Who’s Who in Georgia Politics

Voting is a public way of saying, “Our families count, and together we can make a difference!”

Photo: Ross Oscar Knight / Typical American Families

Election Day is Tuesday, December 4, 2018.

Georgia has a runoff election on December 4, 2018 for the positions of Secretary of State and Public Service Commissioner. If you were registered to vote by October 9 of this year, you can vote in the runoff, whether you voted in the general election or not.

Elections matter because politicians create laws that help or hurt our families and communities. In 2016, several state primaries and primary runoffs were decided by under 50 votes, so we know that every vote matters.

Election season is an especially important time for us to speak up and be involved in the political process regardless of our citizenship status or whether we are eligible to vote.

Is My Voter Registration on Hold?

Tens of thousands of voters in Georgia this year may have their voter registrations on hold due to a discriminatory state policy passed last year called “exact match”, which requires voter registration info to identically match your driver’s license, state ID or social security card.

If you are not sure of your registration status, check your registration status here. If your voter registration is on hold, you can still vote! Bring a Georgia driver’s license or state-issued photo ID with you when you vote to verify your information. You can also verify your information with your county election office in advance.

More Information

What If I Can't Vote?

To vote, you must be 18 and a U.S. citizen. If you have a past felony conviction, you must complete the sentence and any parole, supervision and court ordered probation, as well as pay all fines associated with the charges, before you can re-register to vote.

Whether you can vote or not, you can make a difference!

  • Encourage and educate voters.
  • Share this guide with your neighbors, friends and family.
  • Write letters to your local newspaper about the issues that matter to you.
  • Visit www.govoteGA.org for information on upcoming events and how to volunteer.

The Three Branches of Government

Georgia Statewide Elected Positions

Every voter in Georgia can weigh in on these races.

Governor

Heads the state executive branch. Elected every four years. Can only serve two terms (eight years).

Key Responsibilities

  • Proposes the state’s annual budget for approval by the state legislature.
  • Power to veto bills passed by the state legislature. A veto can prevent the bill from becoming law.
  • Appoints important positions in state agencies, boards and commissions.

What This Means For You

Can call a special session of the state legislature to deal with a specific urgent issue.

Submits budget that determines state funding priorities, such as education or economic development.

Can sign into law or veto bills, including those relating to taxes for families and healthcare.

Secretary of State

Georgia’s chief elections officer. Elected every four years.

Key Responsibilities

  • Supervises federal, state and local elections, including how people register to vote.

What This Means For You

Helps ensure fair elections for all Georgia voters.

GEORGIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY • Georgia’s legislature, the General Assembly, is made up of two chambers: the Georgia State Senate and the Georgia State House of Representatives. Proposed laws must be approved by both chambers and not vetoed by the Governor, or the Governor’s veto must be overridden by the legislature. The legislature meets every year for forty days. Special sessions can be called by a three-fifths vote of the legislature or by the Governor.

GA State Senate

The state has 56 State Senate Districts. Each district elects one senator. All state Senate seats are up for election in 2018.

Key Responsibilities

  • Initiates state laws in areas such as state taxes, business regulation, education, child care and conservation of natural resources.
  • Shares budget-making responsibilities with the governor.
  • Can override a veto by the governor with a two-thirds majority vote in the legislature.

What This Means for You

Makes decisions about how the state budget is allocated, including how much should support public schools, higher education, or the CHIP program for low-income children.

Sets scope of state Medicaid program, determining how many low-income people receive federal subsidies for health insurance.

Can propose laws to: limit or expand access to state programs, such as healthcare, including reproductive healthcare; set the minimum wage; determine whether to require equal pay for equal work; and address discrimination in the workplace.

GA State House of Representatives

The state has 180 State House Districts. Each district elects one representative. All House seats are up for election in 2018.

Key Responsibilities

  • Initiates state laws in areas such as state taxes, business regulation, education, child care and conservation of natural resources.
  • Shares budget-making responsibilities with the governor.
  • Can override a veto by the governor with a two-thirds majority vote in the legislature.

