Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Americans Head to Polls in Pandemic for Historic Election; Biden, Trump Make Public Appearances as Americans Vote. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired November 3, 2020 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:00]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Anderson Cooper, thanks for joining us. This is live CNN's special coverage of Election Day in America. It's an exciting day. We have seen so far voters get the last word today on who they want to lead this country during multiple crises.

And the race is certainly historic in many ways. More than 100 million people have already cast their ballots before the polls opened today. That is a record. Right now, polls are opening across California, Idaho, Nevada, Washington and Oregon. So voters now coast-to-coast are casting ballots on this final day.

Many are standing in long lines at polling locations. In other places, we've seen relatively short lines and short waits because so many people have already voted. This is the scene at one polling site in Philadelphia, line stretching down two blocks and around the corner.

There is certainly some anxiety. There is certainly excitement and uncertainty with the nation divided, the coronavirus pandemic surging. But there is what it boils down to, Americans just taking time out of their day, standing in line to cast their votes. This is one of the most politically consequential moments in our country's history.

Any moment now, we could see President Trump head to the RNC annex offices in Arlington, Virginia to encourage workers there.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is already out. He arrived in Scranton, Pennsylvania last hour to make a final pitch to voters. Biden began his day at a church in Delaware, going to mass with his wife. He also visited the grave of his son, Beau.

We have correspondents in position at polling places nationwide to bring you the latest. Polls opened in Michigan just a couple of hours ago. Obviously a critical battleground state that President Trump won by a razor thin margin in 2016.

Our Correspondent, Omar Jimenez, joins us now from St. Clair Shores in the Detroit area. Omar, what are you seeing so far?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, we're officially off to the races, polls are open and those absentee ballots, which you've seen a record number of, can now be counted.

Now, we're specifically in Macomb County. It's a county that's a suburb of Detroit. It's a county that President Trump flipped from Democrat to Republican in 2016. And it's a county where the winner has ended up being the statewide winner for presidential and governors races the last seven elections in a row.

Now, one of the things we're keeping an eye on, a difference this time around seems to be the percentage of young voters who are coming to make their voices heard. When you look at the percentage of absentee ballots that were sent in that were made up of 18 to 29 year olds, it was only 2.5 percent in 2016. Now, that number is up to 9.4 percent.

And we spoke to some of those voters here in this county as some waited in line on Election Day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FARRAH ZAWIDEH, MACOMB COUNTY/DETROIT SUBURBS VOTER: It's crazy that the outward like advertising for voting that we've seen this year versus 2016. I don't think I saw anything.

And it really says a lot about where we're coming as a country. And I'm really proud that the younger generation is coming in and making sure that they're voting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My friends are like, it doesn't matter, my vote doesn't count. And then when we saw the results, so this year a lot of them had made the choice to vote either before or in line currently right now as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIMENEZ: And when you look at turnout overall, again, even before we got to Election Day, we've seen more than 3 million absentee ballots sent in, which is more than 60 percent more than the entire 2016 presidential election turnout. And more than 60 percent of the entire 2008 presidential election turnout, which saw the highest voter turnout in Michigan history.

And, of course, it is no secret, Michigan is always and has been an important state when it comes to the election. It's a place President Trump won by less than a percentage point in 2016, and it's a place that he held multiple rallies over the course of the weekend.

The last stop he made actually was in Grand Rapids last night and it's a place where Joe Biden and President Obama also held events over the weekend in Detroit and Flint. And we also expect to see Senator Kamala Harris here in Detroit later this afternoon. Anderson?

COOPER: And just -- have you seen long lines? Have -- because so many people voted early, are you not seeing lines? What does it look like?

JIMENEZ: Well, in this location, in particular, a few of them across the Detroit area, we did see long lines right before polls opened. And once the doors opened, there was that lag time of sort of getting people in.

[10:05:02]

But one of the things that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has said repeatedly is that they've gotten just about two-thirds of their entire voting population. They got them to vote through absentee ballots.

So there were no real worries about long lines heading into today and we're keeping an eye out for it, but we really haven't seen it widespread just yet.

COOPER: Interesting. Omar Jimenez, I appreciate it. Thanks very much. We'll continue to check in with you throughout the day.

I want to go to Wisconsin, obviously another critical battleground state. Half of the state's registered voters already cast ballots due to that avalanche of absentee votes. Wisconsin's chief of election official is warning it's likely we won't know even unofficial results until tomorrow.

