Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

Election Night In America Continued. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired December 06, 2022 - 19:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The challenge now is can Herschel Walker overcome the personal controversies, not the best run campaign, way outspent by the Democrats as we get into the final days? We're going to find out in just a few seconds as we get our first votes from the runoff.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That's right. A lot of headwinds.

Polling places are closing in the Georgia Senate runoff, and voters across the state are getting the last word on the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

We have a key race alert right now for you, and right now, it is too early to call the U.S. Senate runoff between Democratic incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger and football star Herschel Walker. We hope to know more soon, once the first official votes are reported in Georgia.

Remember, this is what is at stake here. Democrats have won 50 U.S. Senate seats so far. They have locked up control of the chamber with the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. Republicans have won 49 seats so far. The outcome of this election, this Georgia runoff will determine if Democrats have an outright majority or if the Senate remains evenly divided 50/50.

Let's go to Dianne Gallagher at a key vote-counting location in Fulton County, Georgia, the biggest population-wise county in Georgia. It contains some of Atlanta.

Dianne, tell us now what's going on given that polling -- voting has stopped.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nearly every single polling place in the state of Georgia has now closed. Again, if someone was already in line when the polling place closed, they can still vote. So there may still be some votes coming in.

But what we anticipate happening, and we're about to have a press conference right now, Jake. I'm going to let them talk. We anticipate to have some numbers from Fulton County talking about the daily numbers as the county had roughly 200,000 early votes that they started processing at 2:00 this afternoon. They will begin uploading right now. And we could be getting details. I've been refreshing to see on the website to see if they could come

in yet. We should have those by 7:30 or 8:00, much earlier than we are used to because of changes in the law.

So we anticipate to start getting information about those roughly 200,000 votes in Fulton county and around the rest of the state in the coming hour. We are going to learn more about those daily votes here in Fulton County in just a few moments here when they begin speaking. We know that the county board of elections just met afterwards to discuss the day. We'll hear more about that right now, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Dianne, we'll let the press conference begin.

Let's go back to Pamela Brown, she's at our voting desk wait for the first votes to drop.

Pamela, what specifically are you watching for?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're watching the four largest counties in the state. I'm going to take a closer look at them. As you here, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett, all in the Atlanta area, and when we might start to see results tonight. That is key.

So, right now, homing in on Cobb County right now, as you see right here, having some issues there with the tablet. In Cobb County, they expect the first vote report around 8:15 p.m. those will likely be early in-person votes. Then they expect to update their vote totals around every 45 minutes from there.

Then you want to go over to DeKalb. In DeKalb, there's no estimate on when they're going to see their first results, but they will first report early in-person votes followed by mail ballots and then Election Day votes. And then heading over to Fulton County, that's what we just heard from Dianne. First vote is expected between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. but as she said, they could come in earlier.

So we're waiting to see that. We'll see early in-person votes first and then Election Day votes. They expect to update their reports every 30 minutes or so.

And in Gwinnett, another large county there in the Atlanta area. The first vote report will include the early in-person, and most of the mail ballots. They expect Election Day vote reports to come in between 8:30 and 9:00, with updates every 15 to 20 minutes.

And just a reminder for you, in the election last month, Georgia officials counted 99 percent of votes by 2:00 a.m. that was all statewide races. So, tonight, just one race. So hopefully an indicator that we will get results soon -- Jake.

TAPPER: Hopefully.

And, John King, now the voters are speaking, and we're going to start to see these little counties fill up with votes. Which counties are you keeping an eye on right now? KING: A hundred fifty-nine of them in Georgia. So, Pam just went

through the four largest, I'm not going to go to the old map just in case new votes come in. But inside that circle, inside that circle is more than 50 percent. It's probably closer to 60 percent of the votes.

So Atlanta and the big suburbs around it is where most of the votes is. So, what Pam said is absolutely critical, as you're watching at home tonight. Every one of these votes counts, every one of these votes is real, but we are likely to see it.

Here you go -- here's your first votes of the night coming in. You're most likely seeing in most of these places early ballots. Let's go to the Republican county first, Brantley County, 94th of 159. It's heading toward the bottom. But Herschel Walker, again, you're not going to get a lot of math here. It's a smaller county population- wise, but that's what Herschel Walker needs to do. If Herschel Walker stays competitive tonight in these smaller rural counties, he needs to run it up.


The question is, and we'll know this we'll get a little later into the count, how much is turnout down. And do we see a difference, right? Is the drop in turnout more disproportionate in Democratic areas or Republican areas? Or is it down across the board? That's one of the things you look for in a runoff election.

And so, then you come up here. This is the same Richmond County reported first a month ago as well. These were the first votes that came in a month ago. It's 10th, the 10th largest, about 2 percent of the statewide population.

