The puzzle comes together late Nov. 4 and on Nov. 5.
Wisconsin voters will know whether Democrat Mary Burke will be settling in as governor of the state or they will have more years with Republican Scott Walker at the helm.
U.S. voters will know whether Republicans gained a majority in the U.S. Senate and, as predicted, held the edge in the House.
And voters in states around the country will know how majorities feel about raising the minimum wage, protecting wolves, safeguarding abortion rights and taking a toke or prescribing pot.
A glance at what to watch for in Election 2014:
• turning up the HEAT? The October 15th poll from Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee showed Republican incumbent Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke tied in the race for Wisconsin governor. But the most recent poll released October 29 shows that the dead heat is evaporating. Walker now has 50 percent while Burke is down to 43 percent of likely voters. Experts say party efforts to get out the vote are key, and both campaigns are working to motivate people to vote early. Watch how the returns come in on Election Night.
• WHAT ID? Civil liberties advocates will be monitoring balloting around the state, making sure that no one is turned away for lack of a photo ID. Are poll workers informed? Will campaigns play any tricks?
• SAME SHERIFF IN TOWN? Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke seems certain to win his re-election bid, but it will be interesting to see how many votes get picked up by his opponent, independent socialist Angela Walker, who has campaigned on a social justice platform.
• STATUS QUO? Voters at the state and federal levels will decide who to send to the capitols and which parties will hold majorities. Seventeen Senate seats and 99 Assembly seats will be filled at the Capitol in Madison. Thirty-six Senate seats and 435 House seats will be filled at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Experts predict that after Nov. 4, Republicans will hold majorities in both capitols.
• DEMOCRATIC DRAMA? Democrats head into the election with a 55–45 majority in the U.S. Senate. The party likely will lose seats in Montana and South Dakota and nine other seats are at risk — Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina and West Virginia.
• REPUBLICANS AT RISK? Watch the returns to see how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas fare at the polls. Both are considered vulnerable. McConnell faces Democrat Alison Lundergan and Roberts faces independent Greg Orman.
• WHO’S THE BOSS? In addition to Wisconsin, there are 35 states with races for governor. Twenty-one of those races are considered competitive, including seven toss-ups.
• RAISING WAGES? Voters in some Wisconsin counties will find on their ballot a non-binding question: “Should the state raise the minimum wage in the state to $10.10 per hour?” Where majorities say yes, Burke should do well.
• EXPANDED ACCESS? In some Wisconsin locales, the ballot contains the question, “Shall the next Governor and State Legislature accept available federal funds for BadgerCare to ensure that thousands of Wisconsin citizens have access to quality and affordable health coverage?” Where majorities say no, Walker should do well.
• FIRE UP OR FIZZLE? Alaska could become the third state to legalize marijuana. Polling shows slightly more than 50 percent of voters in the state support the ballot initiative. Meanwhile, Florida voters face a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana and voters in two Maine cities will decide whether to decriminalize possession.
• ON TARGET? Voters in Mississippi will decide a proposed amendment to guarantee in the state constitution a right to hunt and fish. Hunting groups in the state say the amendment is needed to safeguard the sport from animal rights advocates, but animal rights advocates say they aren’t out to ban hunting or fishing.
• NO TARGET? Voters in Michigan will decide whether to overturn a law allowing the state to establish wolf hunting seasons in the Upper Peninsula. The state, like Wisconsin and Minnesota, legalized wolf hunting after federal protections for the animals were eased.
• REPEALING REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS? Tennessee voters will decide on Election Day whether their state lawmakers should have the constitutional authority to enact, amend or repeal statutes regarding abortion, which could lead to new restrictions on reproductive rights in the state.
Check in with on Election Night at www.wisconsingazette.com.