Election Day 2023: Governors’ races in Kentucky and Mississippi, abortion in Ohio and Virginia’s legislature are on the ballot

Off-year elections held on Tuesday will decide governors in Kentucky and Mississippi, the fate of abortion and marijuana amendments in Ohio, legislative control in Virginia and mayoral races in two of the nation’s biggest cities. Follow along for the latest updates.

What to know

The Kentucky governor’s race nears the finish line after a hard-fought campaign

Mississippi voters weigh whether to replace the GOP governor with Elvis’ cousin

Virginia’s governor calls the state’s legislative races the ‘most important elections in America’

Ohio voters will decide whether to enshrine abortion rights in their state’s constitution.

President Joe Biden greets audience members after speaking at the Amtrak Bear Maintenance Facility, Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, in Bear, Del.

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Polls close in Kentucky and Virginia

Polls are closing in Kentucky and Virginia in pivotal off-year elections.

Voting closed at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday across Virginia, where Democrats and Republicans have campaigned for legislative control by arguing the other party is wrong on abortion. Polls had also closed across Kentucky by 7 p.m. ET as voters decide whether to give Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear a second term.

Over the next hour, polls will also close in Ohio, where voters are considering a constitutional amendment supported by abortion rights groups.

At 8 p.m. ET, voting closes in six other states, as well as Texas counties in the Central Time Zone.

An hour later, polls close in the rest of Texas’ counties, as well in New York.

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Former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy and former Gov. Nikki Haley during a GOP presidential primary debate, Aug. 23, 2023, in Milwaukee.

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Democrat who endured sex scandal is on the ballot in Virginia

A key race in Virginia’s pivotal legislative elections hinges on a Democrat whose campaign was upended by revelations she engaged in sex acts with her husband on a pornographic website.

Susanna Gibson is running against Republican businessman David Owen in one of the state’s most competitive districts after all 100 seats in the House of Delegates were redrawn to conform with the 2020 census.

Some people wrote off Gibson’s chances after The Washington Post reported in September about her participation in livestreamed sex, which included soliciting payments from viewers in exchange for specific acts.

But Gibson, a nurse practitioner, refused to withdraw from the race and accused Republicans of dirty politics for exposing her conduct. She has largely ignored the allegations and focused on abortion rights, which Democrats said could be in jeopardy if Republicans gain control of the Legislature.

Polls close in parts of Kentucky as voters decide governor’s race

Polls have closed in parts of Kentucky as voters consider whether to give Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear a second term or replace him with Republican Daniel Cameron.

Much of Beshear’s first term was dominated by his response to a series of natural disasters and the pandemic. But his reelection campaign often focused on dire warnings about the future of abortion rights. He portrayed Cameron as too extreme on the issue, pointing to his support for the state’s abortion ban, which lacks exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

Cameron would be the nation’s first Black Republican to be elected governor if he wins. He has reaffirmed his support for the current Kentucky law, which bans all abortions except when carried out to save a pregnant woman’s life or to prevent a disabling injury.

Pole-wielding man charged with interfering with an election

Authorities have arrested a man accused of wielding a flag attached to a fishing pole as he made threatening gestures to voters and damaged a voting machine at a Kentucky polling location.

The 40-year-old Louisville man was charged with interfering with election and tampering and destruction of a voting machine. Both are felony counts under state law. He was also charged with two misdemeanor counts of menacing.

Erran Huber, a spokesperson for the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office, said no votes were compromised and voting continued at the polling location.

The man was taken to the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections for booking. A phone listing for him went straight to voicemail and did not accept messages Tuesday.

Coding error in Pennsylvania county flips some votes

Officials say a coding error in an eastern Pennsylvania county caused votes to be flipped on a ballot question that asked whether a pair of incumbent state appeals judges should be retained.

Voters are deciding whether Pennsylvania Superior Court Judges Jack Panella and Victor Stabile should be retained for additional 10-year terms. Officials in Northampton County say the “yes” or “no” votes for each judge were being switched because of the error. If a voter marked “yes” to retain Panella and “no” on Stabile, for example, it was reflected as “no” on Panella and “yes” on Stabile.

County officials say voters first noticed the error, which affected all the county’s voting machines in use on Tuesday. They plan to correct the error when votes are tabulated.

Officials say the coding error was limited to the county and only affected the judicial retention question.

Mood is somber at polling places in Maine town where 18 were slain

Less than two weeks after 18 people were killed by a gunman in their small New England city, residents headed gingerly cast ballots Tuesday for a slate of municipal races in an election that took on a more subdued and somber tone after the tragedy.