Again, they say this is about 57 percent of the estimated vote. That means they think a lot of people voted early at Richmond County. So, 79 percent. Let's just go back --

TAPPER: I'm sorry to interrupt. But 57 percent reporting. So this is 57 percent of teh vote.

KING: The estimated vote.

TAPPER: The estimated vote, and that's early vote and the same-day vote?

KING: Yes. Early vote, that is an estimate made by our excellent decision team. And that could change throughout the night as you get the final turnout. Now the polls are closed. So we will get more a little bit later. Your first vote's in Fulton County. This is an estimate.

Be careful of that number. I'm not telling you it's wrong. It's just we have to get the final turnout numbers. We know this based on what they told us they have in early votes. We know what they have in early votes. We know the patterns of the state.

So, that's Raphael Warnock, 82 percent in Fulton County. Now, one month ago, he's at 74 percent. If Senator Warnock tonight in the runoff can keep that number there, and this is early vote. So it's likely we're going to see more election-day votes. They tend to be more Republican. But he needs to keep the number in Fulton County above 70. I would say his campaign would say about 75, as we go through that. But now, you're beginning to see this is the magic of counting votes. You're starting to get them a little bit everywhere.

So this is 135,000 vote lead right now. But, again, we went through this a month ago. Warnock jumped out to a big lead. Then walker pulled out to a lead and we had the see-saw back and forth as we count votes.

So every vote counts, every vote matters. Let's be patient as it starts to fill in. But Georgia, for all the controversy Donald Trump has tried to cause Georgia, Georgia does a very good job counting votes.

The counties do a good job. They report it into the state. They do an excellent job. And again, as Pam was noting, only one race tonight. There were a couple runoffs, but there's only one big statewide race tonight. So, we'll get results pretty quickly.

TAPPER: Are we expecting the same number of people to vote today and in the early voting for this election as voted in November? Because, as you note, there was a governor's race, there were House races, there was the Senate race obviously.

Are we expecting the same number? Because it seems as though -- and I'm just going by the estimate, so that's not scientific. But it seems as though the numbers, not the percentages now I'm talking about, but the numbers might be down a little from November.

KING: The expectation is the raw math, the raw numbers. If you go back -- let's look at the governor's race. You look at 2.1 million to 1.8 million, 28,000 there.

The expectation is that that raw number drops. Although Gabe Sterling, you had Brad Raffensperger on, the secretary of state.

TAPPER: Right.

KING: His chief deputy just a few moments ago was talking about how the turnout today was surprisingly strong and they think they're going to be relatively close to where they were a month ago. That was one of the big questions.

Number one, it's a runoff, right? The people of Georgia are voting and voting and voting. It will drop some especially when you realize it's just for whether it's 50/50 or 51. Does that convince some Republicans to stay home? Are there Republicans who voted for Walker but they really turned out a month ago to vote for the governor? Are they people who just don't want to vote again, you know?

So, that's a fascinating question in a runoff. As we watch this fill in right now, this is all early vote. So we're not counting election day balloting yet. And so this is what you expected, the Democrats to take a big early

lead. But this is a tiny slice of the vote. And we're going to count them. It's coming in from around the state pretty quickly is a good sign. Now we just have to be patient and count votes.

TAPPER: So pick one of these red counties where Herschel Walker needed to get turnout high. Obviously he was going to win the county whether five people or 5,000 turned out. So this is 50 percent reporting, and somebody out there do the math for me. That's like 4,500 voters?

And if it's 50 percent, so it's about -- this is very rough. About 9,000 people voted for the runoff. So if we go back and see how many people voted in November --

KING: We can look back and we'll look at the raw math tonight. The thing I would urge people to look at is to see if he surpasses these percentages in the county. He was at 70 percent.

Now, again, we only have early votes so far. He's at 70 percent a month ago. He's at 58 percent right now. If that holds up, Herschel Walker's in trouble.

TAPPER: Right, but this is early.

KING: And it's all early vote. And we know the Democrats tend to perform better even in Republican counties, even if these red counties. I'll pick up another for you up here, Wilkes County, this is all early vote, the Democrat is getting 48 percent. You go back a month ago, in the end it was 58 to 40.


So what you're seeing here is in the first early votes, even in places where Senator Warnock may come back today so I'm not confusing people, even in places where Senator Warnock is trailing, he's closer than he's likely to be at the end of the night because you're getting the early votes, and Democrats tend to disproportionately vote early.

TAPPER: Right, but I guess what I'm wondering is since this was a challenge, get people to vote again. Raphael Warnock has now run for this Senate seat literally five times in two years. So, there might be some voter exhaustion going on, not to mention all the craziness of the presidency.

Did the Democrats get their voters to the polls? Forget the percentages for a second just in the numbers versus the Republican- leaning counties. We'll come back and talk about this because more votes from Georgia could drop at any moment.

We're going to squeeze in a quick break. We're going to have results on the other side, I hope.