Our National Correspondent, Ryan Young, is in Milwaukee.

So, Ryan, polls opened just an hour ago, right?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Anderson. And we're at an elementary school. It's about five miles south of downtown Milwaukee. When the polls first opened, there was a line down the hallway here. But the poll workers here quickly got those first bit of voters out the door pretty quickly.

The whole process works pretty smoothly so far. When you walk up here, you meet this gentlemen, he'll check you in and tell you what ward you're going to be a part of, and then you go right in. First time poll worker who said he wanted to be a part of the process.

And as we come through this building right here, this is where the votes actually happen. So you register at the post here to figure out what ward you're in. And then you get one of the cards and the, of course, you go over to vote.

One of the things that you'll notice, Anderson, all the protection in place here because, obviously, Wisconsin has been dealing with some tough numbers when it comes to COVID-19. So, every poll worker has a face mask on, a face shield and they've doing the social distancing. They even make sure all the pens are sanitized afterwards.

Now, this is a state where more than 1.8 million people cast their ballot pretty early. So, we saw the initial rush but, so far, it's gotten slow since then. In fact, we talked to one voter who said he had to be here today because he wanted to cast his vote because he thought it was pretty important.

COOPER: It's so interesting, Ryan, what we're seeing across the country, again, because so many of these ballots have come in early, you know? Do you know did they anticipate more people this morning or were they not really sure what to anticipate?

YOUNG: Well, think about this. You had 61 percent of the folks who wanted those votes cast have already put their ballot in. Then you have the idea that Donald Trump won the state by less than 1 percent. So, he was here just last night campaigning once again. So there's conversation.

And every time you turn the television on in this area, you have one of those situations where you're flooded with the commercials about who to vote for. And, in fact, the guy who I was referring to, who we talked to just a second ago, I guess we didn't have that sound bite, was basically telling us he wanted to vote because he wanted to be part of the process. He understood that this state is pretty important.

We also talked to a small business owner who said that COVID-19 has impacted her business so strongly, she's not sure how long she can survive in the future. So, she's looking for leadership when it comes to controlling the coronavirus.

Also one of the things to talk about here, Anderson, you can register today in the state and vote.

COOPER: Interesting. Ryan Young, I appreciate it, we'll check in with you.

Turning to Texas. We're going to show you pictures of the only drive- thru voting location open today in the Houston area. This is actually Joe Biden in Scranton, Pennsylvania, going to his childhood home earlier in the day when he arrived. He had said that he is with his two granddaughters who had never been to Scranton and he wanted them to see his childhood home. So that is where they're visiting right now.

He and Jill Biden attended mass this morning in Delaware. They visited the grave of Beau Biden, Vice President Biden's son, and then they flew to Scranton.

We saw him earlier this morning talking to canvassers who are going out trying to get people coming into the polls, doing their last minute work. And now he's visiting his home in Scranton.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now tonight -- or this morning from Houston, Texas.

Brian, what's the scene where you're at?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, if you want to see what voter energy looks like, we're going to show you here in Harris County outside Houston. This is the multiservice center on West Gray Street. This is the entrance. People are checking in here going in to vote past these doors. These lines have snaked around here and almost to the street all morning long.

It's gone all the way down here, past the elbow there and then to the right along that fence almost to the street there. It's dissipated a little bit now, but we anticipate it'll get longer again later. Lots of energy here, people campaigning, lots of poll signs out here.

[10:10:04]

There was question whether voter turnout would be strong in Texas because Texas is setting all sorts of records for early voting. 9.7 million people voted in Texas before Election Day. That eclipsed the total number of voters in Texas in 2016.

And I want to talk to a lady who's a longtime voter here in Harris County. You've been voting for 50 years, you've told us. She doesn't want to give her name. But what's your interpretation of the energy here and turnout? What do you think drove so many people to come out today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, because I think it's going to change the direction of our country one way or the other. And there is just -- I've never seen emotion like this before in all the years I've lived here.

TODD: You've been voting here for 50 years. You told me a little while ago that this town and the voting dynamics have changed a lot in those 50 years. How so?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh. When I was a young growing -- I'm a native. When I was growing up here, it was like an overgrown cow town, and now it's a thriving metropolis, so international, so many different views and ideas.

