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Voting Underway as First Polls Close in 3 Hours; NY Attorney General Probing Reports of Robocalls to "Stay Home"; Trump Campaign Says It's Funding Election Night War Room in White House. Aired 3:30- 4p ET

Aired November 3, 2020 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00]

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What I'm saying is people came in and they didn't know what they were going to see. This is almost like you're coming for a dog catcher election. It's just been very quiet, mellow and pleasant.

This particular precinct here in Strongsville for the first five and a half hours they opened at 6:30 this morning was jammed packed. There were 30 to 50 people in line at all times. For the last three hours it slowed down a little bit but it was very crowded in the morning.

It was hard for us to figure out how crowded it would be because so many people have early voted here in the Buckeye State. 3.4 million people, that's 60 percent of the total vote count from the 2016 election. Now back in 2016, Donald Trump won this state by 8.1 percentage points. But now it's a dead heat and that's one of the reasons that Joe Biden came to Ohio to campaign.

And Chris, like you were talking about the history of this state, only four times since the Civil War has Ohio missed. So everyone is going to be keeping a close eye on what happens here. Voting takes place here, it's paper ballots in this county. They mark the ballots and they stick them in these scanners and then their vote is officially counted once it gets inside the scanner.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: So I'll be your proxy, brother. You've been teaching me things for years here. I can give you a little insight into experience. I finished 2:00 this morning, went home, my big shot, our oldest, Bella, woke me up at 5:30 to go vote at the polls which opened at 6:00.

We get there. The line is around the block. I say, well, it's probably just because they're not open yet. I get into the voting booth -- and this is in the upper eastside of Manhattan. You know, I mean, the place really shouldn't even have been in play in the election. But the activism, it was a mob scene. Same kind of deal as where you are there but there were people all over the place.

Couldn't socially distance, couldn't keep it straight, ton of workers, ton of activity. Yet everybody was working their way through, in the 15 minutes or so I was in there, I didn't see any problems. So people are out there, we should be proud to celebrate the democracy today. Tuchman, take care, I'll see you soon.

Now, a very important topic, OK, misinformation, noise. You've got to ignore the noise, focus on poise, focus on fact. Robo-calls in Iowa, and now in New York in every little pocket of places that matters, you're starting to hear suggestions. People are calling saying stay home. People are calling saying, we're Homeland Security, don't vote. We've got to stay on top of this. You've got to ignore things that don't sound right. We'll take you into the latest news. It's crunch time. Let's get after it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:35:00]

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, breaking news at this hour as we are getting near polls starting to wind down here. New York's Attorney General now investigating reports of robocalls that are encouraging people to stay home on election day. Now I mentioned a little bit ago that the FBI was investigating similar calls in Iowa.

The Iowa Secretary of State spokesman confirms to us that the office has shared information with the FBI. It was basically a recorded phone call that was going out urging Iowans to, quote, stay home and stay safe. And our understanding now is this has happened in multiple states, including now we can confirm in the state of New York.

Ana Cabrera is back with me. So Ana, what more are you learning about these robocalls? Where they were being made and to how many people?

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the investigation is underway to figure out the root source of these robocalls. But as you have just discussed, the message seems to be the same from state to state, and that is to stay safe and stay home.

Officials say do not stay home. Go vote if you haven't done so already. Ignore these robocalls. This is essentially disinformation that is going out to voters that could result in suppressing the vote.

So, the New York Attorney General saying her office is now investigating and let me read a quote from her today.

Saying, voting is a cornerstone of our democracy, attempts to hinder voters from exercising their right to cast their ballots are disheartening, disturbing and wrong. What's more, is that it is illegal and it will not be tolerated. Every voter must be able to exercise their fundamental right to vote without being harassed, coerced or intimidated.

So not just New York where this is happening, Iowa, you mentioned. We also have heard reports out of Michigan, as well as Nebraska and North Carolina as well, Erin. And I do want to, just, really quick, button something up from my last clip because I had talked about North Carolina and the rules for absentee ballots. I think I misspoke. Absentee ballots in North Carolina can still keep coming in after

election day, they just have to be postmarked by election day, but in that state specifically, because I don't want to spread disinformation, those voters have up to nine days to get their ballots in after election day -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, well, you know, it is hard and as you know, if people know -- we have these reams of data to go through, every single state and all the changes and all the different rules. All right, Ana, thank you very much.

