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Interview With Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar; Election Day Arrives. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 3, 2020 - 15:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And hello. Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. We know so many people around the world are watching this.

I'm Erin Burnett, and this is our special coverage of Election Day in America, an historic day filled with a lot of anxiety, and, Chris, a lot of long lines for people who waited to vote in person today, Election Day.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: No question there is a mix of positive and negative going on in this country.

But I will tell you first, Erin, it's great to share a day in history with you. And we have never seen anything like where we are right now. We have never seen this kind of buy-in by the American people in advance of an Election Day.

We are expecting record turnout on Election Day, so the idea of having a hand in your own fate has never been more the case than today, maybe since 1908, when you had then President Taft get 65 percent of eligible voters in the tent.

That's how long it's been since we have seen anything like this, and that was before people 18 years old could vote.

So, it's a big, big day.

BURNETT: Hello. It was before I could vote.



Only people who looked like you could vote back then.

CUOMO: That's right. It was an only-handsome-people-can-vote rule. It was really weird.

(LAUGHTER) CUOMO: So, look, we have come a long way, and yet we haven't realized our potential the way we're realizing it today. What does it mean? Who will lead us? In what direction? We don't know.

But in just three hours, we will know much better, because the first polls will close. Parts of Indiana and Kentucky will start to be counted. And, from that point on, it will be a steady march of information that we will give you in the best context we can.

But, again, let's put some meat on the bones here. Over 100 million Americans have already voted. And millions and millions, tens of millions are still heading to the polls and at the polls right now.

So, it will be a record day. What kind of a record, we will see, but a truly remarkable number, and it underscores how this pandemic has created a crisis mode that people are taking their fate into their own hands, Erin.

BURNETT: It certainly does.

And you talk about how many places in this country are so crucial today, all of these swing states. And in these final hours, President Trump went to his campaign headquarters in Virginia, thanked his staffers.

His message? Winning is easy. Losing is never easy, and especially for him, he said.

Joe Biden, meantime, just moments ago, greeting supporters in Philadelphia. And he is going to head back soon to Delaware, where he will watch the results tonight.

So, we have reporters in the crucial battleground states that are going to decide this election, whether we find out the result tonight or not tonight.

I want to start with Kyung Lah, who is live in Phoenix, Arizona -- Arizona, crucial state.

Kyung, what are you seeing there this afternoon in terms of turnout and turnout for whom?


I am essentially in the belly of the beast in the county that matters most here in Arizona. This is where the counting is taking place, at the Maricopa County Elections Department. And take a look over my right shoulder.

What you're seeing over there, you see these people sitting side by size, two per table. They are adjudicators. If there's a ballot that can't be scanned by the machine, basically, what they're doing is trying to decide, what did the voter intend, if there's a line instead of filling in the entire bubble, if they wrote somebody's name in? One Democrat, one GOP, they try to figure out the voter intent. If they can't figure out the voter intent, then a tie-breaker is brought in to try to figure that out.

Over here to my left, because counting has been taking place here, you see those cardboard boxes? They're already sealed. Those votes are already counted. They are going to head their way into a vault.

In regards to what it's looked like at the polls, take a look at this picture of what it looks like in -- at these polling places. And what we saw, especially this morning, not so much right now anymore, but there was this rush of interest as polling places opened up, lines as long as 45 minutes to an hour.

They tended to be concentrated in GOP strongholds. Now, I caution you, we can't read that much into it, but turnout those particular districts this morning were quite strong.


What the state GOP sources are telling me is that this is something that they want to see, that this is good news for the president. But what the Democratic side is saying is that they anticipated this. This is typical behavior. And they believe that they came in, because of the strong early vote, that they believe that they are in a good position still to win this state.

As far as overall turnout, Erin, the early vote here has been exceptionally strong, very good for democracy, already exceeding the 2016 total -- Erin.

BURNETT: Well, all right, Kyung, thank you very much, which, by the way, can I just say how amazing that is to see that, right, that -- for those of you say, well, how do they know who decides what a signature is, two people per table, an adjudicator, someone else to take it to if they can't agree.

You know, this is the transparency that gives everybody confidence in this system.

I want to go to Florida now, another crucial state, just like Arizona. And Trump's best path, his easiest path to the White House runs straight through Florida. He's got to win it.

Drew Griffin is live in Tallahassee.

Drew, Florida's secretary of state reporting no reported security issues so far, some minor technical challenges. But, so far, it appears to be a smooth day in the state of Florida.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: The Broward County supervisors of elections, Broward County just called today boring, there are so few problems in this state.

