It’s finally that time of the year again, as voters in every state across the nation head to the polls ahead of November 7th, Election Night 2023.
Despite the moniker ‘off-year election’, there’s plenty of contests being decided on Tuesday night, including: two Gubernatorial races, a Congressional special election, legislative races in four states, plus countless judicial races, county contests and statewide referendums. You’ll be able to track these results here at Decision Desk HQ.
So which races should you be watching? Well, all of them. Of course, that can be quite the daunting task. Therefore, I’ve created this hour-by-hour guide on the best contests to watch as Election Night unfolds. Now, let’s jump into it!
7:00 PM EST
Kentucky: Andy Beshear vs. Daniel Cameron
Virginia State Senate and Virginia House of Delegates
Kentucky Secretary of State
Kentucky Attorney General
The main event arrives early on Election Night, as the top two contests – the Kentucky Gubernatorial election and the Virginia Legislative races – will see their polls close at 7:00 pm EST (6:00 for parts of eastern Kentucky).
If Gov. Beshear wins re-election, it’ll be taken as a sign that Democrats are once again defying the national mood. Conversely, if Attorney General Cameron prevails, political observers will begin to see a red wave cresting across the country.
Meanwhile, although the Virginia legislative races will take longer to calculate, they’ll still have a massive effect on how D.C. pundits, many of whom live in Northern Virginia, view the night as a whole. As I’ve noted before, Republicans need two State Senate seats to flip control while Democrats need to flip three seats in the House of Delegates. Given the close margins, we may not necessarily know how it will all pan out by the end of the night.
7:30 PM EST
Ohio Abortion Referendum
Ohio Marijuana Legalization Referendum
Last year, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, pro-choice forces won victories in a wide variety of states including Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan and Montana. Now their next battleground is in Ohio, where they’re seeking to overturn the Ohio legislature’s six-week abortion ban. Back in August, the legislature sought to undercut the movement by raising the threshold for statewide ballot questions from 50% to 60%, but that effort failed by 14 points. As a result, this referendum is widely expected to succeed.
On top of that, a marijuana legalization referendum is also on the ballot in the Buckeye State. If successful, Ohio would become the 24th state to legalize the drug over just the past 11 years, a testament to a tremendous recent sea change in public opinion.
8:00 PM EST
Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District: Gabe Amo vs. Gerry Leonard
Mississippi: Brendan Presely vs. Tate Reeves
Mississippi State Senate and Mississippi State House
New Hampshire Hillsborough District 3 Special Election
New Jersey State Senate and New Jersey State Assembly
Pennsylvania Supreme Court
Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court
Pennsylvania Superior Court
Pennsylvania Allegheny County Prosecutor
Pennsylvania Allegheny County Executive
Pennsylvania Bucks County Commissioners
Pennsylvania Bucks County School Boards
A Congressional vacancy is scheduled to be filled on Election Night 2023, as Democratic nominee Gabe Amo battles with Republican nominee Gerry Leonard in the open 1st district in Rhode Island. Given that he’s running in a D+12 district, Amo is the heavy favorite to prevail here and anything less would signal a disaster for the Democrats.
Down in Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves is favored to win a second term over Democrat Brendan Pressley, and an unlikely defeat would prove that the state welfare funds scandal (involving Brett Favre) was more damaging for Reeves than initially thought.
Lastly, there are a number of intriguing contests up in the Keystone State. A vacant Supreme Court seat could widen or shrink Democrats’ 4-2 majority, while the majority on the state’s Superior Court is also up for grabs. Furthermore, there are several local races in places like Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) and Bucks County (Philadelphia suburbs) that will provide valuable insight into this toss-up state ahead of 2024.
9:00 PM EST
New York Suffolk County Executive
New Mexico Albuquerque School Board
One of the few areas a red wave did materialize during the 2022 midterms was the suburbs outside New York City. Now the Empire State’s Democratic Party will be tested by trying to hold on to the open Suffolk County Executive office out on Long Island. Then out west, the Albuquerque school board will be one of several Election Night battlegrounds between teachers unions and the conservative group Moms for Liberty.
11:00 PM EST
Washington Spokane Encampments Referendum
Washington Seattle City Council
Washington Spokane City Council
Throughout the 2020 election season and afterward, Republicans pointed to the Pacific Northwest as an example of how Democratic governance could allow crime and homelessness to grow out of control. Therefore, Republicans are targeting cities like Spokane, where voters are deciding on an encampment proposition as well as City Council races, as opportunities to shift the national debate on some of these issues. So make sure to keep an eye on the contests out west during the final hours of Election Night 2023.