So I want to go to Wisconsin. 200 National Guard troops have been deployed in the state to assist with poll worker responsibilities. As of this morning, you had already nearly 2 million early votes cast in the state, which is about 64 percent of the total ballot votes cast in 2016. So we'll see when you add it in person, do you get over that mark? Do you set a full-on record? Ryan Young is live in Milwaukee. Ryan, you've been talking to voters there. What have they told you?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's such a big number when you're talking about all the people who've already voted. We saw some of that this weekend. Such enthusiasm, especially on Saturday and Sunday as people were coming in. We were laughing about this as a crew, because on Sunday, the only time it really tailed off is when the Packers game started here and, of course, it's a big-time city for football.

BURNETT: Right, Right, Right.

YOUNG: So you can see that sort of happening. It's just one of those things. But right now at this polling center, they've had about 500 people so far. But look, there is really no line. That's where you check in right now if you wanted to vote.

And one of the things about this state, of course, is you can register today for voting. That can absolutely happen if you wanted to vote. So we're going to walk down this direction so I can show you the room where it happens. Let's not forget, the President put a lot of emphasis on this area. He was here Friday, his first lady was here Saturday, Ivanka Trump was there the Sunday. And then the President came back last night again to be in Kenosha.

[15:40:00]

If you look back in this direction you can see people casting their ballots. This is sort of the room where, of course, the magic happens and people go in to vote. You can see everyone wearing PPE. That's so important because obviously in this state they've been given COVID-19 and the explosion of COVID-19. In fact, there was over 3,000 new positive cases just yesterday.

And that's really been the talk from people who I've been talking to. The business owners who have been greatly impacted by this, they were upset about all the shutdowns. But they're also concerned because they don't see COVID-19 going away. In fact take a listen to this one lady who is telling us what she was concerned about. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, WISCONSIN VOTER: We're in the city of Milwaukee, and we've been getting way hit harder for certain businesses than other businesses have. I feel like the Democrat and the Republican Party just aren't seeing eye to eye, and it's time to get somebody in there that's going to just make this country do all over one thing, figure this whole situation out, so we can go back to normal sometime soon.

He did a great job here. I wasn't comfortable doing the absentee vote, so I wanted to come in person. And we felt safe here, so actually I didn't have any problems --

YOUNG: Love it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE VOTER: with this location at all whatsoever.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YOUNG: Yes, one thing to go over, we heard that over and over from voters, people saying they want some sort of change, whether it's positive or negative, they want to see something happen especially when it comes to COVID-19.

I can tell you here though the poll workers have been extraordinary when it comes to making sure every part of this place is cleaned up after one voter goes through. Because everybody is of course concerned about COVID-19. One last thing polls close here tonight at 8:00, so we still have some time for people to continue to vote.

BURNETT: Absolutely, thank you very much.

And I want to bring in now Harry Enten, our senior political, senior writer and analyst. So, Harry, you know, the President keeps saying he wants to know who won on election night. And look, everybody wants to know on election night, However, in general, you know, it takes a long time to actually count all the ballots to actually know the answer, and tonight, it could be even more so than ever, right? How do you expect it to happen tonight, to transpire?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: Sure, so, you know, take a look at the six closest states that Donald Trump won in 2016. And take a look at when they say that the mail votes are going to be processed, right. If you look at the on or after election day, Michigan, much of the state, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, those absentee ballots will not be processed until on or after election day. So, it could in fact take some time in sort of that blue wall, that all blue wall in the Midwest for those votes to be counted.

Now compare that to the before election day, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and parts of Michigan, that's mostly in the Sun Belt. So I do think that we'll probably get a better idea in the Sun Belt swing states than in those Midwestern swing votes of who has won those states this evening.

BURNETT: All right, and then obviously, no, it depends on what the margins are to know what we're able to call or not call --

ENTEN: Sure.

