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Voting Underway Across U.S.; 100M Early Votes Already Cast; U.S. On Edge As Americans Await First Election Results. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 3, 2020 - 12:30   ET

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


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[12:33:01]

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Welcome back to our special coverage of Election Day in America. Voters have lined up some for hours across this country and I want to go to another battleground state Ohio. Our Gary Tuchman is there. He's in the Strongsville which is just outside of Cleveland. All right, so Gary, how are things where you are?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, the polls have been open here in the state of Ohio and here in Strongsville for six hours and three minutes right now on this particular precinct for the first five hours and 55 minutes. There was a line of 20, 30, 40 people for the first time all day, I mean, from 6:30 in the morning when the doors up until now. The line has shortened but there's still a lot of voters here.

We pick this precinct at the Strongsville Senior Center in the suburb of Strongsville, Ohio because it's an even Steven kind of place. Of the city's registered voters, 70 percent roughly are registered to no party, the remaining 30 percent are exactly split between Democrats and Republicans. So, when we talk to voters outside before they come in or after they come in, it's easy to find Biden voters, it's easy to find Trump voters, and it reflects what's going on here in the state of Ohio, the polls are too close to call. And this is a state that since the Civil War has picked a winner in every presidential race, except for four times since the 1860s.

What I can tell you right now is that people are coming in here, there's very little drama. It's almost like a race for town assessor. And that's a really good sign because a lot of people obviously have been frightened to come in to vote.

BURNETT: Yes.

TUCHMAN: No drama here whatsoever, and very few problems in the state. For example, what I want to show you here, Erin, this is the registration desk when you come in. And they have iPads which register you on the iPad.

In Franklin County, which is the biggest county here in the state of Ohio, which is where Columbus, the state capitol is they had some minor problems with their iPads. They didn't think they downloaded everyone's names. So they went back to paper registration, which is what happened four or five years ago in the state of Ohio. No big problem. So that's the biggest problem they've had here in the state of Ohio.

But I do want to tell you is the way they vote here in Ohio is people come in into these booths. There's nothing electronic in these booths. They have a paper ballot. They put their pen on who they want to vote for, fill in the dot, and then they come to the scanner, these two, three scans over here.

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This woman is about to put her ballot in the scanner. And once it goes in the scanner, it registers their votes.

One more thing I want to tell you, Erin, is that, unlike Pennsylvania, they count votes quickly here. The early voting will start getting tabulated as soon as the polls close at 7:30 tonight. Erin?

BURNETT: All right. We'll see how quickly that goes. OK, thank you very much, Gary.

I'm actually going to talk to the Governor of Ohio in just a moment. But I want to go to Georgia first, because Spalding County, which is just south of Atlanta, did have some issues today, system wide issue actually this morning with polling machines. We understand that's now been fixed.

So I want to go to Nick Valencia who is in Georgia for us. So Nick, we understand these issues were resolved in Spalding County but, you know, you have an issue that causes a delay and it can have a, you know, bigger domino effect. What more can you tell us?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was pretty scary this morning in Spalding County. We understand a computer glitch took down the voting machines and lead officials to actually have to bring in about 2,000 provisional ballots. But as you mentioned, Erin, it has quickly, according to the state, been resolved.

That seems to be the storyline here across the state of Georgia. You look here in Gwinnett County where we are, there's absolutely no one in line. At the height earlier this morning. You did have people waiting outside at about 5:30 this morning to vote, they waited about 40 minutes. But across the state, according to the Secretary of State's office, no one -- or the average, I should say, is about three to four minutes away. No one even in the densely populated urban centers is waiting more than 30 minutes to vote.

Gwinnett County we chose here because this is a sort of battleground within the battleground state of Georgia. And I want to show you what's going on here very minimal activity. But this is a county that because of recent demographic changes has inched towards the left. It is one of the most diverse counties in the state. It's where you could find Trump supporters as well as Biden supporters. And Joe Biden is hoping to inch this county even further to the left. Hillary Clinton won this county in 2016. And the gubernatorial candidate for the Dems in 2018. Stacey Abrams also carry the county, giving a lot of optimism to Joe Biden's advisers. But Biden is going to have to fight a lot here. 16 electoral votes, he would be the first Democratic nominee for -- since 1992, if he wins the state. But, of course, this is a state that Trump carried by five percentage points without even visiting just to show you how desperate he is, though, to win this state.

