No Off Years: What’s at Stake in This Week’s Elections

A polling location in Sterling, Va. (Jahi Chikwendiu / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Tuesday, Nov. 7, is the last day for voters in several states to head to the polls to vote in a number of off-year elections. While they may be lower-profile, some of these races are still deeply consequential.

Here’s where we’ll be watching:


In Ohio, voters will decide whether or not to add an amendment to the state’s constitution that enshrines the right for individuals to make their own reproductive health decisions—including about abortion. Reproductive rights advocates are urging Ohio voters to vote YES on Issue 1 to protect reproductive freedom. 

But in typical fashion, Republicans are using every dirty trick in the book to sabotage the measure—despite the fact that recent polls show a majority of Ohioans support Issue 1.

In August, a Republican-controlled elections board approved ballot language that differs significantly from the language of the actual amendment, including substituting the phrase “unborn child” for “fetus.” Polls show majority support for the amendment—though the number in favor drops to 52 percent from an initial 68 percent, when voters were shown the newly Republican-altered version of the ballot text. The amendment only needs a simple majority to pass.

The good news is, Democratic-leaning urban and suburban counties have already seen significant turnout in terms of early voting. But abortion advocates are taking nothing for granted.

Ohio Issue 1 is about “medical care,” Dr. Mae-Lan Wang Winchester, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist in Cleveland, told Ms. “It’s also about personal decision-making, keeping your medical decisions private, not needing permission from the government to do what you and your doctor feel is best for you.” A ‘yes’ on Issue 1 keeps “all these random strangers who should have nothing to do with your medical care—it keeps them out of that decision.”


In Virginia, state House and Senate elections will determine whether Republicans take control of the state’s legislature, allowing them further leeway to push Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s agenda—which includes an abortion ban and reversing the state’s 2020 vote to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. 

“We are operating at a slim margin,” said state Sen. Jennifer Caroll-Foy on a recent episode of Pod Save America. “and we have a Republican governor auditioning for his presidential bid. He’s made a promise to ban abortion throughout Virginia. … We are the last Southern state without an abortion ban since Roe fell.”

A Republican trifecta in Virginia would “undo all the amazing progress Democrats have made,” said Carroll Foy—work that included expanding Medicaid, repealing the death penalty (the first state in the South to do so), passing common-sense gun legislation, authorizing a teacher pay increase and making Virginia the 38th and final state needed to enshrine the ERA in the U.S. Constitution.

Carroll Foy continued, “Abortion is on the ballot in Virginia. Book banning is on the ballot. If these things happen, it will empower other purple states to believe it can happen in their state as well—so now we’re all at risk. We’re all in danger. It is exceptionally important we show this country what Virginia can do.”


Pennsylvanians will vote to choose a new member for the state supreme court. The primary candidates are Democrat Daniel McCaffery, who supports abortion rights, and Republican Carolyn Carluccio, who is anti-abortion. The court’s current makeup leans Democrat 4-2.

Following the Dobbs decision, which devolved abortion access rights to the states, state supreme courts wield significant influence over the protection—or restriction—of abortion access.

Abortion is currently legal in Pennsylvania. The state bans abortion after 23 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy, and has some other restrictions on abortion access.


Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is running for reelection in this deep-red state that Donald Trump carried twice. Beshear is running against Republican Daniel Cameron, who succeeded him as state attorney general.

As attorney general, Cameron played a large role in the investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor. In 2020, Cameron’s office concluded the use of force by the Louisville Metro Police Department officers that led to Taylor’s death was “justified” under Kentucky law.

Abortion is completely banned in Kentucky. Beshear has called the ban “extremist” for not allowing exceptions in cases of rape and incest. And a few months before the fall of Roe, he vetoed a proposal banning abortions after 15 weeks. Cameron, on the other hand, supports the state law.


In this GOP stronghold, Democratic challenger Brandon Presley seeks to unseat Republican Gov. Tate Reeves as governor.

Many Mississippians have lost confidence in Reeves over concerns about a long-running welfare scandal in the state, in which Republicans in power “prioritized federal grant spending on pet projects over people,” according to Mississippi Today.

“This is often what happens when you have a political party, whether it’s Republican or Democrat, so dominating a state that they think they’re invincible, that they can do anything,” said Doug Jones, a former U.S. senator and U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.

Aisha Nyandoro, CEO of Springboard to Opportunities, summed up the scandal recently during a hearing of the Work and Welfare Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means: “‘Non-assistance’ funds went to paying for horse stables, rather than keeping funds in the ‘basic assistance’ category to help families pay for necessities like diapers for babies or food for families living in poverty.”

Abortion is completely banned in Mississippi; neither Presley nor Reeves support abortion rights.

You may also like: Front and Center, a groundbreaking series in Ms. that offers first-person accounts of Black women living in extreme poverty in Jackson, Miss., who are taking part in the Magnolia Mother’s Trust which gives recipients a guaranteed income of $1,000 per month for 12 months.

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.

About and

Katherine Spillar is the executive director of Feminist Majority Foundation and executive editor of Ms., where she oversees editorial content and the Ms. in the Classroom program.
Roxanne Szal (or Roxy) is the managing digital editor at Ms. and a producer on the Ms. podcast On the Issues With Michele Goodwin. She is also a mentor editor for The OpEd Project. Before becoming a journalist, she was a Texas public school English teacher. She is based in Austin, Texas. Find her on Twitter @roxyszal.