This may be shocking but, I actually have a (Masters) degree in Public Policy with a focus in social policy. So I’m high-key qualified to talk politics and policy. We’ve all seen the clusterf**k that is the presidential race. What most voters fail to understand is that local politics really matter. Who you elect and the measures you pass in your state will affect your day to day life more than the possibility of *shudders* President Trump. And that’s absolutely terrifying, to be clear.
But, local politics don’t get as much media face time as national politics, particularly contentious presidential races. So, I’d like to help you #KnowYourBallot by examining some of the key measures coming up. I live in Atlanta so my analysis will be specific to the state of Georgia. Early voting in Georgia started on Monday, October 17, 2016.
I know this guide is not exhaustive, but hopefully it will help you get started in your own research as you head to the polls. I’d highly, highly recommend using VoteSmart.org to research the historical voting records, positions, and campaign financing of your candidates. Vote Smart covers politicians all over this nation, so you can get hyperlocal for your own neighborhood!
GEORGIA STATEWIDE BALLOT QUESTIONS
- Amendment 1: State Intervention in Failing Public Schools
Cliff Notes: Basically, this would allow the state of Georgia to create “Opportunity School Districts” in communities where schools are “chronically failing.” It should come as no surprise that this includes many schools in South Fulton, Atlanta, DeKalb, and Clayton.
It sounds like it’s an opportunity to help get schools performing well. It actually allows the state to take over local school operations from, yanno, the actual people in the community and the respective school boards. It also would allow the state to have sole control of federal, state, and local funding of schools that are failing. To be clear, failure is measured by the benchmark of standardized tests.
Recommended Vote: NO on Amendment 1
- Amendment 2: Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund
Cliff Notes: This would add additional fees on certain crimes, including maintenance of a brothel, sex trafficking, and sexual exploitation of children. The funds collected would then be used for the long-term care and recovery of child victims
Recommended Vote: YES on Amendment 2
- Amendment 3: Judicial Qualifications Commission Replacement Amendment
Cliff Notes: Changes the JQC from an independent oversight agency to appointment by political appointments. Members of this commission would no longer be appointed by the governor but now by the Speaker of the House, which happens to be the Lt. Governor.
Oh yeah, its actions would become less transparent since the public would now be denied access to a judge’s disciplinary hearing before the JQC. Heh.
Recommended Vote: NO on Amendment 3
- Amendment 4: Dedication of Fireworks Tax Revenue
Cliff Notes: Excise taxes (currently at 5%) collected on the sales of fireworks would now go to the funding of trauma care (55%), firefighter equipping and training (40%), and local public safety purposes (5%). This tax will be paid for by the seller. The seller can choose to include this tax in consumer sales.
Recommended Vote: NEUTRAL on Amendment 4
U.S. SENATE – JOHNNY ISAKSON (R-I) V. JIM BARKSDALE (D)
Isakson is anti-choice, anti-tax, and anti-mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenders. He’s anti-environmental regulation, anti-same sex marriage, and against diversion of social security taxes into private retirement accounts. He does support lax gun control, deportation, adoption of federal education standards by states (think COMMON CORE [of hell]), oh and the Keystone XL pipeline.
Recommended Vote: Anyone but another term of Johnny Isakson.
U.S. HOUSE – ALL 14 DISTRICTS UP FOR ELECTION
Many districts are running unopposed by a member of another major political party. For example, David A. Scott, D-13th, runs unopposed by the republican party.
GEORGIA STATE SENATE
Good News: All 56 seats are up for election in 2016
Not So Good News: Most of the incumbents run unopposed. Basically, Georgia is hella lackluster in competition for state senate seats.
Who’s Running It: Republicans are, and will remain, in control of the state senate. Most Republican incumbents run unopposed.
- Races to Watch:
- District 24 (Augusta, Hartwell, Crawford): Brenda Jordan (D) v. Lee Anderson (R) – The winner will replace retiring State Senator Bill Jackson.
- District 29 (Columbus, West Point, LaGrange, Pine Mountain): Ben Anderson (D) v. Joshua McKoon (R) – McKoon is the incumbent for this district senate seat. McKoon has served on the Ethics, Higher Education, and Insurance and Labor committees. He chairs the Judiciary committee. In 2016, McKoon was endorsed by the NRA. In the same year, he voted YES to the allowing concealed firearms on college campuses, YES to religious officials to decline service to ‘certain’ ceremonies, and to establish English as the official language of Georgia. He also voted in favor of juveniles being forced to out their abortions. In short, McKoon has used his political voice to further the Bigot Agenda.
- District 27 (Cumming): Daniel Blackman (D) v. Michael E. Williams (R-I) – Incumbent Republican Williams voted YEA on the same measures as McKoon mentioned above.
- District 38 (Smyrna, Mableton, Atlanta): Horacena Tate (D-I) v. James Morrow (R) – Sen. Tate has voted no on every key measure presented in Georgia this year, including the authorization of concealed carry on campus and authorization of grants to pregnancy resource centers. Her challenger, Morrow, is an African American Republican. Yes, really. He’s a teacher with no political experience but seems passionate about improving education. Given his experience in the classroom, his potential to be a good fit for education reform in reform can’t be dismissed based on his political affiliation.
- District 42 (Brookhaven, Druid Hills, Candler-McAfee, Decatur, Atlanta): Elena Parent (D-I) v. Kenneth Quarterman (R) – Sen. Parent has voted no on every key measure presented in Georgia this year, in line with her colleagues Sens. Tate and Butler.
- District 43 (Redan, Lithonia, Conyers, Oxford, Covington): Tonya Anderson (D) v. Janice Frey Van Ness (R-I) – Sen. Van Ness voted in line with her republican colleagues, including the authorization to carry concealed on campus. However, she voted against HB 757 that authorized religious officials to discriminate against who they performed ceremonies for. She also voted against forced abortion disclosure for juveniles.
- District 55 (Mountain Park, Snellville, Loganville, Belvedere Park, Redan): Gloria Butler (D-I) v. Annette Davis Jackson (R) – Sen. Butler has voted no on every key measure presented in Georgia this year, in line with her colleagues Sens. Tate and Parent.
- District 56 (Milton, Roswell, Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Sandy Springs): Patrick Thompson (D) v. John Albers (R-I) – Incumbent Republican Albers voted YEA on the same measures as McKoon and Williams mentioned above. He even sponsored SR 675, establishing English as the official language of Georgia.
GEORGIA LOCAL JUDICIAL RACES – PROBATE, SUPERIOR, MAGISTRATE, & STATE
There are, like, 670 candidates for these various positions. Bruh. I highly advise you look up your local candidates by clicking here: Georgia Local Judicial Elections x Jurisdiction.