US election day 2023: What to watch for as Americans go to polls

Polling place in Jackson, Mississippi
There is almost exactly a year to before 2024's presidential election

Voters across the US are heading to the polls in contests that may offer a glimpse of the national mood a year before the presidential election.

Tuesday's votes will determine who governs two US states, and which party will control state legislatures in others.

Voters will also have the chance to decide on politically contentious issues - most notably abortion.

Let's take a look at the major races.


Kentucky is a "deep red state" that Donald Trump won with a commanding 26-point lead in 2020.

Yet its governor is a Democrat. Andy Beshear won election in 2019 by less than a percentage point.

Four years later, he is one of the most popular governors in the US and enjoys a strong approval rating of 60% - including 43% of Republicans in the Bluegrass State, according to a recent poll from Morning Consult.

Daniel Cameron
If he wins, Daniel Cameron will become Kentucky's first black governor.

His electoral opponent, Attorney General Daniel Cameron, is considered a rising figure in the Republican party and is backed by Mr Trump.

If Mr Cameron wins, he will become Kentucky's first black governor.

On the campaign trail, he has repeatedly sought to tie Mr Beshear to President Joe Biden and has attacked him over his handling of issues ranging from Covid-19 restrictions to his veto of a bill that banned transgender medical treatments for children.


In Ohio, voters will weigh in on an amendment to the state's constitution that would enshrine "the right to make and carry out one's reproductive decisions, including but not limited to decisions on contraception, fertility treatment, continuing one's own pregnancy, miscarriage care and abortion".

If a simple majority of voters opt to support the measure, it would become law 30 days after the election.

Abortions are currently legal in Ohio until the 22-week mark.

In 2019, however, state Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, signed a bill into law that would outlaw abortions once embryonic cardiac activity is found, normally at around the six-week mark. The law, which has so far been blocked by state courts, makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

Pamphlets distributed in Ohio ahead of the 2023 elections.
Abortions were a key electoral issue in the 2022 midterms.

Ohio is one of a number of states that moved to shore up abortion access after the US Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade ruling, which had granted women the right to an abortion up until the point of foetal viability, which is about 24 weeks.

Democrats and Republicans across the country will be watching the race for clues on whether abortion is as politically important as it was in 2022.

In last year's midterm elections, widespread dissatisfaction with the repeal of Roe v Wade was credited with helping Democrats avoid a widely anticipated electoral rout.

Voters in Ohio will also decide whether to legalise the recreational use of marijuana and create a new state-run division of cannabis control to regulate it.


In Mississippi, Republican Governor Tate Reeves is facing a strong challenge from Democrat Brandon Presley, a state utility regulator and a cousin of music icon Elvis Presley.

Republicans have controlled Mississippi's governor office for two decades.

Mr Presley, however, has outraised Mr Reeves this year and almost matched him in spending.

He has campaigned on a platform that has included a strong focus on courting black voters and the expansion of Medicaid, a government healthcare programme for low-income Americans.

Brandon Presley
Brandon Presley hopes to become Mississippi's first Democratic governor in decades.

Mr Reeves, for his part, has attempted to tie Mr Presley to President Biden and criticised his stance on issues including transgender medical treatments.

Polls have shown the two in a tight race, with a recent survey from Public Policy Polling showing Mr Reeves at 46%, compared to 45% for Mr Presley.


In Virginia, the outcome of the election will determine which party controls the two chambers of the state's legislature.

At the moment, Republicans hold a narrow majority in the state's House of Representatives, while Democrats control Virginia's Senate.

If Republicans emerge from the election with full control of the state legislature, Governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, will be able to move ahead on a proposed 15-week abortion ban, which would include exceptions in cases of incest, rape or when the mother's life is in danger.

Glenn Youngkin
The outcome of Virginia's election could help determine Glenn Youngkin's political future

Virginia Democrats have campaigned heavily on the abortion issue, prompting Mr Youngkin's supporters to accuse them of "overt falsehoods" and "flagrant fearmongering".

While he is not on the ballot on Tuesday, Mr Youngkin has been touted as a potential presidential hopeful and possible late-entry into the 2024 race as a challenger to Mr Trump.

Municipal races

In addition to state-level races across the country, voters will also be weighing in on candidates for municipal offices like mayor and county executive.

Among the most high-profile races is in Houston, Texas, where congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and state Senator John Whitmire - both Democrats - are currently leading an 18-person field.

The race has attracted endorsements from national political figures including Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, both of whom have backed Ms Lee against the more-moderate Mr Whitmire.

In Bridgeport, Connecticut, the town's mayoral race has been postponed after a state judge ordered that a September Democratic primary be retaken after video emerged showing potential ballot stuffing.

In New York City, criminal justice advocate Yusef Salaam is poised to win a city seat. As a teenager, Mr Salaam was imprisoned in the infamous Central Park Five case.

In Uvalde, Texas, the mayor's race includes Kimberly Mata-Rubio, a former journalist whose young daughter was killed in a deadly mass shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead in May 2022.

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