By CHRIS CLARK
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - As Missouri voters head to the polls on Tuesday, they will be casting ballots in the several races ranging from president to U.S. Senate, governor and Congress. Here are five things to know about Election Day in Missouri:
Polls in Missouri will be open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday. You may want to pick your voting time carefully: Missouri's statewide ballot is bulging with both marquee races for governor and U.S. Senate, and a host of statewide offices and important ballot measures. What's more, an estimated 72 percent of the state's registered voters will cast ballots - or more than 3 million of the state's nearly 4.2 million registered voters. Weather conditions are expected to be dry and mostly pleasant, with temperatures in the high 50s to low 60s.
It was already Missouri's hottest race, the battle for U.S. Senate between incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill and GOP Rep. Todd Akin. Then Akin turned up the heat with his televised gaffe about the ability of women's bodies to shut down their reproductive systems during rape. Even for a state with considerable history in unusual races - think of the 2000 Senate race when voters posthumously elected Mel Carnahan - this one was a doozy and saw mainstream Republicans abandoning Akin after they determined he was unelectable. But as Election Day drew close, Akin appeared to be narrowing the perceived gap between him and McCaskill.
Many believe the Senate race will go deep into the night, and the winner may not be known until Wednesday. Watch the vote out of St. Louis County. Both Akin and McCaskill call the area home, and each has advantages and disadvantages in the region. Adding to the suspense will likely be that area's late-arriving vote count. The St. Louis market is routinely among the last to report in. Our advice: pop some corn, get comfy and keep your eyes on St. Louis County.
Voters will face a thick ballot book: President. U.S. Senate. U.S. House. Governor. Lieutenant governor. Treasurer. Attorney general. Secretary of state. Four ballot measures, including one that asks voters to dramatically increase the tax on tobacco.
With a decidedly wonky veneer, judicial selection may not sound like one of Missouri's most important questions Tuesday. But the ballot measure may be worth a close look. The proposed constitutional amendment would change the makeup of a commission that interviews applicants for the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals and nominates three finalists to the governor, who picks the new judge. One of the measure's strongest proponents says the question, pass or fail, will pave the way for a follow-up question in 2014 asking voters to approve the direct election of judges. Direct elections would effectively transform Missouri's method of picking judges from one of appointment to one in which judges actively campaign to keep their jobs.