The mood in Lewiston, Maine, was somber. Several shooting survivors remained hospitalized, flags flew at half-staff, and funerals were being held this week for those who died in the attack.

Citing civic duty and a quest to return the community to normal life, Lewiston residents turned out to vote in several high-profile referendums and local races.

“This is a necessity. We have to do this. So we can’t neglect it even though we’ve been through a terrible tragedy,” said James Scribner, 79, a retired teacher and Marine veteran, who was joined by his wife at local school that was transformed into a polling place.

Election websites in Kentucky and Mississippi suffer some glitches

State election websites in Kentucky and Mississippi, two states featuring key governors’ races, experienced some issues early on Election Day.

In Mississippi, voters looking up details about their polling location experienced slow loading times, according to Elizabeth Holbert Jonson, spokesperson for the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office. She said that increased traffic to the website caused the problem and that an additional server was added that “appears to have resolved the issue.”

But the polling place locator was still spotty late Tuesday morning. The Associated Press checked addresses in several cities – including Jackson, Madison, Gulfport, Greenwood and Marks – and it wasn’t working.

“We encourage folks to type slowly in the residential address box,” Holbert Jonson said. “When doing that, the system should auto-populate the addresses.”

In Kentucky, a spike in traffic to the State Board of Election’s website disrupted access for a “short period of time,” according to Michon Lindstrom, spokesperson for the Kentucky Secretary of State’s office. Issues were resolved and officials don’t expect further issues, Lindstrom said.

Abortion and inflation are on Kentucky voters’ minds

Kentucky voters had different issues on their minds as they went to vote Tuesday.

Kayla Long was thinking of abortion as she cast her ballot for Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in Shelbyville, between Louisville and Frankfort, on a warm fall morning.

“I think it’s a woman’s right to choose,” she said. “And I don’t think politicians should be involved in that choice at all.”

The state currently has a near-total abortion ban.

Another Shelbyville voter, Kent Herold, said it’s time for a change at the top of state government. Herold voted for Republican nominee Daniel Cameron. Herold, a registered Republican, criticized President Joe Biden, especially for his handling of the economy amid surging inflation during his term.

“Do you go grocery shopping? Do you buy gas? Let’s be real. I’m not sure he knows what he’s doing,” Herold said.

Ohio is the latest state to determine abortion question

Voters in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, are weighing in on whether to pass a constitutional amendment guaranteeing an individual right to abortion and other forms of reproductive health care.

Mathis Kleckley, a charter bus driver from Reynoldsburg, on Tuesday cast his ballot in favor of Issue 1.

Kleckley said he’s a Christian and that those who share his faith may disagree with him, but he believes that God gives people choices.

“We don’t want the government playing God, either,” he said.

Lester and Sheila Bowling, a married couple from Reynoldsburg, voted no on Issue 1. Sheila Bowling said it’s not a political issue but a moral one.

Lester Bowling, a pastor and veteran, quoted Psalm 139 as saying God formed babies in their mother’s wombs and deserve life at any stage of pregnancy.

Swifties to the polls!

Taylor Swift is encouraging her pack of Swifties to head to the polls on Election Day.

“Voters gonna vote!” Swift wrote in a post to her 275 million Instagram followers, riffing off the lyrics to her hit single “Shake It Off.”

In the post, she encouraged those registered to vote in Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia to “use your voice” and directed them to the nonpartisan voter advocacy group Vote.org for more information.

Vote.org says nearly 40,000 people registered to vote on their website after Swift mentioned the group on National Voter Registration Day in September.

“Taylor Swift is one of the busiest people in the world, but she always has time to stand up for democracy, use her own voice and encourage her fans and followers to use theirs,” Vote.org CEO Andrea Hailey said in a statement Tuesday.

Polls begin to open on Election Day

Polls have begun to open in a few states for off-year elections that could give hints of voter sentiment ahead of next year’s critical presidential contest.

In Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is hoping that his support of abortion rights will persuade voters in his Republican-leaning state to look past their skepticism of the national party and give him another term in office.

Ohio is the only state to consider a statewide abortion rights question this year. Voters there will decide whether to pass a constitutional amendment guaranteeing an individual right to abortion and other forms of reproductive health care.

In Virginia, party control of the state legislature is up for grabs in what Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin is calling the “most important elections in America.” The results will determine whether Republicans are empowered with full state government control or Democrats can continue serving as a bulwark against Youngkin’s agenda.

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