TAPPER: I have a key race alert for you now with roughly 11 percent of the vote in. Incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock has taken the lead with 63.7 percent of the vote. Herschel Walker, the Republican, has 36.3 percent of the vote. Warnock right now with more than a 100,000-vote lead, but it is early.


And right now, they are counting the votes cast early, which disproportionately tend to favor Democrats. So, this is not necessarily indicative of anything in terms of the final results.

Still, all things being equal, I'd rather be up 100,000 votes than not.

KING: Well, if you want to just extend that a bit, you need to be if you're Senator Warnock. Because you know the early voting is disproportionately your vote, disproportionately Democratic vote. You had a shorter early voting window period in this runoff. So, that was the challenge for the Warnock campaign -- get as many voters -- get as many as possible of their voters out in that shorter window.

And then you know because of the registrations who didn't vote and try to turn them out today. So if you're in the Warnock campaign, that's what you need to do to open up. In both campaign headquarters, they have this down to the tee. The Republicans believe they entered about eight to ten points down today in terms of the early vote.

So they need around 60 percent of the votes cast today. It's going to be more than an hour. It's, what, 7:15, around 8:309:00 we're going to see more of what you're looking here is almost exclusively early votes. So you expect the Democrat to take the lead.

And again, so even in these Republican counties, Herschel Walker's getting 52 percent in Wilkes County right now. A month ago in the Senate race, he gets 58 percent. So, what you're seeing right now is, again, these are -- they are votes, they're legally cast and they're legally and properly counted. They're just not the full pie.

TAPPER: And they tend to favor Democrats.

KING: Right, they tend to favor Democrats because that's what you're seeing first because they've had these votes in the county offices for days now. The early voting ended Friday. And the counties are allowed to verify them and tabulate them. And then they can release the tabulations once the polls close.

We're seeing what they've already had, verified, sorted, counted, bam you get that. Now they go about the business of counting the votes cast today.

TAPPER: So, they -- in Georgia -- and every state's different. In Georgia, they are allowed to count early votes before Election Day.

KING: Right. That's why when you were talking to Dianne Gallagher and she was here in Fulton County, which is here, let's just bring it up again. Look, this is what Senator Warnock needs to do. Again, we are very

early in the count. But Fulton County, Atlanta, and the suburbs around it, this is the Democratic stronghold of the state right here.

You need to run it up. And in the early vote, he is running it up. But, yes, so they were able to after Friday early voting stops. So you have over the weekend into Tuesday, they can get everything in order. They can run the tabulation. And once the polls close, you're seeing early votes come out more quickly.

TAPPER: Just for everybody who's been paying attention to voting, and there's obviously been a heightened interest in it since the 2020 election. In what some people call the red mirage or the blue mirage. I know we don't like to use that term because they're not -- it's not a mirage. They're real votes. But the idea that some states count early votes early, some votes don't count them early.

And depending on the state for instance, Pennsylvania, same situation. Early votes tend to favor Democrats. But they're not allowed to -- not only are they not allowed to count them ahead of Election Day. They're not even allowed to prepare them and get them ready just to hit the button. So, it's a lag the exact opposite of the situation here in Georgia.

KING: Right. It's just one state tonight, and just one race. So it is less confusing. If you go back to the 2020 example, early in the night, Joe Biden was well ahead in Ohio and well ahead in Texas and well above even in Florida. Different states do it different ways. Here in Georgia, we are seeing in most of these counties, this is all early votes.

And you're starting to get a little bit, I just want to move in, this is Douglas County, one of the -- again, a predominantly Democratic county. Senator Warnock right now is getting 70 percent. Just go back a month, 64 percent. So he's a little higher than his percentage a month ago.

If that holds up in the end, good for him, that means he's overperforming himself a month ago. But important to remember this is early on. Let's just come back to today, 63 percent. If you're the Democratic campaign you're saying, okay, but the Republican campaign knows they have to wait for this to fill in. This is one of the places we should watch very closely tonight. This is Cherokee County, more of the excerpts. If you come back in here, you see Atlanta and the suburbs around it.

These outer suburbs used to be more Republican. Brian Kemp was competitive in them a month ago. He didn't win them but he was competitive. But he did win places like here. This is one of the big questions in this runoff is Governor Kemp did not campaign at all with Walker in the general election. He did once in the runoff election. And he lent his organization to the Republicans for the runoff organization.

This is one of the places -- this is Herschel Walker at 62 percent right now. Let's go back one month ago in the governor's race. This is a 74 percent county for Brian Kemp.

This is one of the places where, look, the governor a month ago was at 74 percent. Herschel Walker comes in at 67 percent. That drop-off is what crushed Walker.


KING: Republicans who voted for Kemp who did not vote, they either voted for Warnock or they left the Senate race blank or voted for the libertarian. In these counties, these red counties, the excerpts around Atlanta, that's where Kemp is incredibly strong.