TODD: Well, thank you very much for talking to us. If we hold you up longer, you're not going to be able to vote. So I'm going to let you go vote. Thank you very much, Ma'am.

So, Anderson, there you have it, changing dynamics here in Harris County, just lots and lots of energy, the turnout very impressive, because, again, given all the early voting here.

You mentioned the drive-thru voting situation. There is, as you said, one drive-thru voting station because Harris County -- the clerk closed down nine of ten drive-thru stations. He was concerned that any votes cast via drive-thru today on Election Day might not be counted, might be illegal because a judge ruled yesterday that if, on Election Day, if voting does not take place in a place where there are walls and a roof, then they should not be counted, that they're illegal.

And a lot of those stations had tents. So they closed down nine of ten drive-thru voting stations. There is one open in downtown Houston. We're told it's gotten a lot of volume so far. So that's part of the dynamic here as well. Anderson?

And, Brian, so things look peaceful there. I hear hubbub in the background, I heard somebody chanting four more years, it sounded like on a bullhorn. Just for people who are concerned being yelled at if they're going to vote, what is the situation there? Are there people protesting? Are they a certain distance away from people? How does that work? TODD: They are a distance away. I can show you down here. We're in the shade. We're going to have to show you, panning into the light, just a light a little bit. Those are Trump supporters across the street chanting four more years. They're just kind of voicing their passion for the president.

But there's no intimidation going on here. I can tell you that. We've been here all morning, no intimidation. These are just people who are very enthusiastic, again, expressing their support for the president, playing music, chanting.

There have been other people on bullhorns, again, expressing their political views, but no intimidation here. It has not been a factor.

I talked to the Harris County clerk, Chris Hollins, a little bit earlier. I asked him if there had been any problems. He was very optimistic. He said he didn't anticipate any. There hadn't been any so far. Look, that doesn't mean it's not going to happen. But we can tell you that this operation has gone smoothly. And despite the passion and vociferousness of some of the Trump supporters and others, there's been no intimidation here, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Well, passion is not a problem, just illegal behavior is. And it doesn't seem like there is any and that's certainly a good thing. And that's what we're seeing in all the polling places that we have been physically at this morning. And it's incredibly heartening to see. There's certainly a lot of passion, a lot of anxiety and concern, but people standing in line, casting their votes, lines actually not as long as maybe some people anticipated in some areas and we'll continue to be monitoring that throughout the day.

Moments ago we saw, Melania Trump arrived to vote in Palm Beach, Florida. Let's watch and listen.

Sorry. We had an audio issue there.

More than 9 million people have already voted in that state, an incredible 95 percent of all the ballots cast in 2016. Polls close in that state at 7:00 Eastern.

Now, to Georgia, where one county just south of Atlanta, is already reporting technical issues with polling machines. Spalding County, officials say, they are aware of the issue and that they're sending provisional paper ballots out to voting locations. As you can see, there are long lines for voting there.

Let's go north of Atlanta. CNN's Nick Valencia is at a polling station in Norcross, Georgia.

Nic, any problems so far?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Hey, good morning, Anderson. No issues here to report and, really, no lines. You can see three people in line. Election officials tell us this morning at 5:30, when they showed up, there was a crash of people to vote. At the height, there were about 40-minute weight times, right now. You're really just in an out here.

This is a very important district and a very important county. Historically, it has been firmly held by conservatives.

[10:15:02]

But back in 2016, that changed when Hillary Clinton had an upset (ph) and won this county. In 2018, when Stacey Abrams ran for governor here, there was mobilization here among Democrats, specifically in Gwinnett County. She won this county and Joe Biden is hoping to inch this county further to the left.

This would be the first time since 1992 if Joe Biden takes Georgia that a Democrat would win the state. 16 electoral votes are at play here. And just take a look behind me. As I mentioned, it is very smooth, in and out at this point.

The day did start in Georgia with some voting issues. You mentioned south of us in Spalding County, a reported computer glitch led to voting machines going down there. We understand election officials are bringing about 2,000 provisional ballots over there to Spalding County.

And late last night, there was also some drama in metro Atlanta, in Fulton County, one of the biggest counties in the state. They had some vendor back out last minute, Anderson, in the morning, so that left some voting machines and poll pads not being delivered to some polling sites.

