point and she was excited to start this. This is several months ago.

She's been gradually and increasingly marginalized and was no longer being invited into the Oval Office, refused to be in meetings with the task force that involved Scott Atlas at one point and, as you say, went off and -- on the road on her own.

I'm not at all surprised by what she's saying because it reflects what most public health experts in the country have been saying now for months. I guess the surprise is that she's saying it and saying it as forcefully as she is. I mean, you know, the numbers back her up in terms of where we're

headed overall in this country and also this idea that we don't need to have lockdowns in order to stall this. There are basic public health measures that will work, and she's shown that.

BERMAN: Sanjay, thank you very much. I am sure we will be talking to you soon because one thing that's clear is no matter what happens in the election today, this pandemic very much here tomorrow and getting very much worse.

GUPTA: Yes, that's right.

BERMAN: Thank you.

All right, live pictures of voters -- no, there we go. There they are. There are the live pictures of the voters in Cleveland, Ohio. Tilt your head. Much more of CNN's Election Day in America, next.

CAMEROTA: They have to be spaced out, you know.

BERMAN: It's not the voters, it's the shot that's tilted.

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[08:52:48]

BERMAN: Live pictures from Anderson County, South Carolina. Voters in lines waiting. A few things I want to say on this day of days. First of all, thank you. If you're voting today, thank you. If you voted already, thank you. If you're working at a polling location, driving someone to cast a ballot, if you set up a way to make it easier to mail in a ballot, thank you, thank you, thank you. You are taking part in the great democratic experiment. You have chosen to play a leading role on the greatest stage on earth. Today, you are America and America is you.

In fact, this day is about you. Your vote. Don't let anyone take it for granted. Don't let anyone demean or diminish it. Your vote is a precious thing whether you cast it three weeks ago or tonight. It matters just as much. It is just as valid. Whether you come from a red state, blue state, safe state or swing state, you are just as American as the next guy and your vote is just as patriotic.

Now, tonight, that patriotism might require something a bit extra, something that doesn't come easy to all of us, patience. Patience is hard, especially now. This has been a tough year. But, tonight, patience is more than just virtuous, it is in itself patriotic. Why? Because it means you're willing to wait a little for your vote to matter, your neighbor's vote, everyone's vote.

Counting the votes will take some time, but counting isn't some inconvenient sideshow, it's the whole show. It's the whole point. You cast your vote in order for them to count your vote. And we may all need to wait a little bit for it to happen.

Do you know what they call that? Democracy. For you history buffs out there, you know where and when votes have been counted after election night? The answer is everywhere and always. Do you know what they call it? Democracy. And do you know what they call it when someone tries to keep your vote from being counted? Undemocratic and maybe even illegal.

So, tonight, if and when you hear complaining that it's taking a while, if someone suggests somehow they should stop counting, if someone suggests the vote sent legally by mail doesn't deserve to be counted the same way as a vote cast in person, if someone suggests this is somehow chaos, do you know what you say?

[08:55:09]

No. No.

Counting is not chaos. Counting is the point. It's why you cast your vote three weeks ago, three days ago or tonight.

Thank you for that vote. Thank you for your patience. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: And, John, thank you for those reminders and those comforting words. And regardless of what happens today and tonight, John and I will see you all tomorrow morning. It will be a special time, 8:00 a.m. Eastern. And I just look forward to it. This is an exciting time in America.

BERMAN: Our coverage of Election Day in America continues with Anderson, next.

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