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CNN Live Event/Special

Control Of Senate Could Come Down To Runoff In Georgia; Interview With Gabriel Sterling, Chief Operations Officer, Georgia Secretary Of State's Office; Biden Team Does Not See Path To Hold House, But Senate Possible; Lottery Officials Announce Numbers For Record Jackpot After Delay; Hurricane Warning Issued For Parts Of FL As Voters Hit Polls. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired November 08, 2022 - 13:30   ET



NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've heard inflation. We've heard crime. We've heard equal rights.

I mean, what's important to you?

BREE (ph) HERNANDEZ, GEORGIA VOTER: Definitely equal rights is up there. Roe v. Wade, as well.

VALENCIA: As a man?

HERNANDEZ: Absolutely, absolutely.

I think one of the main reasons I'm voting is because I know plenty of women, my wife, my sister, I got friends, and I think they had that basic right to decide what they want to do with their body. I mean, it's not politicians' business to decide what they want to do.

HERNANDEZ: Last question, it seems as though election integrity continues to become an issue throughout general election, midterms. Any concerns you have coming here? How was the process?

HERNANDEZ: No concerns at all. I believe the process is transparent.

But I'm worried there are certain candidates who do not believe in the election -- in the text -- integrity of elections. So I'm out here just to let people know that a lot of us trust in the process and we'll use our right to vote.

VALENCIA: Bree (ph) Hernandez, thank you so much.

One of the Latinas out in Georgia making their voice heard.

Gracias, man. Really appreciate it. Great. Thank you so much for taking the time with us.

Lots of voters coming in here to make their voices heard, Erin. We have seen a steady stream but kind of low voter turnout so on and off, so that's a good thing. The secretary of state's office says the process has been boring and

that's, he says, a good thing. So we'll see as the day progresses -- Erin?

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: So interesting. What do no lines mean, you know, if it isn't great turnout. But what obviously early voting in Georgia did set all sorts of records.

Thank you so much, Nick.

Let's talk to Gabe Sterling. He's the chief operating officer for Georgia's secretary of state office.

So, Gabe, I just want to start off with something we understand happened today. We're just kind of getting confirmation and hoping you can help us figure it out.

We've learned that a mother and son were removed as poll workers in Fulton County just minutes before the polls opened at a specific poll site. They were removed because of a social media post.

"The Washington Post" is reporting that two poll workers were removed specifically because of posts that showed them attending the January 6th attack on the U.S. capitol.

Do you have any information on this and what happened?

GABRIEL STERLING, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE'S OFFICE: I am aware it occurred but it is a Fulton County internal issue. They have to mitigate the risk the way they see fit given the information.

I think it would have been better if they found out earlier potentially and worked with the people. But since it was so last minute and it came to light so late, I leave it to them to make Fulton County to make those decisions.

But, yes, that did happen early this morning.

BURNETT: Right. And it was because of a January 6th post. Someone brought it to your attention, as far as you understand it?

STERLING: That's my understanding, yes, Erin.


Gabe, I know you heard Nick talking about how, today, there haven't been lines. It hasn't seemed super-high turnout in terms of what he is seeing.

I'm curious what you're seeing on day of voting. I know the early voting was a record for a midterm election, so high, in fact, that it matched the 2020 early voting turnout, which is highly relevant because it's comparing to a presidential year and also during COVID, right, when people were able to early vote.

So what -- how would you describe turnout today on day of voting?

STERLING: It's always difficult to know in the middle of the day how it's going. We do know it's been steady around the state.

Our average wait time is running about two minutes, but that takes into account the majority of polling have zero lines, regardless of urban area, rural area, exurb or suburban.

And the processing time we've taken for our poll workers, we do know is an average of 48 seconds. So it's been a very efficient process. The system is working great.

As you pointed out, we set records for early vote turnout. Between early vote and absentee -- and absentee set a new record as of this morning of 234,000 for a midterm.

That really takes away pressure off Election Day because as of -- when we start today, nearly 37 percent of all active voters had already cast a ballot.

BURNETT: Can I ask a question about these absentees. Did I hear you right, 234,000 absentee ballots?


BURNETT: OK. Can you give me some context on how big that is and how that counting goes from here?