We understand, according to election observers, they finally got delivered in Fulton County at 5:00 A.M. this morning, but the day did not start without drama here so far though, Anderson, in Gwinnett County, a very important county here for the state for both President Trump and contender, Joe Biden. No lines, no wait, everything running smoothly. Anderson?

COOPER: All right. Nick Valencia, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.

More than 100 million votes have already been cast in the presidential election even before the polls opened today and the 2020 race could see the highest overall voter turnout in a presidential election ever. It depends how many people actually show up today.

CNN National Correspondent Kristen Holmes joins me now.

So, take us back to 1972, the first election that included 18 year olds.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Okay, Anderson. I'm actually going to take you back to 1876, because that was the largest turnout we've ever seen in the United States, which was 82.6 percent of people who were eligible to vote voted.

Now, of course, we know not everyone was eligible to vote and we have really no idea as to how they tracked that. So we'll take you to the modern times. 1972, that's when we started to see a dip in turnout for voting. It had been relatively high in the '60s, during the 1940s, '50s and '60s, all around 60 percent of eligible voters were casting their ballot. Then you get 1972, it's 55.3, and it continues to go down.

In 1996, when Bill Clinton ran against Bob Dole, that is the lowest, when you saw 48 percent of the voting age population casting a ballot.

Now, it starts tick up again in 2004. You're looking 55.7 percent. And then we see these record numbers in 2008 when we had Barack Obama running against John McCain. That was 57.1 percent of the voting age population casting their ballots.

So, what do we need to do to get back to that number from where we are today? As you said, a lot of it is going to hinge on what happens today. They need about 49 million more ballots cast across the country to reach the 2008 threshold. 2016, just for you reference, did not come close to that. It dipped back down to 54.8.

And right now, when we talk about these percentages, we're at about 38 percent of voting eligible voters casting their ballot. We still need to have, again, 49 million ballots cast to reach that. The big thing to watch here, and this is what both campaigns are watching, was that early turnout, was that foreshadowing some kind of enormous record- shattering event that we're going to see today, or were those votes replacing votes of people who were going to cast their ballots today.

Now, one thing that we are watching closely, those lines in Philadelphia, in Harrisburg. Those are indicating that there is still going to be a lot of interest and a lot of voter turnout. And keep in mind, in Pennsylvania, that's something you're watching closely if you're the Trump campaign because 2.4 million absentee ballots were requested in that state, they were received and cast in that state. 70 percent of the people who requested those ballots were Democrats. So Republicans need that turnout on their side today.

COOPER: Democrats are also looking closely at turnout of African- Americans, Latino voters today given concerns that some Democrats had about a kind of lower percentages of African-American voters and Latino voters voting by mail in advance of the election in states like Florida, Arizona and elsewhere.

HOLMES: Yes, that's right. And one thing that we're really watching closely is Wisconsin, Milwaukee, as well as the non-Atlanta metro Atlanta areas in Georgia. That's where you're looking to see some of that black voter turnout that you talked about.

One thing that was very interesting, I spoke to several GOP operatives in Georgia asking them if they believed that Biden could take this, and they said, absolutely. If you look at these non-Atlanta metro areas, if you can get black voter turnout outside of that area that we did

not see the big early voting numbers in, then they believe that Biden could beat Trump in that area.

[10:20:07] So, again, coming down to turnout, in Milwaukee, they are expecting record numbers of people of color going out and voting today. People I talk that are part of various advocacy groups, they say that they were talking to members of the black community who said they don't trust the USPS system, that they don't trust that, that they want to vote in-person on Election Day.

And they're going to be set up in Milwaukee, various cities throughout the state with snacks and different things to really make sure people do not leave those lines. So it will be interesting to see, Anderson.

COOPER: Let's listen in to Joe Biden in Scranton.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: in here. And his parents brought (ph) it from there. And it's only been two families for, I don't know, how many years now. And so they had me signed years ago on the third floor where my Aunt Curly (ph) lived and had me sign my name. They just had me sign it behind a picture in the living room. So -- but I'm afraid it's attracting a lot of people to their home.

REPORTER: Have you talked to President Trump today, sir?

BIDEN: Yes, I have.

REPORTER: You have?

BIDEN: And I talked about --

REPORTER: Have you talked to President Trump today or is he --

BIDEN: Oh, no, I thought you said have I talked about my son today, I beg your pardon. No, I haven't talked to President Trump today.

