Tuesday is election day, and we are using this newsletter to give you a guide. One theme is that Democrats are hoping to continue their strong recent electoral performance despite President ’s low approval rating.
Why have Democrats done so well in elections since 2022? In part, it’s because voter turnout is modest in off-year elections such as Tuesday’s. The people who vote tend to be engaged in politics. They are older, more affluent and more highly educated than people who vote only in presidential elections.
As the Democratic Party becomes more upscale — the class inversion of American politics that this newsletter often discusses — the party will naturally do better in lower-turnout elections than it once did. But these victories do not necessarily foreshadow presidential elections. The other side of the class inversion is that Democrats are increasingly struggling with lower-income and nonwhite voters, many of whom vote only in presidential elections.
Tuesday’s elections still matter for their own sake, of course. Below, we list the questions that can help you make sense of the results.
1. Will abortion rights keep winning?
At least three states are worth watching:
— Ohioans will vote on a referendum to protect abortion access until about 23 weeks of pregnancy. If it passes, it will be the seventh straight victory for abortion rights in state referendums since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year.
— In Kentucky, Gov. , a Democrat running for reelection, is focusing on his support for abortion rights (while also trumpeting the fruits of Biden’s economic policies without naming Biden).
— In Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, is trying to give his party a model for the post-Roe world by backing a 15-week limit as a middle ground. All of Virginia’s state Legislature seats are on the ballot.
2. Can a Democrat win in the Deep South?
No Democrat has been elected governor or senator in Mississippi in more than 20 years. But Brandon Presley, a state official and second cousin of , seems to have an outside chance.
Gov. Tate Reeves, the Republican incumbent, has been hurt by a corruption scandal in which, according to court documents, a state official directed welfare funds to the pet projects of wealthy, connected Mississippians. Presley is running the kind of campaign that was once normal for Democrats: moderate on social issues, progressive on economics. He calls himself pro-life, emphasizes his religious faith and supports gun rights, while promising to expand Medicaid and help rural hospitals.
“The fight in politics in Mississippi is not right versus left,” Presley said. “It’s those of us on the outside versus those of them on the inside.” Recent polls have shown him trailing by between 1 and 8 points.
3. What happens with schools?
Conservatives and liberals are running against each other for school boards in suburban Philadelphia, northern Virginia and elsewhere — with gender issues often central. One example: In Pella, Iowa, a Des Moines suburb, voters will decide whether to give the City Council more control over the public library after the library’s board recently rejected the effort of some residents to ban the memoir “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe.
4. How will cities deal with rising homelessness?
Voters in Spokane, Washington, will decide whether police can issue tickets to people who camp within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds and child care facilities. In Boulder, Colorado, voters will decide whether to prioritize the removal of encampments near schools and sidewalks.
5. Will affordable-housing efforts grow?
Voters in Boulder County will also decide whether to address a major cause of homelessness: high real estate costs. Boulder, Seattle and Santa Fe, New Mexico, will each vote on initiatives to fund affordable housing. In Tacoma, Washington, voters will decide whether to restrict landlords’ ability to evict tenants during the winter and the school year.
6. How will changes to criminal justice fare?
In several counties — including those that encompass Pittsburgh and Jackson, Mississippi — prosecutor races pit a progressive against a tough-on-crime candidate.
In Jackson, District Attorney Jody Owens — who views drug addiction as largely a public health issue and has pledged not to prosecute abortion cases — is running for reelection against Darla Palmer, an independent who has criticized the amount of violent crime.
7. What else is on the ballot?
Ohioans will vote on whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Rockville, Maryland, a Washington suburb, will vote on a nonbinding initiative on whether to lower the voting age to 16. Three Michigan cities, including Kalamazoo, will decide whether to adopt ranked choice voting. And more than a dozen cities — including Houston, Philadelphia and Orlando, Florida — will vote for mayor. In Uvalde, Texas, the mother of one of last year’s shooting victims is running for mayor.
c.2023 The New York Times Company