Trump has been here three times since July. Last week, Joe Biden was here for the full day sending his closing message in warm springs. He desperately wants to win this state. And advisers are telling him that he can. The polls are very close here. They are expecting an uptick during the lunch hours, but we're not seeing it so far. We'll see what happens after 5:00 when people start getting out of work. Erin?

BURNETT: All right, Nick, thank you very much. I mean, it is just so amazing. We watch all of us together trying to understand what it means when you see a line or you don't see a line or, you know, on the back of what's been historic early voting across this nation.

I want to go to the governor of Ohio Republican Mike DeWine. As promised, and Governor, I really appreciate your time. So, you know, we were just talking to Gary Tuchman who was laying out how things are working in Spalding, right, and how they go with the iPads and they log in, and then they submit their ballots. And then he said, unlike Pennsylvania, you all are going to count quickly and you're going to start the second the polls close.

How quickly are you going to count? Or are we going to be able -- do you believe to know, clearly tonight which way Ohio goes?

GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): Well, I think so. You know, unlike other states, we allow things to get ready the absentee ballots, as well as the in-person voting. And we had a huge in-person voting and absentee ballots, maybe half of all the votes that counted were cast before Election Day. But those will be the votes that are counted first. And so, you know, after 7:30, they can count those, they can put them in the machine, they can run them.

And, you know, we'll get some -- the early numbers that will come back will be those early votes, those will be the absentee. One would expect that Biden at that point would be ahead. And then the rest of the night, frankly, whose president trying to catch by and, you know, he either will or he won't. I think he will, I think it's going to be a very, very close race. And I think the President squeaks it out.

BURNETT: Squeaks it out. All right. So let me ask you about the turnout because this is the big question, right? 3.4 million Ohio voters are the numbers I have, Governor, cast absentee ballots are voted early, which is 60 percent of the total number of votes cast in the entire 2016 election. You know, so before this election, Ohio never surpassed 2 million votes in early voting. Now, we know a lot of that obviously is driven by the pandemic.

But, you know, what are you seeing today? Are we going to actually set a record for all of Ohio? Are you seeing the in-person surge or not?

DEWINE: Yes, there's quite a big in-person surge. Fran and I vote in Cedarville. Our wait was about 45 minutes and we went at a time about 10:15, that should have been, you know, not that that heavy. They told us at the polls where we have several precincts coming together that literally from 6:30 when they open the doors, it never stopped. The line was around the building.

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And I'm getting texts from people around the state who were seeing that. So I think you're seeing a, you know, a very large vote.

BURNETT: Well, I think people are glad to hear governors wait in line too, 45 minutes, it gives you a real sense of how things are going, right? Personal reporting, Governor.

DEWINE: It's a beautiful day out today, though.

BURNETT: So, our polls does have Ohio at a dead heat of 46 percent. Joe Biden did a last minute play, right, going to Cleveland. You just said you think Trump is going to squeak it out. You know, what gives you that confidence?

DEWINE: Well, the President's going to do well again in the Ohio Valley, which is historically a Democrat area, the Steubenville, Youngstown, Mahoning Valley, that area along the river. He's going to do exceedingly well in all rural counties of the state. I think he could exceed even the votes that he got the last time.

You know, he's going to be obviously weaker in some of our suburbs, suburbs around Columbus, for example. So, it's going to be a close race. President won, you know, with a big margin last time, but I think he's going to win this time. I think the intensity is there. The ground game, it seems to me from what I can observe for the Trump team, you know, is been a lot better than the ground game for the Biden team.

BURNETT: That's really interesting. And, you know, we'll see how significant that sort of thing is going to be, right?

DEWINE: It's going to be close.

BURNETT: Usually that really is crucial. So, I want to ask you one other thing, though, Governor, while I have you. The U.S. Postal Service, you know, keep supporting these dropping on time movement of ballots, right? And it's a problem. It makes a lot of people worried, right? It's day running.

Fewer than 80 percent of ballots in Ohio were moved on time. And you talk about the Ohio Valley, that number there is in the low 70. So, my understanding, Governor, is that in your state, if you postmark a ballot by yesterday, it's going to count if it gets received by November 13th. So, you've got some pad, 10 days.

DEWINE: Ten days. BURNETT: Ten days after the election. So, are you confident that every single one of those mail-in ballots that was postmarked by yesterday will be counted?

DEWINE: Well, I don't think anybody can guarantee every single one but 10 days is a long time. You know, we have prevent -- have great opportunities for people to vote and for their ballots to be counted. So, I like our system in Ohio. You can vote in-person, you can vote the weekend before in-person or you can vote for a whole, you know, four weeks absentee.

