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CNN Live Event/Special

Election Officials Battle Misinformation Circulating Online; Hours Away From First Polls Closing In Midterms; Florida To DOJ: Federal Monitors Not Allowed In Polling Places. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired November 08, 2022 - 15:30   ET



DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A Republican activist who's saying there's all these waits and suggesting that the Democrats are responsible.

Maricopa County saying: No part of this tweet below is accurate. The vast majority of Vote Centers are seeing wait times under 30 minutes, and whether by tabulator or secure ballot box, all voters are being served.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: I mean it's amazing. And thank you very much, Donie. And Wolf, it is just so incredible to think, right, you just one little shred of uncertainty and it can blow up into something so significant even when it is immediately proven to be untrue.

You're absolutely right, 100 percent. Erin, we'll get back to you shortly Thank you very much.

Jamie Gangel, Audie Cornish and Mark Preston are back with me for more perspective right now. Audie, let me start with you. Do you think we're going on see claims of fraud from the right even if the Republicans wind up doing well tonight?

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think you have to obviously take it state by state and they're going to be place where it's close enough that people can raise questions and I think the thing we have to be aware of is two years after the 2020 election, are there provisions in place, have there been improvements at that state election levels so they can manage those questions, those doubts and if the worst case scenario any threats.

BLITZER: Good point. You now, Mark, do you think that Maricopa County's response explaining what happened and how to make sure your vote is counted will be enough to put some of these accusations to rest?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think it's going to be enough but I think it's needed. I mean, we were talking about this before. I mean, the fact of the matter is that you have to go out explain -- be as transparent as possible -- and I know in politics you have to be as opaque as possible, right, because no one ever tells the truth. But the fact is, these secretaries of state, whose election officials around the country, you know, they're not making, you know, enormous salaries. You know, this is a very difficult job and they're not it in for partisan, you know, reasons. Even though many of them are partisan elected.

So, look, I think we are going to have problems. The big tell will be in all of the victories, there will be no concern, in losses that's where the concern is.

BLITZER: That's where the fraud is. Jamie, as we know president Biden and former President Obama, they were very active on the campaign trail this week pushing very hard on the idea that democracy here in the United States is actually on the ballot in this election. What role do these viral conspiracy theories play in that threat to democracy?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: I think that counterpoint that you just said is exactly the problem, democracy in peril is not just a slogan. I mean, we have watched the January 6th committee, we saw what happened on January 6th. That said, election denial is the Trump playbook and it has become the Republican playbook. They have found it works for them. Whether it's disinformation or misinformation, conspiracy theories. I don't like a call them conspiracy theories anymore, I call them lies.

But election day is not even over and I have heard from Republican strategies who are working in some of these elections and one of them said to me, quote, I just know our folks are going to be hollering in every close race.

It's a continuation of what Donald Trump did in 2020 and these Republican candidates think it works for them.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a sad commentary what's going on in our country right now.

Just ahead, what happens after this election is over? What the next two years could look like for President Biden and for the U.S. Congress. Stay with us.



BURNETT: All right, we are standing by for the first polls to close. That is in less than 2.5 hours. President Biden meantime has been behind closed doors saying no plans to make any kind of public appearance. His party obviously is playing defense in many parts of the country but they're waiting it out.

Let's bring back Republican Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and former Democratic Senator Al Franken. OK, so we've got less than 90 minutes here before the first polls close and then we'll get an exit poll sense of issues. Although we been hearing from voters throughout the day. And then obviously, you know, we're going to have a lot of polls closing at 7. So, Governor, what race or races are you most focused on? GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): Well, you start off with the Senate of

course, because even the White House acknowledges that the Republicans should win the House. But on the Senate side the early ones of course will be looking in New Hampshire, what happens with the candidate, the challenger Bolduc to Senator --

BURNETT: Maggie Hassan.

HUTCHINSON: -- Maggie Hassan. And that is going to tell us a lot right there. And then you're going to move down to Georgia, which is on the East Coast, we'll see that early. That's going to tell you whether Nevada's going to be critical later in the day or whether we're going to have a comfort level in terms of winning the Senate. So, those are two early ones that you want to look at very carefully that I'll be watching.

BURNETT: Yes, and Senator, of course, you know, what's interesting here, Georgia, Gabe Sterling, you know, who runs the elections there, saying look, he thinks they can get an early indication between 7:15 to 7:45 Eastern time tonight.