And under this great Florida sun, you really can't complain. We are in one of the busier voting spots in Florida right now, which is these drive-up places, where you have to drop off your mail in ballots.

Unlike other states, Florida, they have to be in these boxes by 7:00 tonight. So, these people are making sure to drive them in. They have been telling them to drive them in for a week now and not take them to the post office.

But just in case, there are some mail-in ballots still at the post office. Mark Earley, who's the supervisor of elections here, is going to have his people going to the post office all day today. And at the end of the day, 6:30, 6:45, his election workers are going to collect every single mail-in ballot at the post office.

And then they're going to be driven with a police escort here to the supervisors of elections, so that they can be counted. Unlike other places, it's got to be in the office of the elections supervisor. By 7:01, that ballot delivered anywhere is not going to count.

That's why it's so crucial. That's why we have a continuous crowd here coming in to drop off these ballots. But it's been a really easy day of voting here in Florida. And you can still get out to vote. There really aren't very many long lines just about anywhere.

BURNETT: That's exactly what you want to hear, beautiful weather, not long lines, boring. That's what it needs to be all about, everything to give people the confidence that they need in these results.

Thank you so much, Drew.

So, Vice President Joe Biden, I showed him to you to a couple of moments ago. He spent most of his day in Pennsylvania, which is where Sara Murray is standing by, in Harrisburg.

Sara, what are you seeing?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, we love to hear about a boring Election Day, don't we? And that's kind of what we have been hearing so far in Pennsylvania. There have been some sporadic accounts of some polling places that maybe opened a little bit late. And we do know that there are certainly long lines around Philadelphia and in some of those suburbs.

I'm in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. There's a little bit of a line here at this voting location. But it's not too bad. Things have been moving pretty quickly. And so, all in all, I think people had a lot of concerns about how things were going to be going today on the ground.

And things have pretty much been going according to plan in the counties that we have talked to. Of course, the big X-factor is what's going to happen to these mail-in ballads. It wasn't until 7:00 a.m. today that these counties could start opening these ballots. They have to take them out of the outer envelope, the secrecy envelope, flatten them, put them through the scanner.

Most of the counties in Pennsylvania and most of the big counties are going to be doing this 24/7 to move this count along. We know that there are about nine counties in Pennsylvania who don't plan on starting this process until tomorrow.

When the secretary of state was talking to reporters earlier today, she said, essentially, this is a tiny fraction of the vote. It shouldn't impact when we will eventually know the results of who won the state of Pennsylvania, because it's these big counties that are going to have the brunt of the more than 2.5 million mail-in ballots that have already been returned.

But we just don't know, Erin, when we will get the results. The polls close here at 8:00. It could take a while to count these ballots. We may know by the end of the night who won Pennsylvania, but we may not know until tomorrow or even the days after that.

BURNETT: Right, as they count.

What is kind of your feel from where you are, Sara, in terms of who is showing up? Have you seen the most sort of Trump voters in person, as everyone had anticipated, or is it more split?

MURRAY: We have seen a handful of Trump voters. But, to be honest, it's not that long of a line right yet. It's kind of hard to gauge what the mix is.

I think, certainly, when we're talking to Republicans in the state, obviously, they want their voters to turn out here. And that's why President Trump was in this state so much over the weekend. He knows he really needs to energize his base in his kind of late push to get them out on Election Day, because they do expect that a lot of that mail-in vote is going to help the Democrats.


And they certainly do expect that there's going to be a big turnout around Philadelphia, which, again, is going to be pretty Democratic. And so, here in Harrisburg, we're seeing a little bit of a mix.

But what the Trump campaign is really betting on is, in some of these deep red parts of the state, that they're really going to be able to drive up their numbers.


All right, certainly, those counties that delivered the victory for the president last time with a 44,000-vote margin in Pennsylvania, razor-thin. Thank you very much, Sara.

I want to go now to the Pennsylvania secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar.

Secretary of State Boockvar, I appreciate your time.

So, I just want to ask you. Here we are at 3:10 Eastern. A federal judge ordered the U.S. Postal Service to have postal inspectors sweep processing facilities, basically, in underperforming districts for election mail by 3:00 p.m. And that deadline has just passed, right? That included Central Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. So what can you

tell us? Are all mail-in ballots, did you find a lot of them? Are they going to be handled on time?