Does his support help this time or not? That's one of the big questions.

TAPPER: And, let's talk about that with "CNN THIS MORNING" anchor Kaitlan Collins who's in Atlanta and has interviewed Governor Kemp.

And, Kaitlan, played a role in helping Walker -- Herschel Walker in this runoff. Tell us more about that.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: What John was just laying out there is potentially critical to what we see actually happen tonight. I actually spoke with a voter earlier, who is one of those over 200,000 voters who went to the polls in November. They voted for Brian Kemp, but they did not vote for Herschel Walker. If more of them had, obviously we would not be in this situation. There would not be a runoff in Georgia tonight.

But this voter that I spoke with earlier who had voted for the libertarian candidate for Senate back then actually went and cast his vote for Walker this time around. He said it was a difficult decision. He said he made it difficult to look the women in his family in the face. But he wanted to cast his vote for Walker because of the power balance in the Senate.

And he said, Jake and John, that Governor Kemp coming out and stumping for Walker and doing those fundraisers for him and cutting those ads for him is part of what factored into his decision. And he said he did not know if he would have voted for Walker in this runoff election if he had not seen that show of support from Governor Kemp.

And, of course, that was not a show of support that we saw from Kemp during the general election. He and Walker largely kept their distance from each other, though I am told by sources that they did have a few conversations during that time period. They have also spoken during this runoff. They've had one rally together. They have had a fundraiser, several fundraisers that Kemp has done. And it is that get out the vote apparatus that Kemp built that he has lent to that McConnell super pact.

Because Kemp's sources said they weren't trying to change Herschel Walker the candidate. But they thought if they were fundraising and if they were getting out and getting Republican voters to actually turn out today, that could be what determines if Herschel Walker is the next senator and he defeats Raphael Warnock in this race. TAPPER: Right. Brian Kemp, the just freshly re-elected governor of

Georgia who won not only Republicans but Democratic voters as well, giving almost a permission structure to people to vote for Herschel Walker. And beyond that one of the messages -- and I'd like to hear Kaitlan comment on whether or not this was the prominent message from Brian Kemp. The clips I've seen of Brian Kemp and in the ad that he cut for Herschel Walker and messages on the stump were very partisan, very -- who's going to turn out more, us or them? Meaning Republicans or Democrats, vary based on putting on the team jerseys.

Was that -- you know, whereas on the other hand when you saw Barack Obama campaigning for Raphael Warnock, it was very much about the character of Raphael Warnock and what a strong person he was. Was that the general message of Kemp for Republicans needing to turn out for this based on the party, not necessarily the candidate?

COLLINS: Exactly, Jake. That's also what Ed Cordell (ph), that voter that I spoke with earlier basically said is what it came down to, not Herschel Walker himself but the fact that he's a Republican. And that's how Kemp himself viewed it. His adviser said that he was going to come out and try to boost Walker in this race because he likes Walker's Republican policies more than those of Warnock.

And so you saw that in his ads. They were reflected sending that team message basically, saying to get out for Republicans to come out and vote. That's not the message you see in Warnock's ads. He's actually used and tied himself to Kemp's popularity, showing those voter who's crisscrossed the aisle voted for Kemp, voted for Warnock in his ads, or those who said they could not vote for Walker at all.

And so, that is really what they're paying attention to here, though I will say that people in Kemp's campaign have noted that -- in Kemp's world have noted that Warnock has run a very savvy campaign here. He has had a very positive message in those ads in the closing days. That's because he does not want to turn off those moderate Republican voter who's may cross the aisle and vote for them because they don't want Herschel Walker representing them in this Senate.

And so that is something that they are paying close attention to. Also just looking at where the candidates have been. There is some frustration in Walker's camp that he has not been more publicly available, that he took those five days off the campaign trail while you saw Warnock going to Walker's hometown, going to these football games and trying to get people to come out and vote.

And so, that is something that they are watching closely tonight. The Kemp campaign does feel like they did what they could to boost Walker. Obviously, they are waiting to see -- one thing I'll note is Governor Kemp is not going to be at any Walker watch parties tonight watching these votes come in. They're waiting to see what happens themselves.

KING: That, that Kaitlan just saying, is such a fascinating point and it's such a glimpse of this strategy here. The Republican Party's going to take two, four, six, eight, maybe ten years to sort itself out. They're still having a debate of who is Donald Trump.


How important is he in our party, right?

So here's Brian Kemp, right? This is tonight's race right now. This is early votes, 17 percent around the estimate vote. Senator Warnock ahead of the moment. We're talking about Brian Kemp.

Let's just go back a month ago. After Joe Biden wins, Georgia -- everyone says Georgia is turning blue. Well, this is a statement Republican win in a purple state. Brian Kemp stood up to Donald Trump in 2020. Brian Kemp said, no, I won't help you cheat. Brian Kemp stays away from Herschel Walker in the general election, gets 53 percent of the vote, including being competitive in these suburbs.