Even if he's right, OK, and he knows more than anybody, that early indication may be, oh, guess what, you're not going to know Georgia until another few weeks because it's going to be a runoff. In which case there you are. So, what races are you most focused on?

AL FRANKEN, (D) FORMER U.S. SENATOR FROM MINNESOTA: Georgia is amazing, you know, it used to be, you know, you know, putting a gun to your ex-wife's head was kind of disqualifying for a Senator. So, I'm amazed at that race. But yes, is going to be close. And if it goes to a runoff that could be decided. We don't know what's going to happen. The polls have enclosed. We don't know -- polling is a great these days.

But obviously, looking at exactly those same races, I'm looking at the House, New York 19, which my former judiciary counsel Josh Riley is running. He's an amazing guy. They been running -- I showed you one of these crime ads. I showed it to Asa because it's so unbelievable. He and I worked to fund police and they have run these ads that are so awful. So, I'm looking -- I'm really personally involved in that race and it's a 50-50 race there and New York 19. So, we don't know results this is, we don't know what's going to happen yet it's 4 o'clock.

BURNETT: What's interesting, I was talking to a Democratic congressman recently -- I'm not can a say his name. But his comment to me was basically it's better to lose the House by a lot than a little. Because if we lose it by a little the MAGA Republicans will control McCarthy and they will be able to drive things. And that if we lose it by a lot, he will have to answer to more moderates that come into power and that that will actually be better for the country. Is that right?

HUTCHINSON: That's probably a little bit too much analysis, you know, McCarthy wants to be the lead in whether it's a small -- BURNETT: We'll take it one way or another but --

HUTCHINSON: But it will be challenging and a lot depends upon flavor of those that get elected and what their mandate is. To me -- to Al's point these races are being nationalized and so it really does comes down to the focus on the economy and crime and the border and those issue --

BURNETT: And what about the ballot initiatives? I know that you're watching a few of those. Those with marijuana --

HUTCHINSON: Well, let me say, you asked about the races I'm watching. First of all, I got to say that in Arkansas I will be watching that race. I term limit, so looking at a successor and it could be historic, the first time there is a female governor ever elected in Arkansas, it could be tonight. It could be the first time there's a transition between a Republican and succeeding Republican administration.

So, that I'm paying attention to. You asked me about the ballot initiatives. There are five states that has marijuana -- recreational use of marijuana and that to be decriminalized or legalized in those states, Arkansas is one of those that will be on the ballot. It's called issue 4, I've campaigned against it but it's going to be critical as to really help shape the direction of our country.

Senator, what do you think? Do ballot initiatives matter?

FRANKEN: Yes, but I don't think -- I'd be for marijuana because when they prosecute people for marijuana it's racially biased. We know that. That's a very good reason to legalize it. What I worry about, of course, if the Republicans take over whether it's a small or large margin that they are first of all we're not going to be able to pass anything. Secondly, there'll be hearings, there'll be investigations. They'll investigate Hunter Biden. It'll be very toxic and Marjorie Taylor Greene and those people will want to impeach Biden. I worry about it just being very, very ugly, and I'm pretty sure that's pretty predictable.

BURNETT: Well, I think that brings us back to the point that the unnamed congressman said about a wider -- a wider margin for Republicans in his view would be less of that than a narrow margin which is some interesting food for thought. All right, think you both very much.

And next, as Florida voters cast their ballots state officials are picking a fight with the Justice Department.



BLITZER: There's a showdown happening right now, between the state of Florida and the U.S. Justice Department over federal election monitors, CNN's Ana Cabrera is tracking the story for us from the voting desk. Ana, so what's going on? What's the latest? ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf it's not unusual for the DOJ to

send federal election monitors around the country to oversee elections. This is something that occurs regularly on election day, dating back to the 1960s really. But this year, the Justice Department had planned to send election monitors to 64 jurisdictions in 24 states.

Let's take a look at where they were headed in Florida now. These three counties there in the southeast tip, it's Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach. Florida officials now claim that federal monitors would be counterproductive and could potentially undermine confidence in the elections. So instead, the state of Florida said it will send its own monitors to those three jurisdictions.

Important to note that the state didn't object to federal monitors in 2020 when then President Trump, you know, had six Florida counties monitored under his DOJ.


