March 30, 2023 2:10 pm

US election results: The key states to watch

Election night in America can mean a long evening watching hundreds of results from all corners of the country pour in. Feeling overwhelmed? Here’s how you can focus on the moments that really matter.

Republicans are banking on voters’ economic anxiety and concerns over crime to win back control of both the Senate and House of Representatives. If they do, they have vowed to throw a wrench into President Joe Biden’s agenda for the next two years.

And that’s just the fight for control of Washington. Individual states are also electing governors, picking the officials who run their elections, and voting on measures such as legalising cannabis, abolishing modern slavery, and abortion.

So where are some of the most contested races, and what are the biggest moments to watch out for?

The first big moment of the night may come as early as after polls close in Georgia at 19:00 EST (00:00 GMT).Democrat Senator Raphael Warnock is defending his seat from American football legend Herschel Walker. If Mr Walker wins, Democrats have a tough night ahead.

Republican governor Brian Kemp is being challenged by Stacey Abrams, the black woman credited with a string of Democratic successes in the state in 2020. Former president Donald Trump has railed against Mr Kemp for nearly two years, and if he wins, it could be a sign that some Republicans are ready to move on from the Trump era.

Make sure to sneak a peek around the same time at Bernie Sanders’ home state of Vermont – one of five states where voters could abolish modern-day slavery.

In Ohio and North Carolina, where polls will close at 19:30 EST (00:30 GMT), Democrats’ expectations are low but their Senate candidates have been surprisingly competitive.

Polls still favour the two Republicans, JD Vance and Ted Budd, but only by slim margins. Both men have been endorsed by Mr Trump, so if Democratic challengers Tim Ryan or Cheri Beasley win, it won’t just deal a serious blow to Republican hopes of winning back the Senate – it could also stunt the prospect of a second Trump run for the White House in 2024.

Winners are expected to be announced quickly in two major races in Florida when its polls close at 20:00 EST (01:00 GMT). Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Marco Rubio are poised for convincing victories and both are seen as potential 2024 presidential contenders.

But all eyes will be on Pennsylvania, where Democrat John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz are locked in a deeply personal fight for the Senate. Mr Fetterman is recovering from a life-threatening stroke, and the convincing lead he once held over his celebrity opponent has evaporated.

Polls will be closing in 15 other states, and Republicans will be watching New Hampshire. It’s a state that Mr Trump lost twice and that is currently represented in Congress solely by Democrats, but rising costs are elevating three Trump-endorsed candidates for the House and Senate.

Meanwhile, voters in Maryland and Missouri – and later in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota – will consider whether to legalise cannabis. If these five states approve the measure, recreational cannabis will become legal in about half the country.

As the clock strikes 21:00 EST (02:00 GMT), polls close in Arizona, the ground zero for 2020 election conspiracies.

As many as 10 Republican candidates across the races here back Donald Trump’s debunked claim that Joe Biden stole the 2020 election. Chief among them is Kari Lake, who if elected as governor could lead radical changes to state voting laws ahead of the 2024 election.

Results will also come in for Democrat-dominated New York, where Republican Lee Zeldin is winning over voters by attacking Governor Kathy Hochul’s record on crime. And in ultra-conservative Texas, Democrat Beto O’Rourke is mobilising voters frustrated with Republican policies and inaction on gun control in an underdog campaign to oust Governor Greg Abbott. Wins for Mr Zeldin or Mr O’Rourke would be colossal upsets.

Pay attention to where voters in Michigan – and in California, Kentucky, Montana and Vermont – fall on ballot questions to protect abortion access. Voters, particularly women, are animated over the rollback of abortion rights and may not fall along the usual partisan lines.

Polls in Nevada – where the cost-of-living crisis is hurting Democrats – close at 22:00 EST (03:00 GMT). Adam Laxalt, the Republican candidate, is well-placed to unseat Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. A win for Mr Laxalt could be the final nail in the coffin for Democratic control of the Senate.

Now you’re either heading to bed or reaching for coffee. It will take days for all the races to be called, and even the results on the night are only projections, not final tallies. So don’t wait up!

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