BURNETT: So states do, Harry, have different reporting times for mail- in and in-person ballots. And, you know, I was sort of trying to say earlier it's like accounting, right? You Know, what are you counting that comes in? Are you counting the ones that come in first or the ones that come in last first? And that's different in state after state, right?

ENTEN: Right, it is different in state after state. You know, in the Sun Belt we're expecting those mail ballots, those early absentees and the in-person early votes to be counted first. Versus in the northern part in those Midwestern battlegrounds we're expecting that actually to be second. And the reason why that's such a big deal is those votes are going to differ very much so.

Take a look here, this is Florida vote by method. It doesn't include election day turnout, obviously. But if you see the in-person early vote was much more Republican than the vote by mail which was much more Democratic.

And we're expecting that to carry through to election day, so we really do need to be patient because the fact is the early slew of votes depending if you're in the south, they might be much pro-Biden versus in the north they might be much more pro-Trump. So we just need to be patient here.

BURNETT: Right, it's absolutely right, you've got to be patient and just because it looks very much like it's going one way or another doesn't mean that at all. It just means you got to wait till that next big clump of votes come in to actually have everything in and then declare the winner. All right, Harry, thank you very much and we do have new questions.

Possible controversy this hour about a campaign war room at the White House. We'll explain exactly what I'm talking about next, live. And what to watch for tonight. Some key indicators that could tell you when you look at the specific counties or places, what can tell early on who American's next President will be?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:45:00]

CUOMO: Welcome back to election day in America. Just hours away from the first results coming into CNN. Both campaigns probably watching us right now, and we are all collectively waiting. Jeff Zeleny in Wilmington, Delaware where Biden will be tonight. Kaitlan Collins at the White House where the President will be. Jeff, let me start with you, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, both campaigning very aggressively today. Where and why?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Chris, it's all about the math. It's all about those 20 electoral votes in Pennsylvania and those 16 electoral votes in Michigan. That is exactly why Joe Biden spent the day there in Pennsylvania and also starting it in Scranton, and it's why Kamala Harris was sent to Michigan at the very end of this campaign, trying to drive out that Democratic vote here.

And there's no question, Chris, that the 2016 campaign different in every way, different candidates, different circumstances, but the ghost to that campaign has hung over this campaign certainly in the final hours as well. So they wanted to be out there on the road campaigning. And, of course, those are two of the three states that if they win them, that blocks the President's path to any re-election, his so-called blue wall that he won four years ago. So that is the central test here.

Yes, there's Florida, yes, there's North Carolina, a variety of other states. But it is Pennsylvania, and Michigan and Wisconsin, of course, as well that is so important. So that's why Joe Biden went home for those 20 electoral votes in Pennsylvania and Senator Harris also to Michigan for that.

But Donald Trump we should point out spent so much time in Pennsylvania over the weekend and in Michigan. That's where he ended his night last night, so he has his eye on those states as well -- Chris.

CUOMO: One of the few attacks from Trump on Biden that was fact driven in his own estimation was about him trying to convince people from Pennsylvania that Biden isn't from there, that he's from Delaware, he's not from Scranton, Pennsylvania. It was a very interesting play by Trump, paying particular attention to something that usually he would ignore. Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

[15:50:04]

Let's go over to the White House. An interesting play there for team Trump. There was a thought, Kaitlan, that they might show the President on the job today, that I'm President right now, I'm working with the pandemic, I'm working on the economy, I'm doing this and that. But nope, they're in full campaign mode and there are a lot of questions in-house there as well. Why is that, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a White House that has often blurred the lines between political activity and official government business. And we're seeing it happen right now as the campaign is defending what they've set up inside the building next to the White House, that's where the Vice President's office is, in the Eisenhower Executive Building.

That's a war room that they've set up. Basically, it's got campaign staff and computers there to monitor what's happening in these states, these crucial states that are crucial to the President's re-election tonight but also those are going to be the staffers who are providing information to their bosses who are then providing it to President Trump.

And they've set it up here on White House grounds, and the campaign is defending it saying it needed to be in close proximity to the President according to the communications director. But, Chris, he says that all that is being paid for by the campaign down to the computers and the Wi-Fi, so they say, it's not anything at the Americans taxpayer expense.