Why did he want no part of Herschel Walker in the general election? Because Donald Trump is toxic in the suburbs, and he was worried that Herschel Walker's association with Trump would hurt him, Brian Kemp. So he has nothing to do with Herschel Walker, gets this statement win and now says I will help you. Now I will help you.

So, number one, you could put it in selfish context if you want, if Walker loses tonight, Governor Kemp who has his own ambitions beyond this, you know, as the Republican Party sorts this, says I did my best, I made friends with Mitch McConnell, I gave my turnout operation, you cannot blame me.

TAPPER: Right.

KING: But it's fascinating to me that Kemp keeps his distance, gets a statement win, essentially to prove to Donald Trump this is how you win Georgia, this is how you win it convincingly, against Stacey Abrams, a very credible, formidable candidate who knows how to turn out votes.

Now Brian Kemp is helping Herschel Walker. We'll see as we count the votes tonight if it's enough, as Walker -- we'll see if that helps Walker perform. But, if nothing else, Kemp made a point a month ago, this is how you win. Now, he's lending his help. We'll see if it works.

TAPPER: He also made a point when he defeated the Donald Trump picked canned to defeat him in the Republican primary, another statement above rejection of Trumpism by Republicans in Georgia.

Democratic Senate Raphael Warnock opening a very early lead over Republican Herschel Walker. We'll see how and if that changes as more votes come in from key counties in the peach state. We're live at ballot counting centers. We're going to have more results. That's ahead.

Stay with us.


[19:30:48] TAPPER: I have a key race alert for you now with about 31 percent of the vote in. Incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock is ahead in the race for the Senate: 63.2 percent. I'm sorry. 62.9 percent. More votes are still coming in, 62.9 percent, to Republican Herschel Walker's 37.1 percent.

Raphael Warnock right now in this early vote that is expected to be overwhelmingly Democrat -- 276,000, almost 277,000 votes ahead of Herschel Walker.

And, again, as we've said John King here at the magic wall -- we expected that he would be in the lead. He was a month ago. And the question is, is he going to be able to maintain a lead -- certainly not this lead -- as votes from today come in?

KING: Right. And that is the challenge. Again, the Republicans are reasonably confident enough voters turned out today to give Herschel Walker the chance to catch up. The question is did they vote for walker by the right proportions. They need somewhere in the ballpark of 60 percent of the vote.

But you're looking at this big number right now, 277,000 vote lead. You think, wow. I just say, yes, that's wow. And it's what Senator Warnock needs to do but it's also a wait. Why is it so big? Because it's starting to fill in around Atlanta. Fulton County is Atlanta, the middle, Cobb County, just had a large report of votes, 186,000 and change to 47,000.

This is why -- this is why that lead just stretched the way it did because of this giant report of early vote from Cobb County. So it's a Democratic county, and the early vote is disproportionately Democratic. So this is what you need to do if you're the Warnock campaign. But you also know there are a lot of votes that still need to be counted.

So, that's Cobb County. So, let's do the loop around Atlanta, if you will. Fulton County is also Atlanta. This is the base, the largest county in the state. It's the base of the Democratic Party. That's where Senator Warnock needs to be, as close as 80 percent as he can be if a Democrat is going to win. This is essentially the Philadelphia of Pennsylvania. This is where the Democrats need to run it up to be competitive in a close race.

And at the moment in the early vote, that's happening. So then you come over here to Gwinnett, the second largest county in the state, just shy of 9 percent of the state population. This is 68 percent, 69 percent if you want to round up.

We go back a month ago, it was 59 percent. So he's over-performing where he was a month ago right now. But this, again, is early vote. So we have to see if that percentage holds up when we get more election day vote.

I would say history tells you it won't hold up that strong. I just pulled out to show it again, because now you're looking at 261,000 vote early lead. That's impressive. But as we watched the seesaw a month ago, they seesawed throughout the night. If you're the Democrat, you know your foundation is build a big lead with the early vote. That's what's happening. The question is what comes next.

TAPPER: Is it enough of one?

Go to Cobb County because our own Nick Valencia is in Marietta, Georgia, in Cobb County. And he's with a county election official. We can ask him some questions.

Nick, tell us what's going on there in Cobb County.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're at the Cobb County center of elections where those votes are starting to be tabulated already.

And we want to bring in here the chairwoman of the Cobb County board of elections, Tori Silas.

Tori, thank you so much for taking the time with CNN. We know you're extremely busy. You're actually working tonight.

I know that you can't give us numbers from today. You don't have those. But you do have numbers already. Can you tell us about that?

TORI SILAS, CHAIRWOMAN, COBB COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS: Absolutely. So obviously we had early voting, advanced in-person early voting that began on the 26th, Saturday the 26th, and concluded on December the 2nd. And so we do have those numbers, but we can't begin the tabulation process obviously until the conclusion of voting on Election Day.

