Voters will also decide whether to approve a range of ballot measures, including abortion-related proposals in five states, marijuana legalization in five others and Medicaid expansion in South Dakota.
The races could also help determine the future of American democracy. Numerous Republican nominees continue to question the results of the 2020 presidential election. Some are running for positions, like secretary of state, that directly oversee elections; others will have a say in certifying future voting results.
What to watch for
How will we know where the night is headed? There are some helpful signs to look for:
Tune in around 8 p.m. Eastern: Polling places in several key states will have closed by then, including in Georgia, Virginia, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. (Here’s when polls close and when to expect results.) Watch Virginia and New Hampshire closely; both tend to count votes relatively quickly and could act as bellwethers for the rest of the nation.
Possible signs of a red wave: Democrats won House seats in Virginia’s three swing districts in 2018, during a blue wave. Today, these districts could signal where the rest of the country is going. If Republicans take back two or all three of these seats, their party will likely have a good night. If they take only one, the outcome could be close. And if Republicans lose all three, the polls might have overestimated them. (If you want to look up the results for these races tonight, they are the Second, Seventh and 10th House districts.)
Potential blue defense: In New Hampshire, Senator Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, is up for re-election. Polls favor her by about 3.5 percentage points, according to FiveThirtyEight. If she does better than that, Democrats could have a good night. If she does worse, Democrats could underperform the polls. And if Hassan loses, the party is probably in trouble: If they’re not winning elections in which they’re favored, Democrats are probably doing worse in races that are expected to be close.
“If Democrats are losing there, it doesn’t speak well to Nevada, Arizona and Wisconsin,” said my colleague Reid Epstein, who is covering the midterms.
The remaining key races: Four closely contested elections will likely be critical: Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania. If Democrats lose even two, they probably will give up their narrow hold over the Senate. But we might not know the full results for these elections for days or even weeks.