STERLING: Well, the previous record had been in the midterm about 213,000 from 2018.

Some of the rules we passed in the Election Integrity Act clarified they can do early tabulation of both the early votes in person and the absentee votes, which will hopefully get us earlier returns to the 7:15, 7:45 and 8:00 hour from larger some of our larger counties.

So we're hoping those new laws in the Election Integrity Act will help get us to the results faster and as accurately as we can.

BURNETT: Right. Hopefully, you're not sitting at that large number, one we're waiting for, so we'll see how that goes tonight.

There obviously have been so many concerns out there, Gabe, about threats, harassment that election workers across the country could face this year.

Now we're here on Election Day, and obviously we just talked about that one particular incident in Fulton County where the poll workers were removed, but what are you hearing from poll workers today. Have there been any incidents in Georgia?

STERLING: So far, so good. I want to find wood to knock on right now. We haven't seen any real issues at the polling locations. No real threats. I mean, I know this happened in other states. And we're blessed in the state right now.


But I almost feel like I'm talking as a pitcher in a no-hitter. We only talking about it because we have a few more hours and, hopefully, it stays as boring as it's been.

BURNETT: Thank you so much, Gabe Sterling, as he's monitoring those elections and standing by for the counts.

Back with me, our entire panel, Bakari, Ana, Ashley and the Georgia Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan.

So, Lieutenant Governor, let me start with you.

You hear what Gabe is going through, kind of talking about hoping he'll some real sense of results, 7:15, 7:30. polls close at 7:00. That would be quick for an initial read.

What is your reaction to that and also to the key point he made of it's boring, there's no lines. Is that bad for Republicans in Georgia today?

LT. GOV. GEOFF DUNCAN (R-GA): One, every state should have a Gabe Sterling on the front lines of their elections.


DUNCAN: Gabe has done an amazing job over the last few years. Certainly glad to have him there.

Yes, we've accelerated voting patterns. The whole time we kept reporting the record-breaking early turnout, you knew on Election Day there would be a pullback because folks had changed their patterns and voted early.

But Gabe alluded to it, there was advanced tabulation, which is a result of some of the questions and question marks that were raised in the 2020 election.

We went to work in a bipartisan format in Georgia and came up with early ways to tabulate, not count, not release the information, not influence the vote, but allow these counties for weeks to be able to tabulate so they can quicker return those and just remove some doubt.

One other interesting point was we're going to require each county by 10:00 tonight, to release the total number of votes outstanding, not what those votes are.

That way we determine the denominator and take air out of the room for somebody who might say, well, there's a last batch of votes that showed up after voting deadline.

BURNETT: Right. So you think that will make a difference.

Let me ask you a question here about the race itself. The rules in Georgia are, you have to get 50 percent, above 50 percent, 50 or above to win, right? You can't win if you get 49, the other gets 44 if there's a spoiler.

You do have a libertarian candidate in Georgia who's been polling around 1 percent, 1.5 percent, which leads -- at least, general opinion has been Georgia is going to go to a runoff.

Is Georgia going to go to a runoff or do you think somebody will get a clean 50?

DUNCAN: Well, two stories. One, the governor's race is not going to go to a runoff. Brian Kemp will win outright in that one.

In the U.S. Senate race --

BURNETT: Over Stacey Abrams.

DUNCAN: Over Stacey Abrams.

In the Senate race, it does appear that there's a high likelihood it goes to a runoff. I haven't seen a poll where either candidate has been above 50 percent.

And it's interesting. There's a small piece of real estate on the north side of Atlanta that will determine this outcome. If those Independents and those moderates show up and leave it blank or vote for the Libertarian, then we'll see ourselves squarely --


BURNETT: Where is that? You said north of Atlanta.

DUNCAN: The north suburbs. I call it the eyebrow of Atlanta from I-20 to I-20 across to 285.

BURNETT: And that's where it's going to be decided, these suburbs again.

So do you think there's --




BURNETT: Well, right, because the runoff, everyone should point out, puts it off another few weeks.

Is there any way to avoid that from what you're seeing in the Democratic polling?

