In addition to the presidency, Democrats are striving for another goal this year: retaking the Senate.
Given a cheap card defending Republicans, Democrats are hoping to flip a number of battlefield seats in states like Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina. Only 12 Democrats are up for re-election this year, as are 23 Republicans.
If Democrats gain control of the Senate, that move would have a significant impact: under a Joe Biden administration, the upper chamber could compromise or impair the legislature's ability to advance ambitious legislative priorities. And if President Donald Trump stays in office, the Senate could serve as further control over his administration.
Republicans currently have a 53-47 majority in the Senate. That means Democrats will likely have to move five seats to get to 51, taking into account the potential loss of Senator Doug Jones in Alabama, who is widely viewed as vulnerable. (If Biden wins, the Democrats could keep a four-seat majority as Vice President Kamala Harris can act as the tiebreaker.)
Due to the surge in mail-in votes this cycle, it may take a while to know exactly who is winning in multiple states and which party is in control of the Senate, as these ballots take longer to be counted. So Vox (and other media outlets) will be on the phone all night and the following days.
The earliest polls close at 6 p.m. ET, while the last few states close at midnight ET (Hawaii and parts of Alaska) and 1 p.m. ET (the rest of Alaska). Vox broadcasts live results provided by our friends at the decision desk. (You can also see live results for the presidential race here and the house races here.)
See important races
There is one Democrat-held seat that largely favors Republicans, while there are several other GOP-held seats that Cook identified as a mistake or a tendency towards Democrats. The Democratic seat likely to flip is Alabama while the most controversial Republicans are Arizona, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, Iowa, Georgia, Montana, and South Carolina.
The following races are some of the most competitive races of the cycle:
Alabama:: Senator Doug Jones, the most vulnerable Democrat in the Senate, seeks to fend off a challenge from former Auburn University soccer coach Tommy Tuberville, who has been closely associated with Trump. Tuberville is widely popular to win given the state's conservative lean and the special circumstances that were to be expected with Jones' election victory in 2017.
UPDATE: Tommy Tuberville (R) won the race in the Alabama Senate.
Colorado:: Senator Cory Gardner competes against well-known former Governor John Hickenlooper in a state where the Democrats have been making steady progress for years. Gardner has stressed his work on bipartisan priorities like funding land protection and immigration reform, but his connection with Trump could doom him with swing voters in an increasingly left-wing state.
UPDATE: John Hickenlooper (D) won the race in the Colorado Senate.
North Carolina:: Senator Thom Tillis is another Republican whose loyalty to the president is returning to hurt him in the general election among independent voters and suburban women among a broadly diversified electorate. His opponent, veteran Cal Cunningham, also dealt with an extramarital affair scandal in the weeks leading up to the election, but this does not appear to have affected his election leadership.
Arizona:: Martha McSally is running again for a seat in Arizona to confirm her Senator nomination, this time against former astronaut Mark Kelly. Many of the factors that thwarted McSally's run in 2018 have only just become clearer: moderate Republicans who previously pulled away from Trump – and candidates who joined him – continue to do so. And Latinx voters who were previously democratically oriented are further expanding their share of the electorate.
Maine:: Senator Susan Collins faces her biggest challenge to date from Maine House spokeswoman Sara Gideon, who is known in the state for her work in the fight for renewable energy legislation. Collins has tried to distance himself from Trump – repeatedly refusing to say who she will vote for in the elections and voting against his youngest Supreme Court candidate, Amy Coney Barrett – but her support for some of his priorities , including a vote for Justice Brett Kavanaugh could be enough to lead to their defeat.
Iowa:: Senator Joni Ernst came across as an outsider who would hold Washington accountable for excessive spending, but now that she is the incumbent she is unsettled about her proximity to the president and his harmful trade and ethanol policies. Meanwhile, real estate developer and challenger Theresa Greenfield has underscored her moderate credibility and industry knowledge in the state.
Correction, 6:30 p.m. ET: This post has been updated to accurately reflect poll closing times in Alaska and Hawaii.
Are you helping keep Vox free for everyone?
The United States is in the middle of one of the most momentous presidential elections of our life. It is important that all Americans have access to clear, concise information about what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives and the lives of their families and communities. This is our mission at Vox. However, our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism is resource intensive. Even if the economy and the news advertising market recover, your support will be a vital part of keeping our resource-intensive work going. If you've already contributed, thank you. If you don't, please help everyone understand these presidential elections: Contribute from as little as $ 3 today.