KATHY BOOCKVAR, PENNSYLVANIA SECRETARY OF THE COMMONWEALTH: So I don't have reports. It's too recently after 3:00, but we're very pleased, obviously, that that order was entered, and that's what the Postal -- the U.S. Postal Service is doing.

And happy to report more later, when we have that information.

BURNETT: OK, so let me ask you about those ballots, because we all now know the numbers here, 3.1 million mail-in and absentee ballots requested in your state, 81 percent returned.

So that could mean anything for 600,000 votes, that the people put them in drop boxes late or they went in person or they didn't vote at all.

I mean, do you have any sense of what the real number is?

BOOCKVAR: Yes, I mean, so I'm not sure exactly what you're asking.

But I just want to be clear, like, when we talk about mail-in and absentee ballots, you never get 100 percent, right? So, in normal elections prior to this year, we have generally seen between 70 and 80 percent of absentee ballots that are received get cast by those voters.

So, average is somewhere in the 70 to 80 percent range. We already have 81 percent. And that was with all day today still yet to come, so not to mention the late-arriving ballots.


BOOCKVAR: So, we are already above average from normally what we would see from absentee ballots being cast.

BURNETT: All right, which I think is really significant, when you get to that 80 percent.

All right, so President Trump, I don't know if you -- you heard, obviously, he's railing against the Supreme Court decision to not get involved, right, allowing your state to go ahead and count your ballots that are postmarked, extension to count about the ballots.

He said, though, today at his campaign headquarters, Secretary of State -- quote -- "We should know what happens on the night," railing on Pennsylvania. And you know he has said that that decision by the court could lead to -- quote -- "tremendous cheating" in your state.

What do you say the president, we need to know tonight and there's tremendous cheating in Pennsylvania?

BOOCKVAR: Well, as you know, and I think the overwhelming majority of voters of know, races have never been decided on election night. Ballots have never been cast on election -- counted on election night.

And if we did, we would be disenfranchising the men and women serving our country overseas. Their ballots are not due until a full week after Election Day. So, I really want to be clear. We want every voter's vote, every valid vote to be counted.

And that takes some time, and I don't want to disenfranchise the members of our military. And I don't want to disenfranchise the millions of Pennsylvanians who took advantage of Act 77, historic bipartisan legislation that gave us all the ability to vote by mail.

Counting ballots takes time. It's going to be a couple of days, and then I expect the overwhelming majority of ballots in Pennsylvania to be counted.

BURNETT: All right.

Well, thank you very much, Secretary of State Boockvar. I appreciate your time.

BOOCKVAR: Thank you.

BURNETT: All right, and next: North Carolina election results will be delayed by about 45 minutes, the Board of Elections extending voting at four specific locations that had had some problems, some glitches this morning. We're going to go there live, as well as to Michigan and Ohio.

And the White House, the president going to be there tonight. He keeps saying he wants to know the results tonight.

Look, everybody wants to know them tonight. But what should we really expect to know and when?



BURNETT: Welcome back to our special coverage of Election Day in America.

The former Vice President Joe Biden spending these final hours on the campaign trail in Philadelphia. Earlier, he spoke to a reporter about the election and whether he is concerned about violent protests tonight and in the coming days.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can you ever think of election in your lifetime where people are worried about unrest in an election?

Look, it's not going to happen, because, the American people, their voices are going to be heard. Over 100 million people have already voted, already voted, in the United States of America.

They're going to determine -- no matter what the president says or anybody outside says, they're going to have their voices heard. There's going to be a peaceful transition. It's going to move forward.


BURNETT: And, Chris, that's what everybody hopes, that -- right, that there just is, whatever happens, a deep breath and a respect for the fact that more Americans than ever, eligible Americans, have had their voices heard.

CUOMO: If hope is a function of what you're doing to create the expectation, that's one thing, but just empty hope of, well, the thought of optimism, sometimes, that's defined as yet undiscovered disappointment.

This president is going to stick with what he believes is best for him. So, if he wins, he wins. If it doesn't look like he's going to win, we have to expect that he will be -- and this is going to complicate our job -- he's going to be in a state of mind, Erin, where whatever needs to be said, whatever needs to be pressured or pushed, he will do without reservation.

So, it really puts an onus on us to allow the system to work free of that kind of contamination. It won't be easy. Easy for Joe Biden to say. It's tough to have happen.


CUOMO: But we will see.

And how do we do this? Apparatus. We do this by the function of the institutions. For example, a federal judge has ordered the Postal Service to sweep underperforming districts for election mail processing facilities. What does that mean? That's a lot of words.