Of course, but we were saying though, you know, this is a White House that has often blurred those lines just as they did today. Where the White House press secretary has been acting as a Trump 2020 campaign adviser and going on television from the campaign headquarters the last several days stumping for the President because he said he wanted more people defending him on TV not just the White House officials that we've seen.

So that is the reason why but, of course, that is only being set up a few hundred feet from the Oval Office. And we are told that the President is being regularly updated by those staffers on what they're seeing in states like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Florida, everything that's critical to him coming out in his favor tonight.

CUOMO: He's got a ton of infrastructure, his people all over the place and he also has the benefit of the only rule that matters for this President all the time is what is best for me right now. So he is going to do what he has to do.

Kaitlan Collins, thank you very much. We will be looped in all night long with the Trump campaign and the Biden campaign. And the big question looming over us right now is when? When? When? Look, here's the good news.

If you don't find out tonight this election would be no different than just about everyone in the past just in 2016. Biden wasn't in it but Trump was. He won Arizona and Michigan but we didn't find out on election night. So that's not unusual. That given, we'll take a look at when the results come in and when the picture will start to be shaped. Stick with CNN, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:55:00]

BURNETT: Welcome back to CNN special coverage of election day in America. Joining me to talk about what he is watching for tonight is our political director David Chalian. So David, here we are just two hours from now and a couple of minutes, we are going to have some of the first polls closing. But I know you're going to be looking in it at very specific -- you know, ways during the night to get hints of where we are going. Key voting blocks, demographics, turnout. What are you watching?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Happy election day, Erin. Yes, I mean I look at sort of three different demographic groupings. I look at where did Hillary Clinton win, like, with women. And does Joe Biden do even better than Hillary Clinton did with female voters? Or groups that Donald Trump won last time, but Joe Biden may be poised to actually win this time like seniors and independents.

And then there's like the groups that Donald Trump did really well with and that I expect he'll do well with again today like his very base white noncollege educated men, but I'm looking to see he is doing as well? Is he doing better with this kind of group than he did four years ago, or is Joe Biden actually also eating into some of Donald Trump's strongest categories. So I'm going to be looking across those demographics.

BURNETT: All right, and then those are real crucial, right? Because he's got to outperform in some areas to make up for losses expected perhaps --

CHALIAN: Precisely.

BURNETT: -- in others, seniors. By the way, just as we're talking, David, Joe Biden it at a community center with an unscheduled stopped in Wilmington on his way back to home where he will be watching the results.

And so watching the results, now, David. Let's go through that, right, because you have how many polls close at each hour, and then, obviously, some of them we may know the answer to right then. And others we may not know for quite some time because of these lags in counting votes.

CHALIAN: Exactly. Take a look the poll closings in the most critical battleground states. And what you see right away is that earlier in the evening you've got North Carolina and Georgia, Georgia at 7:00, North Carolina at 7:30, Ohio at 7:30 and Florida at 8:00. Though most of the state closes at 7:00.

So just those first four states there , they are all states Donald Trump won four years ago but states that actually can get the count out, Erin, and will be counting early pre-election absentee, mail vote as well that will be infused into the results. And if we see Joe Biden doing really well in those states, that could indicate that perhaps it's not going to be some long dragged out for days just waiting on a Pennsylvania.

Now if we see Donald Trump holding that territory, then it perhaps will indicate to us, you know, we may be waiting on those Midwestern Rust Belt states that will take longer to count. So I think that the early Sun Belt states there that close are going to give us the indication, are we in for a long haul here or might this thing actually make itself clear sooner than we initially expected?

BURNETT: Right, right and as you point out, you know, even if Trump wins one of those states, but it's extremely tight and to your point about demographics that may give you an indication of where another state is going.

CHALIAN: Yes, without a doubt. Because what you look for is sort of patterns, right? So if you see sort of demographic groups in the suburbs are behaving one way in North Carolina, perhaps the suburbs are behaving similarly in Georgia or elsewhere.

BURNETT: Right, right. And this is going to be the crucial thing as we are now just a couple of hours away from those first polls closing. Kentucky among them. All right, thank you very much, David Chalian. And thank you for joining us.