Thank you.

COOPER: Vice President Biden visiting the house that he grew up in in the first four years of his life, bringing his granddaughters there.

CNN's Phil Mattingly joins me now.

So, Phil, let's look at where we would see these vote totals come in first.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Look, I think we've all been talking about it, Anderson. You've been talking about it as much as anybody that you preach patience on a night like tonight, because this is a different election, because of a pandemic, because of just the massive early voting. Over 100 million early votes have already been cast, 60-plus million of those coming by mail, that how people count, when people count is going to be different over the course of the day. And it's going to be different based on states and those states rules.

Now, look, I put up this map as a demonstration, because a lot of times people are watching, maybe had the volume down or just watching and paying attention to things in this map, which shows all of the safe states. If it's dark red, it is a safe Republican. If it's dark blue, it is a safe state for Joe Biden.

And, inevitably, we put this up to try and demonstrate what different pathways are and someone will inevitably start yelling at me that Colorado is currently a tossup when everybody assumes Colorado is going to go Democrat, same with Minnesota, same with maybe Nevada.

The point being, pay attention not just to the colors of the states over the course of this night but how people are describing the way things go, and the reason why is this. You look at some of the key battleground areas. Obviously, we talked a lot about Pennsylvania into the Midwest and we've been talking a ton about the Sun Belt as well. How they count their early votes versus their day of votes is different.

I want to pull this up and give you a sense of how people are counting absentee ballots. Let's take this off real quick and pull this up. And you see that in states like Florida, Arizona, Iowa, if this would actually cooperate with me, I would be able to show you better, Nevada, North Carolina. They start the process or processing of their ballots the day before. Some of those states actually start counting as well.

However, you move over into Pennsylvania, into the Midwest. They only process and count on Election Day and in some counties with absentee ballots, particularly in the state of Pennsylvania, some in Wisconsin as well, they will start the day after. So what does that mean?

That means in certain states think, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Florida, you're going to see a lot of the absentee mail ballot dumped right when polls close or shortly thereafter. And that may cause, given the fact the Democrats overwhelmingly voted by mail more than Republicans have, give the sight that Joe Biden is doing extraordinarily well in all of those states.

However, as the day of vote is starting to count, sometimes those states will start to revert back. It doesn't mean that if Joe Biden in Florida early in the night, he won't be leading at the end of the night, but the margin in the gap will start to close.

And the same things for or the Midwest in the reverse. They will be counting day of votes before they count absentee in most cases. Same with the state of Michigan. So those states may appear to be overly Republican early on in the night because Republicans, by our all of our polling, have been voting in person more than they've been voting by mail.

The point here is this. What you see at the beginning of the night, what you see when polls close as these states start to fill in may not be where things end up. Patience, watch how this plays out throughout the course of the night. We, as you know, our decision desk (ph), we will have information, we will have data, we will explain it to the best we can as well as we know it.

But just because there's a huge lead in a tossup state early in the night, don't decide that that's how it's going to end. Don't decide your candidate is winning or your candidate is losing. It is going to be a process throughout the course of the night and why this is so different compared to every other election is what we've been talking about the last several weeks but, obviously, over the course of the day, 100 million-plus early votes. A huge chunk of those absentee votes and states, they count them differently.

[10:25:03]

And that will dictate how the vote comes in, how it's reported and how we see things throughout the course of the night, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Phil Mattingly, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.

As voters cast their ballots, President Trump and Joe Biden are wrapping up their time on the campaign trail. You just saw Joe Biden there leaving his -- the house he grew up in in Scranton. We'll take a closer look at their election night plans ahead.

Plus, police on alert, barricades and fencing surrounding the White House.

And Dr. Deborah Birx sounding the alarm about coronavirus. Her blunt warning that's at odds with President Trump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Both President Trump and Joe Biden are out on this Election Day morning. The president is expected at the RNC annex offices in Arlington, Virginia, moments from now, as Biden is wrapping up a visit to his hometown of Scranton before traveling to Philadelphia.

Joe Johns, our Senior Washington Correspondent, is at the White House.

S, Joe, White House staff members are setting up for a big election night party. It's going to be indoors, right?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And this is supposed to be the big event. And about 400 people are invited, we're told. It's going to be on the state floor, which is the floor, where they hold state receptions.

[10:30:05]

And there's a lot of space involved here.