It means that they have gotten reports that there are too many places that are not doing the job well enough. And the U.S. Postal Service has not policed this themselves well enough. So, this judge is saying they will.

And I want to hear back by 3:00 p.m. Eastern time in a number of states, including some critical background states, what you are doing to get up to par.

Now, why this isn't happening is going to be food for political spin.


So, let's go to Ana Cabrera right now for the latest.

What is the state of play on the facts?

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Bottom line, Chris, the Postal Service has been struggling to move ballots on time.

And so now ballots are at a significant risk of not making it to the election offices in time to be counted. So, a federal judge ordered these sweeps, these last-minute sweeps to happen in these underperforming districts to -- quote -- "ensure that no ballots have been held up and that any identified ballots are immediately sent out for delivery."

Now, this comes after we learned today that it is now the fifth day in a row that ballots are moving slower through the mail than the day before in critical battleground states. This is according to court filings.

And in five of the states with these low processing scores, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, New Hampshire and Maine, they do not allow ballots to be received after Election Day. So, that is critical here.

The secretary of state of Georgia, for example, saying, as of this morning, they still had nearly a quarter-million outstanding mail in ballots that had not been returned, but had been requested.

So why the delays, you ask? Well, USPS is blaming the pandemic, says it's largely due to staffing shortages because of COVID-19. But they are instituting overtime. They are trying to move resources around.

The Postal Service has been ordered to take extraordinary measures to get these ballots to election offices by the cutoff time for each of these states. And now there's this last push, these sweeps of mail facilities that should be under way as we speak.

CUOMO: Now, the burden is going to be, under the basic jurisprudence here, the rule in the law is equity abhors a forfeiture, which means fairness indicates that you can't have somebody lose a right like this.

So, simply, you would say, OK, great, so these states are going to be made to do things the right way, and they will have to accept these ballots. Not necessarily. It is much more likely it will have to be judged state by state.

That takes us to our breaking news in North Carolina, where election results will be delayed by at least 45 minutes tonight. Why? Because the state Board of Elections there decided to extend voting at four locations that opened late this morning.

What are the details on this?

CABRERA: Well, we are all going to have to hold our breath just a little bit longer tonight.

North Carolina, of course, is one of our battleground states we have been covering. It was supposed to have earlier results. Now we're just going to have to wait for them.

And here's what happened. The state Board of Elections agreed to extend the voting at four precincts, just four, that experienced delays today. We're told, in some cases, workers arrived late. In one of the precincts, there was a printer issue.

And under state law, the state Board of Elections can extend the voting hours if a polling place is delayed opening by 15 minutes or more or if the voting is interrupted for more than 15 minutes. Now, voting time can be extended to an equal number of minutes.

So, in these four precincts that are affected, the extended voting time actually ranges from an extra 17 minutes at one Cabarrus County precinct to 45 minutes at a polling place in Sampson County. But, again, this affects when the whole state can report election results, because officials have to wait until all the polls are closed.

And, remember, North Carolina is a state where all the ballots have to be in by Election Day. And they have been processing these mail-in ballots and the early votes as they come in. So, results tonight from North Carolina should be more comprehensive than some of the other states. And they could be an early indicator of where this race is headed, Chris.

CUOMO: Yes, right now, this is a good problem. North Carolina has handled something that seems discrete. We will see what else develops there.

This larger issue that we're defining with USPS and the federal courts is a much bigger and more complicated issue.

Ana, thank you.

CABRERA: Thank you.

CUOMO: It's good to be sharing history with you as well.

CABRERA: Likewise.

Suzanne Malveaux in Charlotte.

Suzanne, what are you hearing and what are you seeing where you are about the efficiency?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the efficiency here, for the most part, they feel very positive about how the voting has been handled, about 620 votes that have come in so far.

It's been a steady stream of voters. And the atmosphere, the mood here is quite festive now. We just had the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brothers come playing some music. At one point, everybody was you know doing the Wobble with voters and volunteers outside of this precinct.

But if you take a look and you break it down, they feel like, from each part of the process, it has been an orderly one, from the authorization process -- in North Carolina, there is no voter I.D. You simply put your signature down, your name and your address, you take it to the bank, where they have the poll books, and that is the list of those who are registered who have not yet voted, about 38 percent or so, so, those books much smaller than normal.

