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Rep. Eric Swalwell on huge early voter turnout: ‘Voters know what’s at stake’

California Rep. Eric Swalwell joins Yahoo Finance's Kristin Myers to break down his thoughts on the 2020 presidential election, and more.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: Congressman, thank you so much for joining us. I was checking actually some of the voting numbers in California, and I noted-- and again, this is all according to the US Elections Project-- that more than 12 million voters had already cast their ballot in the state, and that's more than half of the registered voters in California. I'm wondering from you and your perspective on this, why do you think that we have seen such a huge early-voter turnout in California but also across the country?

ERIC SWALWELL: Well, good morning. It's because voters know what's at stake. It's whether we're able to shut down this virus and open our schools and our businesses but also that we don't have to choose between our health and our right to vote, that we in California expand-- we started voting earlier than we normally do, and we expanded the way that people can vote, whether it was mail-in balloting or drop-off locations. So people are eager to participate but also very cautious about protecting themselves.

So I think that's a good thing, and, you know, more states that allow that are seeing more and more protections. I'm really excited about Texas. You know, that's not a red state or a blue state. It's generally a don't-vote state. And to see a state like Texas surpass its 2016 vote, whatever way it goes, that's just good for the country that a big state like that is finally seeing its voters flex.

KRISTIN MYERS: So on that end, looking over the party affiliation of those early voters, we're seeing that more of the early voters are actually registered Democrats, 45%. At least in states where we know the party affiliation, 45% of those early voters were Democrats compared to just 30.5% being Republican. Do you think and does that kind of track with what you've been seeing, that voter turnout among Democrats has been increased? I'm wondering why specifically, you think Democrats are more motivated to get to the polls this year. I know you were just hinting at it. And do you think that, in part, Democrats have done a much better job in 2020 at motivating their base than they did back in 2016?

ERIC SWALWELL: You know, Kristin, I see this as more like 2018 and less like 2016, that this is a continuation of 2018, which was an election about health care. You know, the vote has taken piece to try and get rid of the Affordable Care Act. It failed, but, you know, voters knew what was at stake if Democrats did not win the House. And so we won House seats in Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, so we expanded, you know, where we could compete.

And I believe that our focus on early voting and having a plan partially benefited by the dress rehearsal of the sabotaging of the Postal Service, and it kind of alarmed a lot of us and made us realize that we'd have to have a vote-early plan, and I think you're seeing that play out right now. But, you know, we're going all the way to 8:00 in most states tonight, making sure that if people haven't voted, you know, we're still working phone banking. I'm on my way to my campaign office to make sure that, you know, we're working all the voters who have not voted yet to make sure they know they can vote until 8:00.

KRISTIN MYERS: So to that point, again, with the alarm bells ringing with the US Postal Service-- you know, across the country, now heard of lawsuits attempting to throw out ballots for curbside voting, for example. We've seen long lines for that early-voter turnout. It's expected that some areas will also be experiencing that crush of voters coming in today and very long lines. I know that you're excited, especially in a state, as you mentioned, like Texas with the voting turnout, but are you at all worried of concerns that perhaps turnout might be undermined today?

ERIC SWALWELL: Yes. And when you attempt to suppress the vote, it reverberates when you get, you know, the media and, you know, Democrats to talk about suppressing the vote. And it really puts us in a pickle because we want to call it out and we want to defend it, but what it does is say you have a single mom in Arizona who's got to pick up her little girl from daycare and has budgeted, you know, maybe an hour to go vote, and then she's got to get her daughter bathed and fed and put to bed. And if all she's hearing is that there's going to be issues or ballots maybe thrown out or the Russians might be interfering, she might say, you know, to heck with that. I don't have time to do this if it's not going to count.

So it's a very, you know, delicate act of fighting in the courts, making sure people have access, but still focusing on why we want that single mom to vote, which is access to health care, child-care credits so she can, you know, take care of her daughter and work at the same time, and making sure that she has, you know, decent wages. So we have to really focus on the issues that motivate people and then really fight everywhere we can to make sure every vote is counted.

KRISTIN MYERS: You know, President Trump never committed to a peaceful transfer of power. He has repeatedly undermined the election results, casting doubt on the validity of some of those mail-in ballots. I'm wondering, you know, as a member of Congress, what do you see as the next steps? What's Congress's role if President Trump decides to fight these election results?

ERIC SWALWELL: Well, a couple weeks ago I led an effort on the House floor where we voted to reaffirm my resolution for a peaceful transition of power, which is crazy that we would even have to vote on that. However, I thought it was important considering what the president was saying about a peaceful transition to do that.

I was born about 40 years ago during a peaceful transition between Ronald Reagan beating Jimmy Carter and then Reagan taking the oath. It only happens a very few times in our democracy. In the last 80 years, only three presidents have not been re-elected when they've sought re-election. But we've always counted on honorable people, whether it was Jimmy Carter or George HW Bush, to honor that peaceful transition of power.

I think the best thing we can see is massive voter turnout and that the result is so overwhelming that it can't be denied, and hopefully that assures either President Trump out or President Trump into a re-election. But, you know, certainty because of voter participation would be the best thing for our country.

KRISTIN MYERS: Quickly here, Congressman, before I let you go, I do want to ask you about Prop 22, which obviously would have huge implications in your state. It would, of course, exempt companies like Uber and Lyft from classifying those drivers as employees. Do you at all worry-- or what's your stance here on Prop 22? And is there not a concern that if Uber and Lyft, of course, fail in their battle here with Prop 22 that they're going to pull out of the state and that millions of those drivers are going to be unemployed, especially in the midst of a pandemic?

ERIC SWALWELL: Well, they're not going to leave the largest state in the country with major metropolitan areas and a lot of congestion and need to move people around. I do think it's not too much to ask that, you know, you pay your workers, you know, a fair salary, you give them benefits and fair working conditions.

And I'm open to any way to do that, whether it's a third way of classifying employees. But just treating them as, you know, independent contractors with very little rights and, you know, long-term benefits I don't think is the way to go.

I mean, Californians are very generous people. We're very innovative people, and I think we can get this right.