VALENCIA: So how soon will we see some of those first numbers start to come out from today?

SILAS: Yes, from today, it will probably be about 7:45, maybe around 8:00. We have 147 precincts across Cobb County. Once the poll managers and the poll workers close down those locations, they will then bring all of their equipment back.


But they also bring media, memory cards that have the tabulation on there.

VALENCIA: I want to ask you if there's any, you know, issues that you saw today. But first kind of walk me through what we're seeing behind here because this is pretty fascinating for the viewer.

SILAS: Fascinating is a very good word for it, but, yeah, it's very busy.

And so, this is essentially this area here is where we are scanning absentee ballots. And so, I shared with you earlier when we had an opportunity to talk. In Cobb County, we issued over 24,000 absentee ballots, obviously, over the course of -- we started mailing them out on the 21st of November. That was the date that the general election results were certified. So

that was the first day that we could mail absentee ballots out. Those ballots then began to come back in. We hold them and then we scan them in, in this area here.

VALENCIA: Great point. I know you don't have -- you can't hear the anchors, but they want to ask you some questions, John King and Jake Tapper.

John, go ahead and I'll just reiterate what you want to ask.

KING: Two questions. Number one, because you only have the one big race tonight, what time do you think you'll be done? You said you'll have your first election day votes sometimes in the next 15 or 20 minutes.

VALENCIA: Big race tonight.

KING: So that's impressive. When will you be done with everything?

SILAS: Well, I'm hopeful it'll be much earlier than the general election because we didn't leave this office myself, other board members and, of course, our poll workers, we did not leave until after 3:00 a.m. but one big race. I'm hopeful that we will leave here prior to midnight.

VALENCIA: And you're working tonight too. You're a board of five and you're throwing the hat in work here.

SILAS: Yeah, absolutely. We are a board of five. A number of us were recently appointed last July, actually in the background, you'll see one of our other board members there. But we are a working board, that's correct.

VALENCIA: Jake, do you have any questions for Tori here while we have here?

TAPPER: I just wondered how the vote turned out -- the vote turnout looked, if you look at this runoff from -- so the early vote plus today -- compared to early vote and election day a month ago. Whether she thinks that the numbers will be similar or perhaps a little lower today.

VALENCIA: So do you think the numbers will be similar to what we saw in November just from what you're seeing so far today?

SILAS: When you look at total numbers, I actually think depending upon election day results or the numbers will actually be higher.

VALENCIA: Higher? Wow.

SILAS: Well, to the extent that we had record turnout for advanced in-person voting, such that we had more individuals here in Cobb County as well as across the entire state that voted advance in-person during the runoff as opposed to the advanced in-person numbers during the general election. VALENCIA: The last question I have, a tight turnaround for you guys.

You had nine weeks from the runoff. This time, four weeks. How are you guys doing?

SILAS: We're hanging in.

VALENCIA: OK: I appreciate it. Tori, you go get back to work.

John, we'll throw it back to you.

TAPPERR: Thanks, Nick. Please thank her for us for the hard work that she and all of the election workers do. So important.

Let's go to David Chalian now at the battleground.

David, give us more perspective on the votes that are in so far.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah. So here is the state of play at the moment. You see Raphael Warnock with 539,822 votes. Herschel Walker, 435,004 votes. We think about 35 percent of the overall vote has been tabulated and is represented here.

But here's what's important to pay attention to. How much of this vote that is in is that early vote that you and John are talking about, that pre-election vote, early in-person by-mail vote?

Well, right now, our estimate is that 97 percent, 97 percent of all the votes you're seeing are early vote, pre-election vote. We know that tends to favor the Democrat.

What do we expect that to be at the end of the night in terms of the overall share? Well, we think the early vote, the pre-election vote is only going to make up 55 percent. A slim majority of voters in this runoff will have cast their vote early, is our estimate.

But, again, right now, 97 percent of the votes you're looking at early. That's going to come down to 55 percent as an overall share. When it does, that could benefit Herschel walker if indeed he gets his election day turnout operation at the level that the campaign is looking for.

TAPPER: All right, David Chalian, thanks so much.

We're keeping a close watch on vote counting centers in key Georgia counties. A lot of ballots still to be tabulated and reported. More results ahead. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: And we have a key race alert for you now with 31 percent of the vote in, incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock currently leads with 55.7 percent of the vote, ahead of Republican Herschel Walker, who has 44.3 percent of the vote. Raphael Warnock currently ahead with 122,265 more votes than Herschel Walker, but most of the vote is outstanding. So this is just an early result, not necessarily indicative of where we're going to end up.

Let's get an update on the vote in Georgia's most populous county.

Dianne Gallagher is at a vote-counting location in Fulton County, Georgia.