ASHLEY ALLISON, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE STAFF MEMBER: Well, he said there aren't long lines but we do know usually long lines come at the latter part of the day. As folks get off work, we might see the increase of turnout.

You know, also is there's -- ever since COVID hit, voting patterns have changed. African-Americans traditionally like to vote on Election Day as a communal event. It's something we take pride in. I still think there are some of those voters in Georgia that will show up and do that.

If that is the case, and we see a surge at the end of the day, there's a chance that we can pull it off. But most likely it will go into a runoff.

BURNETT: It is pretty amazing when you think about it. Here we go again, Georgia.

But significant changes made in terms of being able to tabulate and know absentee ballots, know the numbers, being able to get them in in the 7:00 hour, those are pretty dramatic change.

NAVARRO: To me, the early voting number is very dramatic and it's very encouraging.

And, you know, I've heard some Republicans say, OK, Democrats, you've been talking about voter suppression, you've been talking about Jim Crow 2.0. It's all been an exaggeration and all made up.

I'd like to think that it's citizens taking their civic responsibility very seriously and saying, my right to vote is not going to be messed with, and that this is a backlash to efforts to make it harder to vote by mail to vote absentee. Same thing is happening across the country.

BURNETT: What is your final word, boring in Georgia, good or bad for --

BAKARI SELLERS, (D), FORMER MEMBER OF SOUTH CAROLINA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Well, I think it's good because you saw and I believe Stacey Abrams' ground game was greatly exaggerated. I do kind of believe your prediction about Brian Kemp. But I do believe her ground game is going to catapult somebody like Raphael Warnock.

The finer point is something in the weeds but it's not the sexiest thing. But the reason Georgia is running as smoothly as it is, is because you have Republicans with good common sense.

You have a lieutenant governor over here, you have a secretary of state, you have a speaker of the House, who I don't agree with their politics, but they got good common sense.


And we all know -- my momma says common sense ain't that common right now, particularly in the Republican Party.

So when you have good elected officials on both sides, you can put forth bipartisan change that effectuates smooth elections, builds trusts and elects Raphael Warnock.

BURNETT: We'll see what happens. But I will say, the Republicans in Georgia have been, you know, front and center and have stood up for the integrity -- SELLERS: They stood up to Donald Trump.

BURNETT: Yes, they did. Absolutely.

NAVARRO: Under tremendous duress and threats and harassment.


DUNCAN: The only ones I think are looking forward to a runoff are local TV station owners.


BURNETT: All right, everyone stay right there.

Just ahead, we're going to the White House for a live report on what President Biden, what he is doing today. Obviously, they've been monitoring the election through these afternoon hours.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: President Biden is behind closed doors over at the White House at this hour. His political team is monitoring voter turnout across the country. They believe Democrats have a shot at holding the U.S. Senate.

Our senior White House correspondent, Phil Mattingly, is joining us right now.

Phil, so based on everything you're seeing and hearing over there, how confident is the president feeling right now?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, I think confident probably isn't the word you would hear from White House officials right now.

But it's the possibility. It's the fact that they feel like they're very much in the game in some of those hard-fought battleground Senate races that gives them some sense of optimism at this moment.

Now, the president publicly has said he believes the Democrats will win the Senate. Says it's going to be tough but thinks the Democrats have a shot at the House.

The latter is unlikely. When you talk to White House advisers, they acknowledge the pathways to holding on to their majority are all but none at this point in time. And there's an expectation of losses there. The question is, just how many?

When it comes to the Senate, though, they make very clear they believe all of these battleground states, all these toss-up races, Wolf, you've been talking about over the course of the last day and much longer, are very much in play, very much an opportunity to win.

They're going to be very, very close. And keeping a close eye on things.

But believe there's a very real possibility they can come out of Election Day or election week, depending on how the votes are counted, with a majority still intact and at least one chamber of Congress -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Can there a sense over there, Phil, on how midterm results might actually wind up impacting the president's decision on whether or not he will run for re-election?

MATTINGLY: Wolf, it's an interesting question. And I asked a number of senior advisers over the course of the last several weeks, and the answer almost to a person is they don't believe it will have much impact at all.

