Election Day 2011: What To Look For Tonight

A Look At Today’s Most Important Races

Today, voters across the country are casting ballots in several important races and voting on several hotly-contested ballot measures. Here are a few of the most important things to be watching tonight when returns start to roll in.

  • OHIO SB5 (Issue 2): Unlike Wisconsin, Ohio has a people’s veto, and today the citizens of Ohio will have their say on SB5, the anti-worker power grab championed by Ohio Governor John Kasich (R), one of the most unpopular governors in America. Polling shows that a major victory for the 99 Percent in Ohio is within reach, but nothing is for sure as conservative groups have dumped in millions of dollars in secret money at the last minute. The final days before the vote have also been marred by multipleinstances of dirty tricks. The outcome of this election could have consequences for the 2012 election as well, with both presidential contender Mitt Romney and U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel having come out in favor of keeping the unpopular anti-worker law on the books. Polls close at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time.
  • Iowa Senate Special Election: Democrats control the Iowa State Senate by a razor-thin 26-24 margin, which has allowed them to stop anti-worker, anti-marriage equality, and other Republican initiatives from being steamrolled through by Gov. Terry Branstad (R) and the Republican-controlled Iowa House. In what was widely seen as a power grab, Branstad appointed a Democratic state senator to a $137,000 a year job on a state board. This move set the stage for today’s special election in the Republican-leaning District 18, which could leave the Iowa Senate tied 25-25 if the Republican prevails. Final polls show the Democrat, Liz Mathis, with a small lead over the Republican candidate, Cindy Golding, who has suffered from disarray within the GOP ranks. While few voters seem to be focused on the issue of repealing marriage equality, outside groups like the Family Research Council, National Organization for Marriage, and the infamous Iowa FAMiLY Leader have spent tens of thousands of dollars in an unsuccessful attempt to inject the issue into the race. Dirty tricks in the form of highly-offensive robocalls against Mathis emerged today as voting got underway. Polls close at 10 p.m. Eastern time.
  • Maine Voter Law: Maine voters have long been able to register to vote on Election Day itself; however, Maine’s new Tea Party Gov. Paul LePage (R) and its GOP legislature did their part in the GOP’s War on Voting by repealing same-day registration (despite the fact that LePage and many of the legislators who voted for the restrictive law had themselves registered to vote using same-day registration). Mainers took things into their own hands, and today they will vote to repeal the GOP’s anti-voting law and reinstate same day registration. As with other races we’re following today, a conservative group dumped in $250,000 in secret money in the waning days of the election to defeat the repeal effort while others have turned to offensive and inflammatory tactics. Polls close at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
  • Mississippi ‘Personhood’ Amendment (Initiative 26): The Magnolia State will vote on a highly controversial measure that would redefine life as beginning at the moment of fertilization. This definition, which is contrary to science, would outlaw all abortions — even in the case of rape, incest, and the health of the mother. It could also ban popular forms of birth control and in-vitro fertilization, among many other negatives consequences — intended or otherwise. The extreme amendment has aroused strong opposition from pro-choice and women’s groups and is even opposed by many staunchly pro-life groups, including the Catholic Church. Similar measures have failed in other states over the years, but with final polls showing a dead heat, Mississippi could become the first state to enact the radical measure. The issue has also become a flashpoint in the 2012 presidential election, with Mitt Romney having expressed his “absolute” support for such a measure. Polls close at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
  • Virginia State Senate: Republicans control the House of Delegates and governorship in Virginia, while Democrats currently control the state Senate. Republicans will need to pick up three seats to gain control of the chamber.  While the recent redistricting in Virginia is believed to be somewhat favorable to Senate Democrats, many of the races are too close to call. Unified control by Republicans could unleash a tidal wave of conservative legislation, including the kind of restrictive voting laws we’ve seen in GOP-controlled states across the country.  Polls close at 7 p.m. Eastern time.
  • Russell Pearce Recall: Arizona state Senate President Russell Pearce has attracted national attention for his leading role in the passage of Arizona’s unconstitutional SB-1070 “papers please” law and for his other extremist views and statements. While this notoriety helped fuel the backlash and recall attempt against Pearce, it may be the efforts of clean election groups like the Public Campaign Action Fund to highlight Pearce’s corruption scandals that ultimately drive him from office. Unsurprisingly, this race has too been marred by dirty tricksPolls close at 9 p.m. Eastern time.
  • Wake County School Board: Most school boards races are sleepy affairs, but not so in Wake County, North Carolina. Last year, Art Pope, a wealthy financier of right-wing causes and board member of the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity front group, spent heavily in Wake County schools elections in order to elect board members who would end the district’s racial integration program. (Pope also spent heavily in the successful effort to flip North Carolina’s state legislature into Republican hands, helping to ensure Republican gains in congressional redistricting.) This year, the Wake County School Board elections have become pitched battles, with some candidates spending hundreds of thousands of dollars — sums previously unheard of in such elections. Polls close at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Lots of other important races are happening today as well, check out this rundown from our friends at Daily Kos for a few more to watch.

Trouble Voting? Dirty Tricks? Tell Us!

Last week, we took a detailed look at the GOP’s War on Voting. This year’s elections are serving as a test run of the restrictive voter laws being passed across the country. If you have trouble voting, received suspicious robocalls, or hear about any other dirty tricks, please drop us a line: [email protected].

Evening Brief: Important Stories That You May Have Missed

We’ve hit a record for billion-dollar disasters in 2011, and the year isn’t even over yet.

With Census data showing increased poverty rates for the elderly, now is not the time to cut Medicare and Social Security benefits.

Envisioning a world without AIDS.

A leading conservative judge ruled today that opponents of the Affordable Care Act can find no support for their case in the Constitution or in Supreme Court precedent.

The National Organization for Marriage is now bullying corporations into defending radical anti-gay extremists.

A .03 percent tax on Wall Street would raise $350 billion over ten years.

Mitt Romney complains federal employees make more than he does.

Are children learning? Not in Texas.

North Carolina still trying to compensate victims of state’s forced sterilization program.

VIDEO: Progressive Champion Keith Ellison (D-MN) Talks Occupy Wall Street

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Advocacy Team