Dianne, tell us more of what you're seeing.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake. So we're starting to see at least materials arrive. They might be some of the election day ballots from those delivery persons bringing them through, the people who are essentially going and picking them up. They can't go into their personal vehicle again for security purposes. And they're taking them from each of the 249 precincts.

They then bring them to a regional office, and that regional office puts that all together with security, and then they bring it here to this central location where the cards from those machines are then uploaded into the system. Then you can refresh them just like I'm doing right now to see as things are coming in.

Now, look, Fulton County was one of the first to upload most of their early in-person ballots.


More than 184,000 of those have already been uploaded into their system. They say they have around 14,000 absentee ballots, those ones through mail that they also have to go through and upload those. And then, look, the officials told us that they had more than 70,000 in- person votes on election day today.

I asked them to describe how they thought that was on their expectation. They called it a very healthy turnout. It was very difficult to put together this four-week runoff period. But they were very impressed by the turnout that they saw. We're looking between the absentee ballots and of course the early in-person voting, more than 200,000 votes there before Election Day. They say that they expect to have all of those results in still tonight election day absentee and early ballots by midnight tonight.

Jake, we expect most of the ballot deliveries to happen between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. tonight because it's a process. You've got to go through. You've got to check and make sure everything is not just secure, but you dot your I's and cross your T's. And they've got to drive to this location.

There is security at almost every single point where they can be -- you know, for personal security and also ballot security. When they come in here, I'm told they will also be escorted by police as they're coming in here to go and upload it.

You can't see the machine they're uploading it in, but it is at the back of this warehouse here. You'll see it right there on your screen as it comes up.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Jake. When we're listening to Dianne talk about the early voting versus the voting today, it makes me think of a conversation I had with a Republican who's working on this race who was talking about the fact that it has been so frustrating for so many Republican operatives that they haven't been able to get out the vote early, that they can't match what Democrats are doing when it comes to absentee voting and when it comes to early voting. In all elections but especially this one, one of the reasons is because they were totally outmatched when it comes to money.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the second cycle that Republicans have been dealing with this problem. Ands it becoming an organizing issue. They're not able to help the people who want the convenience of being able to vote on their own time. They're not to do that as effectively.

And the other reason is that once people have voted, then you can go and find the people who haven't voted. Now they're in a situation where the Monday before election day, they're praying that everybody gets up, leaves their home, goes out on election day, and votes. And they do not have a backstop.

BASH: And how many times have you heard from Republican operatives either at the RNC or elsewhere over the years, many years, saying we're going to change the way Republicans vote. One of the reasons they have been stymied in that is because of Donald Trump.


BASH: Because he spent so long saying don't vote by mail, don't do early voting, and it really good into the blood stream.

RAJU: And this is really going to -- if things don't work out for Herschel Walker here, this is going to be one of the areas in which they will point fingers at their failure to get their early vote out, their failure to vote by mail, to demonize. A Republican leader on the house side has tried to push back against Donald Trump not to say these things about vote by mail.

But so much about this race will be about, of course, where do suburban voters come down. A lot of the conservative voters in these suburbs, the Walker campaign wants to show that this is about getting a Republican seat. Ignore the flaws, ignore those concerns. We need another Republican as a check on Joe Biden.

Warnock's campaign has been about going after questions, raising questions about his character. And when I was in the Atlanta suburbs about a month before the election interviewing Republican voters, that was one of the things that -- many of them were convinced that Walker simply was not qualified to do the job. That argument seemed to have worked with a number of Republican voters. Now, will that change from then until now? We'll see.

BASH: And Walker has had so much money to play with to amplify that message.

PHILLIP: You know what's so interesting as you talk to Democrats, they want to -- they have been wanting Georgia to become a purple state. But even to this day, a lot of Democrats are not totally sure that that's what's quite going on here. A lot of Democrats still think Georgia is a kind of so-so state in terms of their chances of actually doing well on a consistent basis there. But what has been happening over the last two cycles is that the Trump factor is very strong.

This is a diversifying state where you have people moving into the suburbs, moving into the states from other parts of the country, younger people, people of color, not just black people, but also Latinos and Asian voters as well. And that is creating conditions that are frankly hostile to Trumpism.

There is a reason that two very high-profile figures who pushed back on Trump won their elections handily.


That's the Governor Brian Kemp and also Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Voters in the suburbs of states like Georgia that are moving toward the purple category do not like the politics that has been represented by Trump. And the question tonight is, is Herschel Walker going to be hurt by that or are some voters okay. Other things are more important.

Maybe we do want to check --

BASH: All you need to do is look at the huge margins that both Governor Kemp and Brad Raffensperger won by. I mean, Raffensperger is the guy on the tape with Donald Trump pushing back.

PHILLIP: And made famous by Trump and yet they won.

BASH: Exactly.

RAJU: And why was Trump not here in the final days of the campaign? Because --

BASH: They said, no, thank you, sir.