But Florida officials argue those monitors didn't go inside the polling locations back in 2020 and our understanding is that that was because of the pandemic. We do know that historically Federal election monitors do typically go inside and oversee the whole process. Will the DOJ fight this? It's still unclear at this point. Right now, the DOJ is declining to comment on this matter -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And Ana, we just also getting some news about polls staying open late in Luzern County down in Pennsylvania. What's the latest there?

CABRERA: Right, that is -- that's the northeastern part of Pennsylvania. Just outside of Scranton. So, if we pull up the map here, you can see where it is on the map. This is close to Wilkes- Barre. The polls in this county will stay open now until 10:00 p.m. tonight. Because there was an emergency core petition filed earlier, and the reason here is that voting machines had paper shortages and so it prevented ballots from being printed out. Instead, they went ahead and used provisional ballots as a backup.

But again, this is Luzern County, Pennsylvania, polls staying open now until 10:00 p.m. local time. Meaning, a delay in getting the results from this specific county, Wolf. And again, Pennsylvania is one in which we're expecting it could still be potentially days before we have all of the results counted regardless of what's happening in Luzern County right now -- Wolf.

Ana Cabrera tracking all of these developments from the CNN Voting Desk. Ana, thank you very much. CNN contributor and Republican election lawyer, Ben Ginsberg is joining us right now. Once again, Ben, thanks very much for sticking around. Does this move by Florida to block federal election monitors raise concerns.

BEN GINSBERG, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I'm not sure it raises concerns in terms of the validating of the vote. Both parties will still have observers in the polling place. It is a bit of performance art between the Democratic Justice Department and the Republican DeSantis administration. Not a shrinking violet in terms of looking for statements to make.

Look, these are the three heaviest Democratic vote counties in the state of Florida. Natural for DOJ to want to go in. Again, there's no reason that DOJ monitoring shouldn't be in polling places. They traditionally are except for 2020. When those monitors go in, they are traditionally seen and not heard. But they do make note of things, and so, again, their presence there helps to validate the way the vote is being conducted.

BLITZER: So, explain why these three heavy Democratic counties, Miami- Dade County, which is where Miami, Broward County which is Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach County, where West Palm Beach is heavily Democratic, the three as you point out, most heavily Democratic counties in the state of Florida, why the U.S. Justice Department really wants to go in there and monitor the election results?

c Well, because they are the heaviest voting counties. It's where there could be problems. If Democrats want to be sure that their base vote turns out, they want it to be in those three counties. If Republicans were to take weaponized poll watchers, which is a possibility under the new Florida election law that was passed, they would try and potentially slow down voting in those three heavily Democratic counties. So, they are three counties where there could be some of the issues you've been talking about all day.

BLITZER: Yes, and over the years, and I know this and you know this as well, the NDI, the National Democratic Institute, the Republican Democratic Institute, they send monitors all over the world to monitor elections in various countries to see if they're really democratic. Now we are hearing that some of these countries want to monitors to the United States to monitor our elections, that's pretty awkward.

GINSBERG: It is. But we've always had faith in the fact that the monitors from the two political parties in the form of poll workers and poll watchers perform that function and historically that's been absolutely true.

Ben Ginsberg thanks very much, we'll continue to monitor what's going on. It's going to be a busy night for all of us.

Coming up, new reporting on how the White House is preparing for what might come tonight. Stay with us.



BURNETT: As we wait for the first polls to close at 6:00 eastern, there is new reporting on how the White House plans to react to whatever happens tonight. CNN's Phil Mattingly joins us now. And Phil, what are you learning now?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Erin, over the course of the last several weeks, the president has really tried to emphasized that he believes these midterm elections are not about his administration. They're not a referendum on the White House. Instead, they're a choice between the two parties. And the White House is moving to underscore that point.

Before polls closed, circulating a memo to top allies trying to detail why they believe the president's agenda is actually popular. It is not a reflection of the national mood or the losses that they expect and Democrats expect to have over the course of this evening. In that memo that I obtained, the White House details more than two dozen poll numbers they say underscores this point. That in isolation, the president's agenda, critical moves he's made on student loans, on marijuana and the COVID-19 response are generally popular with the American public.

It is a clear effort to try and separate what the president has done, separate the president to some degree from the blame game that's likely to kind of come out of the next couple of hours or next couple of days. Obviously, Democrats have been very anxious about this moment, very cognizant of both the history here, midterm elections very rarely go well for the party in power and the president's first term, and the reality of the head winds they faced. Inflation that remains at four decade highs. But the White House trying to make that effort before polls even close to underscore this is not about the president for his agenda.