Who’s Who in Georgia Politics

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

Election Day is Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

The last day to register to vote in the general election is October 5. To register, check your status, find your polling place and more, visit www.govoteGA.org.

Introduction

Elections matter because politicians create laws that help or hurt our families and communities. By getting involved during election season, we can help decide who represents us and let them know the issues we care about.

How to Vote by Absentee Ballot

Our priority is safety for our communities, which is why it is crucial for us to use mail-in ballots when possible. In Georgia, you have to submit an absentee ballot application.

  1. Apply to get an absentee ballot by downloading the ballot application here.
  2. Email it back to your local county elections office. You can also mail it to their physical location (will require a stamp), or deliver it yourself to the office instead. NOTE: If you have a GA state identification card, you can submit your absentee ballot application online here.
  3. Once you receive your absentee ballot, complete all sections, place it in the envelope, seal it and drop it off at a secured locked box at a location in your county. Find the locations here.
  4. You can also mail in your completed ballot to your county location. It is best to use at least two stamps to ensure proper delivery.

Be sure to send off your ballot by October 28th.  Your ballot must be received by 7:00pm on November 3rd in order to be counted.

Who Can 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

The Three Branches of Government

Federal Elected Positions

The executive branch of government carries out laws and creates programs as required by law.

U.S. President

Heads the executive branch of the federal government and is responsible for implementing and enforcing laws. Serves for four years with a two-term (eight-year) maximum.

Key Responsibilities

  • Oversees cabinet-level departments, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Appoints federal judges.
  • Has the power to veto bills passed by Congress. Congress can overturn a veto with a two-thirds majority vote.

What This Means For You

Can issue executive orders in response to emergencies or to direct the action of government agencies, such as those overseeing healthcare, immigration and environmental regulations.

Recommends funding levels and regulations for healthcare, education, domestic violence services and other programs.

Nominates judges for lifetime appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court rules on issues such as equal rights, reproductive health and immigration.

The legislative branch of government makes laws.

U.S. Senator

Each state elects two senators in statewide election for six-year terms. Senate races are staggered, so typically only one senator in a state is up for election at a time. However, both of Georgia’s Senate seats are up for election this year, as one is a special election to fill the seat for the remainder of the six-year term.

Key Responsibilities

  • Makes and passes federal laws.
  • Decides the budget for federal programs.
  • Determines federal tax guidelines.
  • Can propose changes to the Constitution.
  • Has the power to declare war.
  • Provides investigation and oversight for the executive branch and its agencies, including the House of Representatives’ power to impeach federal officers.
  • In addition, the Senate approves the President’s appointments to important positions, including the U.S. Supreme Court and the Cabinet.

What This Means For You

Approves funding levels for federal programs such as Head Start, Medicaid, Cash Assistance, Social Security, relief for victims of natural disasters, military spending, child care, healthcare and domestic violence services.

Creates federal laws, including those governing immigration, healthcare, education, criminal justice, student loan interest rates, labor and environmental regulations.

Provides oversight to the executive branch and its agencies. Oversight includes investigations, impeachment, and Senate confirmation of nominees for judges and executive branch positions.

U.S. Representatives

There are 435 voting members of the House of Representatives. All seats in the House are up for re-election every two years. The number of representatives from each state is based on population. Currently Georgia has 14 representatives.

Key Responsibilities

Same as above.

What This Means For You

Same as above.

Georgia Statewide Elected Positions

Every voter in Georgia can weigh in on these races.

Public Service Commissioner

Georgia has five public service commissioners, elected for terms of six years. Two positions are up for election in 2020.

Key Responsibilities

  • Regulate electric, natural gas, and telecommunications services, including the rates and fees companies charge.

What This Means For You

Regulates the costs that consumers pay for services, based on what they decide is fair and reasonable.

Oversees power companies’ plans for sources of energy, including nuclear and solar power.

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 2020.

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.
  • Can redraw district maps which impact your power to vote and resources allocated to your area.

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

Same as above.

What This Means for You

Same as above.

Local Elected Positions

Not all local positions are up for election this year. Positions on your ballot vary by where you live. Positions in local government are elected by voters in a specific district or city-wide.

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.