And if you are not registered or your name is not on that list, they actually have a help desk where they can sort out and figure out if there's a misspelling. Or, if your name isn't on the list, you get a provisional ballot, so you will be able to vote. [15:25:01]

You go to that voting booth, you're able to push in the ballot, the paper. It is a touch screen system that they are using. It spits out and goes to the tabulator. They expect that all of that will be wrapped up, at least in this county, by 6:30.

But, again, Chris, you mentioned that delay that is happening. So, nobody's results will actually come out until, at the very earliest, 8:15. And that is from the people who voted early, not today, the 62 percent who participated before Tuesday -- Chris.

CUOMO: Suzanne, appreciate the perspective.

Again, at this point, North Carolina is a good problem. We see a state making its own recommendation to address a shortcoming. And the reason that formula is very important is because, as you see issues emerge, and we don't know how the states will deal with it, specifically, these states that are battleground states that we know a federal court has recognized that the USPS is underperforming there, so that there is a likelihood that they won't get ballots in time.

What will those states do? Because if you rely only on the federal courts for remedy, it is susceptible to appeal and overrule, because election law is largely state domain.And the farther you get away from a state making its own determination, the bigger the problem you will have.

All right, so let's go to Michigan right now, OK, because it's going to be key. And it's in this line of fire of, are they getting the ballots through the post office?

Detroit, Michigan, is where Omar Jimenez is.

So, you're in the right place, my friend.

What type of enthusiasm? What are you hearing about the efficiencies there?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, lots of enthusiasm, to begin with.

I mean, right when the polls opened, you couldn't find many poll places that didn't have a line waiting just to get in at the opening bell of sorts in places, not just in Detroit, but in the suburbs, as well, including one county that flipped from Democrat to Republican in 2016.

But, on efficiency, of course, this has been the big question. How quickly are people here going to be able to get through what we have seen to be a record number of absentee ballots returned in the days leading up to Election Day?

But we actually just heard from the secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, not too long ago, who actually says she expects to have those votes counted, both day-of and absentee ballot votes counted, not long or reported soon after polls close, which is much sooner than we had heard previously from officials here and much sooner than expected to begin with, especially because, last week, they were trying to temper expectations that counting these votes could go all the way until Friday, November 6.

But, of course, saying it now vs. what we see when the polls closed is another thing. So, we will continue to keep an eye on that.

We also got word that there have been 77,000 spoiled ballots at this point. And, let's remember, spoiled ballots are canceled ballots, but those can happen for a number of reasons. One could just be a misprint, and then it's corrected before it goes out to voters.

That's technically a spoiled ballot. And there are plenty of people who may have sent in their absentee ballot, but then didn't feel confident that it would arrive by 8:00 p.m., which is the close of polls here in Michigan. So they decided to come out and vote in person. And, at that point, you then spoil the absentee that is sent out.

So, all in all, officials here tell us it is so far so good. Things are running smoothly here in Michigan, but, of course, it is going to be a tightly contested and closely watched state as we head--


CUOMO: Right.

And that's why this is one of the things on the list of things to watch. How many of those 77,000 spoiled ballots were spoiled because the person went and voted in person?

Right now, the authorities there say they can't tell us; 77,000 out of 3.1 million may not sound like much right now, but, remember, Pennsylvania was decided by 44,000 votes. The margins can be very tight here.

Omar, thank you very much. Let me know if you hear anything else on that topic.

Let's turn now to Ohio, very crucial state. Michigan is a state that we have to watch to see if Biden can turn it blue again. Ohio is about, how red is this state as a bellwether of Trump's strength, OK? This state has correctly picked the winner of every presidential race since 1964.

But it has gone from what was seen as a toss-up to more red of late.

Gary Tuchman live in Strongsville, Ohio.

What are you hearing there, my friend?


Last time, this state missed the presidential winner 1960, when it picked Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy. It also picked Richard Nixon two more times in '68 and '72. And they got it right both those times.

This is the very pleasant suburb of Strongsville, Ohio. This is the Strongsville Senior Center. When we were here at the Senior Center yesterday checking it out, they had a good bingo game going. Now they're voting for president of the United States.

This area right here is where voters come in and register.

Have the voters been treating you all OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, very well.

TUCHMAN: No problem?


TUCHMAN: And that's the remarkable--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody is patient.

TUCHMAN: Everyone's patient? Right.

And that's the important thing to point out. A lot of us were very worried today when we went out voting, not me in particular, because I didn't vote today.

But what I'm saying is, people came in, and they didn't know what they were going to see.