What This Means for You

Makes decisions about how the state budget is allocated, including how much should support public schools, higher education, or the CHIP program for low-income children.

Sets scope of state Medicaid program, determining how many low-income people receive federal subsidies for health insurance.

Can propose laws to: limit or expand access to state programs, such as healthcare, including reproductive healthcare; set the minimum wage; determine whether to require equal pay for equal work; and address discrimination in the workplace.

Local Elected Positions

Not all local positions are up for election this year. The positions on your ballot may vary by where you live.

County Commissions

County commissions are made up of members elected from districts.

Key Responsibilities

  • Determine policies for all services provided by county agencies.
  • Oversee county provision of community services like county health clinics, public transportation, public housing and libraries

What This Means For You

Adopt a budget that provides financial support to programs and services, such as adult behavioral health services, arts and culture, libraries and senior transportation.

District Attorneys

Key Responsibilities

  • Screen, file and prosecute felony criminal cases, as well as misdemeanor cases in some areas.
  • Decide which cases to pursue and how to pursue them.
  • Provide assistance to victims and witnesses.

What This Means for You

Decide what to charge in criminal cases, including whether to drop or downgrade charges.

Refer cases to drug court or other alternative sentencing or diversion programs.

Decide what to offer to individuals during plea bargaining.

Local School Boards

Key Responsibilities

  • Set policies for the school district that can impact school safety and discipline.
  • Hire and evaluate the superintendent for the district.

What This Means for You

Decide what is taught in local public schools, including history, government and sex education, in line with state law.

Approve the annual budget for submission to the state board of education.

The roles and responsibilities of local city positions differ from city to city. Generally, there are three common forms of local government in Georgia: Mayor-Council (“Strong Mayor”), Mayor-Council (“Weak Mayor”), and Council-Manager.

Mayor-Council (“Strong Mayor”) • A mayor–city council government is one where the city council creates policies, while the mayor acts as the city’s chief executive officer and oversees the city’s daily operations. Atlanta is an example.

Mayor

Key Responsibitilies

  • Ceremonial head of government.
  • Responsible for day-to-day operations of city government.
  • Can hire and fire department heads and other city staff, and appoint advisory boards.
  • May have the power to veto city council decisions.

What This Means for You

Proposes budget priorities, which impact city programs, services and employee wages and benefits.

Can provide leadership as official spokesperson and representative of city government.

City Council

Key Responsibilities

  • Passes policies for the city.
  • May have authority to override mayor’s veto.

What This Means for You

Approves city budget.

Passes policies for the city that can include decisions on public safety, planning and zoning, and community services.

Mayor-Council (“Weak Mayor”) • In this form of mayor–city council government, both the mayor and the city council create policies and ordinances.

Mayor

Key Responsibilities

  • Ceremonial head of government.
  • Shares power with the city council to pass policy.
  • May have authority to appoint department heads, with city council confirmation.

What This Means for You

Can provide leadership as official spokesperson and representative of city government.

Passes policies for the city that can include decisions on public safety, planning and zoning, and community services.

City Council

Key Responsibilities

  • Shares power with mayor to pass policies. May have power to appoint department heads or approve mayor’s appointments.

What This Means for You

Passes policies for the city that can include decisions on public safety, planning and zoning, and community services.

Council-Manager • In a city council–manager government, the mayor and city council create policies and ordinances. A city manager is appointed to implement and administer the council’s policies. Savannah is an example.

Mayor

Key Responsibilities

  • Ceremonial head of government.
  • May be a member of city council.

What This Means for You

Can provide leadership as official spokesperson and representative of city government.

Works with city council to pass policies.

City Council

Key Responsibilities

  • Passes policies for the city.
  • May hire and oversee city manager.

What This Means for You

Passes policies for the city that can include decisions on public safety, planning and zoning, and community services.

City Manager

Key Responsibilities

  • Responsible for day-to-day operations of city government.
  • Hires and fires city government staff.
  • May propose a budget and advise city council on policy issues.

What This Means for You

Proposes budget priorities, which impact city programs, services and employee wages and benefits.