So, we have very open voting in Ohio. I think the Democrats and Republicans who run it at the precinct levels do a phenomenal job, Secretary of State Frank LaRose has done a good job. So, you know, we're not seeing any glitches yet. So far, and don't expect any.

BURNETT: All right, Governor DeWine, I appreciate your time. Good to talk to you, sir.

DEWINE: Good talking to you. Thank you.

BURNETT: So that's it on Ohio and you heard what he said that we should get a clear result out of Ohio this evening.

Next coronavirus, entering its most deadly phase as voters go to the polls. This is according to an alarm task force doctor. Dr. Deborah Birx now speaking out at odds with Trump. And how will CNN make the call on who the winner will be?

This is a crucial question, right? You want to know exactly but we're completely transparent about it. We're going to show you that and show you when we may know it.

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BURNETT: All right. Election Day in America, a new numbers that we just have show more than 102 million Americans casting early ballots amid the pandemic, right? We have been telling you 100, we now have up to 102 million people early voting. And now long lines in key swing states on the actual final day in-person, including in Pennsylvania, a state that could decide who wins the White House.

So, this is the big question, right? With all the complexity here of 50 states and 50 sets of rules and 50 sets of complications on absentee and early and in-person, how are we going to put it all together?

Let's go to our Washington Bureau Chief Sam Feist. Sam, you know --

SAM FEIST, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Hi, Erin.

BURNETT: -- it couldn't get more complicated in the stew that you have to put together.

FEIST: It's complicated here.

BURNETT: Yes. So, everybody wants to know, how likely is it that we're all going to, you know, know tonight or wake up tomorrow morning and know who won?

FEIST: Well, I'm not going to put odds on it. But it's possible that we'll know tonight, I would say somewhat less likely than in other years. But remember, the -- two out of the last five elections, we have not known the results or not knowing who the president was going to be on election night 2000. Everyone remembers 2000. But also in 2004, when the election came down to the state of Ohio, we all went to bed or went home for a nap and didn't have the results in Ohio until the next morning. And actually about 11:15 in the morning, we were able to project Ohio in that case for George W. Bush.

In this election, it depends on the early reporting states. There are a few states across the country that are battleground states that report their votes relatively quickly. Florida reports relatively quickly, North Carolina reports relatively quickly, Georgia reports relatively quickly, Ohio reports there you see on the map, Ohio reports relatively quickly, and even Texas. So, those states if they're not close, and we're able to make a projection, could give us an indication. If Biden wins one of those southeastern states, for example, that's an important sign because those are really important to the President's math. So, it's possible but no guarantees at all

BURNETT: Right. You just don't know. I mean, an early counting and you hear, you know, Sam, you from the Governor of Ohio, right, you know, he's saying OK, he thinks Trump will squeak it out. We have it obviously as a tie, right, in the in the poll of polls and just have --

FEIST: -- no idea how it's going to go.

BURNETT: All right. So, how, you know, are you going to be, you know, as CNN sort of going in on all of this, right, it's figuring out how you count and when you project, how does all that work? What can you share?

FEIST: So, this year is different than any other year. Everything in the country is different because of COVID. And why would elections be anything different. The most important difference this year is that so many Americans voted by mail, and we've been talking about those mail- in votes in Pennsylvania, for example. It takes longer to count mail- in ballots, you have to open the envelope, open the outer envelope, check the signature, scan the ballot. It takes a while.

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And certain states, Pennsylvania, most of Michigan, Wisconsin, they couldn't begin processing, meaning, even opening the envelopes to those ballots until today. And so, those ballots have to be processed, and then they have to be counted.

So, tonight, as you look ahead to post-closing starting around 7:00, look to the early states like Florida, and North Carolina, which actually have been processing the mail-in ballots for a long time. You see the green states there on the map. They've been processing their mail-in ballots for weeks now. Those states, because all of the mail- in ballots will have been processed that they received, they're going to report them early. Those states are actually likely to favor Joe Biden in the early going, because we know from our pre-election polling that Joe Biden supporters, Democrats are much more likely to vote by mail than Trump supporters.

But those other states, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, those mail- in votes are going to come much later, they're going to be added to the count, perhaps at the end of the night. So, those states may favor Donald Trump late into the night until those mail-in ballots going in, and then the count will even out a little bit.

BURNETT: Yes, I mean, it's just really hard. And people just have to understand, I guess, you just have to be patient, right, because you may see the state look like it's going one way and shift the other and that's just the way it's going to be. That's -- because they're counting honestly and fairly. That's what it's reflective of completely.

FEIST: That's exactly right.