RAJU: Exactly. They realized that. Trump was -- when you look back at the election cycle, Trump was in Nevada late in the election cycle, they lost those races. The walker campaign recognized that. They didn't want Trump there.

BASH: No, they didn't. Another thing that I've heard a little bit of, you know, concern about, hard feelings, I should say, is that Herschel Walker is Donald Trump for's candidate. And yet now at the 11th hour in this runoff, yes, they didn't want Donald Trump to campaign but they would have liked some money from his super PAC and that didn't happen.

Because again, Raphael Warnock, a Republican, said to me today, they have seen a candidate able to fundraise the way Raphael Warnock can -- in forever.

PHILLIP: Yeah. Well, if you're waiting for drunk driver to hand over some money, you might be waiting for a long time. He's not one known to hand over cash, especially not in a situation like this where he's not being embraced with open arms. But just for a moment on Raphael Warnock.

It's not just Warnock. He is perhaps the ideal Democratic candidate for this state. He is pastoring Martin Luther King Jr.'s church. He is an authentic figure for the state.

He is an organizer. He has the support of the party and has been a unifying figure for the party. But there has been years and years of Democratic work on the ground in Georgia that could be paying off, just the fact that they're in a runoff.

BASH: That's a really, really important point -- Jake.

TAPPER: Thanks, Dana. Let's go David Chalian now with the battleground desk with some information about the votes that we're seeing out of Cobb County.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, Jake. As you and John were talking about Cobb County earlier, some votes came in and it was a much larger vote total than we anticipated. And so, we did some double-checking and with the system, the national election poll that provides the vote counting that you're seeing all night long to all the broadcast networks, there was a reporting error. It's a human being process here.

So the reporter on the ground mistakenly reported the wrong numbers. Now, you and John at the wall have the correct Cobb County numbers. You will see a lower vote total overall than anticipated because we have double checked all of these numbers to make sure what is now in our system is indeed the Cobb County total that has been reported. And we want it to be transparent and clear with everyone the at home who was tracking the vote while you were talking about Cobb County.

That error in reporting from on the ground in Cobb County, again, feeds into the system that feeds these vote reports to all the broadcast networks. That has now been corrected and you have the current Cobb County vote total in the wall there, guys.

TAPPER: All right. David Chalian, thanks so much. So, what is the actual number?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the Cobb County number we have so far, 67 percent to 33 percent, or 44,525 to 21,736, a much smaller number here. In the age we live in, everything should be triple and quadruple checked, of course, fed into the system just because of the conspiracies and the mistrust out there. This is a good number now. It has been solid.

So, what that means. That means Senator Warnock in the early vote in a key Democratic county has the big lead. So if we go back in time one month ago, he got 57 percent in Cobb County. TAPPER: That was the final.

KING: That was the final -- that was the final number.

TAPPER: This is the early number.

KING: If he stays there, then he's reelected. You know, we expect Herschel Walker will get more competitive as election votes come in. If Senator Warnock stays above 60 percent in Cobb County, he's likely will be reelected. But again, we think this is about a quarter of a vote, somewhere around there.

So, we have a ways to go. Now you pull out statewide and what do you see since the last time we were here? Number one, you see a lot more of the map filling in. Again, predominantly the early vote.

So, even in this place, this is key for Herschel Walker. These are small rural counties. Not a lot of people. But this is where you make the joke with me. Coffee County, which, you know, you're going to make the joke with me, so next to Bacon County. It is very important.

You see 70 percent, right? Seventy percent. If you go back a month ago, he was just above 71 percent, a little bit more.


It's key as we watch the rest of the night fill in. If this is predominantly early vote and Herschel Walker is running there, then maybe that's a chance he juices that up a little bit. That's a possibility, we don't know that.

But that's what you're looking for as you go through these counties, but that was the question, on Election Day, Republicans need to dominate. They need probably 60 percent of the Election Day vote, the votes cast today. And if you add up all these of counties, that's what you used to count or up here because much -- many more people live here, again, in Gwinnett County, Senator Warnock getting 69 percent. So far, a month ago, he was 10 points below that.

Again, this is early vote, right? This is early vote. So, the Democrats are doing -- the performance numbers look pretty solid in the percentages for the Democrats. The question is, as we get deeper into the night, we have a better understanding about the total turnout, then you'll start running, what's the today vote, what's the early vote, and that's where it is competitive.

Again, the Republicans believe enough voters turned out today to make the difference. The question is, six in 10 of them vote for Herschel Walker. We think we're at about 40 percent of the estimated vote. 140,000-vote lead, 10-point difference, we keep counting.

TAPPER: Anything could happen. Anything could happen.

More than a third of the vote is in from Georgia. We're standing by for critical results from ballots cast today that could change the race as it looks right now. We'll also get an update from a top Georgia election official. Gabe

Sterling is standing by. There's much more ahead.

Stay with us.