Part of that history. When they look back at the last two Democratic presidents, both of whom more or less got wiped out in midterm elections and both of those Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, went on to win second terms.

They don't feel like this day or this week or this midterm election is going to be a definitive judgment on the president's record, nor do they believe it will be a definitive judgment on whether he can win in 2024.

That is a judgment that will made by the president. It'll be made by his family. His advisers make clear he has been pretty much laser focused on the midterms over the course of the last several weeks.

Those discussions have not kicked off in earnest when it comes to conversations with him personally. It will be a family decision, as it always ism and likely be coming over the course of the next couple of weeks.

But whether or not today will play a huge role, the president's team says very unlikely.

BLITZER: We shall see.

Phil Mattingly, over at the White House for us, thanks very much.

We'll have much more of the Election Day coverage coming up just ahead.

But, first, one lucky, very lucky person has just become the winner of the largest lottery jackpot in history. Where the winning ticket was sold, that's next.



BURNETT: All right. We're going to continue to bring you the latest news in a moment.

But, first, a big update. Powerball announcing the grand prizewinning ticket for a record $2 billion. It was sold and it was sold just outside of Los Angeles. Lottery officials announcing the winning numbers earlier today after Monday night's drawing had been delayed.

CNN national correspondent, Martin Savidge, joins us.

Martin, amidst Election Day, everybody, everybody was always watching this, many hoping. What more are you learning?



SAVIDGE: What we know now is that one person is America's newest billionaire. There was one winning ticket that was actually sold in -- well, you're looking at it right there, Altadena, California, just outside Pasadena. Joe's Service Center is the place where that ticket was sold.

We don't know anybody about who the winner is. We don't even know if the winner knows that they're America's newest billionaire. We do know that if they take the cash option is $929.1 million, or they could take the payout over 29 years, which would net them $2.04 billion.

This was delayed for about 10 hours so the anticipation was almost unbearable. They say it was due to a security glitch. We don't know where that security glitch was. We do know that all sales and plays have to be reported to the Lottery Association before they can draw.

There are at least 45 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington, D.C., that buy or play into the Powerball lottery system. So somebody out of that group had a problem.

But clearly, they clarified by 8:57 this morning. They pulled those numbers, but only one person actually had them -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, I was hoping it was me, but it wasn't, sadly.


BLITZER: Other important news we're following right now, and it's very important, along Florida's east coast, a hurricane warning is in effect as voters go to the polls.


Tropical Strom Nicole is set to bring rain to parts of the state this afternoon, and likely to be at or near hurricane force when it comes ashore.

Our meteorologist, Tom Sater, is tracking the storm for us.

What more can you tell us? A lot of folks on the eastern part of Florida, whether Miami or Ft. Lauderdale, or West Palm Beach, they're nervous, understandably so.

TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely, Wolf. This is extremely rare. Going back through all the records, we've only had three hurricanes in the month of November make landfall in the U.S., 1861, 1935, and the last one was almost 40 years ago in 1985.

But here it is. It doesn't look impressive yet, but it is gaining tropical characteristics. It is getting stronger. The models show it developing.

It's just over 400 miles away from West Palm. It looks like it will make landfall as a category 1 hurricane overnight tomorrow night, somewhere between 2:00 and 5:00 a.m. Still working on the timing. Right around the Treasure Coast but as hurricane.

Now the colors here, it's kind of complicated, but just look at the bright red. Hurricane warnings around Daytona Beach down to Boca Raton. We've got the watches on either end, north and south.

So as the system approaches -- and again, the track has been fluctuating somewhat -- we bring it in a category 1 or very close to it, as you mentioned.

But look where it crisscrosses. The red is Ian's path. So hopefully, the strongest winds stay away from the landfall with Ian.

But we've got so many rivers, Wolf, that are still very high and flooded, like the St. John's River. The last thing they need is more rainfall. And it moves up the entire east coast throughout the end of the week.

BLITZER: Tom Sater, we will stay in close touch with you. Got a lot of friends and family down there who are understandably watching this, and are very worried.

Up next, we'll have much more coming up on this critically important Election Day in America. Voters now at the polls in all 50 states. We'll take a closer look at some of the razor-thin races with live reports coming in from key states.

We'll be right back.