BURNETT: All right. So, Sam, thank you very much.

And, you know, Don, I feel like that's the thing we all need to just take a deep breath and understand, right, is that, you know, you were used to a system where, you know, the votes just kind of tick up and tick up and here you may see sort of tick up, tick up and then a leap. And then on each side, right, it's going to be different because of how people have been casting their votes.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Yes. Listen, Sam is right. I mean, there's -- we're living in the middle of a deadly pandemic. I think what -- the one thing that he did miss was the rhetoric. I mean, we have the record levels, I think, in anxiety, but also the rhetoric from -- it's coming from the Trump side saying, you know, we don't want to count votes after this time and all the legal proceedings that happen. We have legal proceedings that happen after every election, but not to this level.

And we have to remember, there is no -- no one comes out officially on election night ever, and say, hey, listen, this is the winner. It's just a courtesy. It's usually a projection from a network. And it's just a courtesy that both sides usually follow. And if there looks like there's going to be a winner, one person comes out usually and says, OK, I can see it, and then the winner comes out. So --

BURNETT: Yes.

LEMON: -- we'll see if that happens again tonight, but the process is still going on. Let's get to it.

Ryan Young, is joining us now live in Milwaukee. So, Ryan, listen, they were -- there's no way that there are going to be as many people at the polls, this time around considering 102 million people who voted earlier, the 100 million or so people who voted early in this country. There's just no way the lines are going to be the same. But take us to your polling place. What's going on?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's actually a fantastic point. I think we're starting to see that within this room. First, when we got here early this morning. You could really feel the energy. I mean, people were lined up, they were in their cars. It's about 30 degrees this morning, but no one really cared.

And then you look down this hallway, there were people all the way down the hallway lined up. The guy's was down there. He's actually a first-time poll worker. He said he wanted to be a part of this process. That is sort of the cool part about Wisconsin. Everyone was telling us they were excited to be a part of history.

But let's show you the room where it happens. This over here is where the voting is going on. And on the inside, you can see how workers are doing the extra care to make sure they're wearing all their PPE, not forget the fact that the coronavirus has hit Wisconsin very hard. And so, because of that, they're taking very precautions to make sure everything is cleaned after every single voter.

So many people have voted over the last few days. This is all part of a process. In fact, we talked to one voter who basically said, hey, he was voting between the lesser of two evils.

LEMON: Yes. Well, yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My decision to vote is who I felt was going to cause the least amount of damage. That's where I stand right now. That's not the best way to decide who's to vote, but eventually, maybe we'll have candidates to where we're not voting of the least, we're voting for the most of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: Hey, Don, I've been criss-crossing the state for the last years talking to people. Let's not forget that Donald Trump won the state by less than 1 percent in 2016. So many people were surprised back then. Now, you can see the President putting the focus on the state. Look, he was just here last night in Kenosha, got here last night to do his last rally.

This is all part of the process, and I'm just taking us to another little part of this. There's another little sanitation station. They have this stuff set up. So, no matter where you go, they're cleaning constantly because of the coronavirus. Let's not forget, Don, this is one of the first times we've ever seen people show up in masks to cast your vote.

LEMON: Well that's --

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YOUNG: And one of the things they wanted to make sure especially with so many elderly people showing up that it was safe.

LEMON: Yes, and listen, as well they should be, but listen, it's not just the coronavirus. We have to remember you said Kenosha, Wisconsin. We've had unrest on top of that. We had the summer of George Floyd and the protests in this country and unrest when it comes to the racial situation, the country and police brutality. People are also going to the polls for that. And I would imagine that's on the minds of the people who are voting in Wisconsin.

YOUNG: Yes, absolutely, Don. You know, you talk about especially we're just outside Milwaukee. You think about the black vote, and a lot of people were saying before, in 2016, folks didn't really get out to vote. Well, on Saturday, when we were out talking to voters, we saw an energized group of a black community who was out voting and number and there was a reason for that. They said they wanted to be a part of this process. They said they were tired of seeing the things that they have seen over the last few months. But there's so much going on in this community, especially as diverse as it is.

LEMON: All right, Ryan, joining us from Milwaukee. Ryan, thank you very much. Appreciate the job you're doing out there.

Look, this is the day. I know it felt like Election Day for weeks now. But this is the actual day that people get to go to the polls, last day really to decide who is going to be the next occupant of the White House. Erin Burnett and I are here for the next hour, a couple of hours or so. So, we're going to have much more on our Election Day coverage straight ahead. We have reporters on the ground all across the country as America votes today.

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