Inside the Vote: Know what is on your ballot before November

Election officials say the presidential race is important but local elections, such as sheriff and county commissioner, likely have more of an impact on your day-to-day life.

It is important to know what other races will appear on your ballot before you go to cast your vote.

Ahead of your polling place temperature check, you should check out what will be on your ballot. Erica Hamilton, DeKalb County Director of Registrations and Elections, says voters in her county can find a list of all the races on their elections website.

"I think voter education is very important you want to make an informed decision," Hamilton told FOX 5.

This November, every Georgia ballot will include the president and vice president and two senate races. For specific ballot information, visit the Secretary of State's My Voter Page.

Log in with your last name, county, and date of birth. Then "click here for sample ballots."

Though some city election information may not be available, Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger says it is important for voters to "think past" just the first contest.

"A lot of people know that there's a presidential race, but there's also your county commissioners. There could be water and sewer board.  Also, there'll be Constitutional Amendments and sometimes you have to really study those. You know, what are they really asking on those issues," Raffensperger told FOX 5. "So, that's something you want to do before you get there." 

The November ballot will include two constitutional amendments and one statewide referendum.

The first amendment would change the Georgia Constitution to allow state lawmakers to dedicate money from taxes or fees, like a tire fee, to a specific purpose rather than the state's general fund.

The second amendment would amend the state constitution to waive sovereign immunity for the State of Georgia and local governments, essentially giving Georgians the opportunity to sue if the government violates their rights.

Both Gov. Brian Kemp and Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed similar measures in the past.

Kemp vetoed House Bill 311 in 2019 and said in his veto statement:

"House Bill 311 would create a waiver of sovereign immunity for claims brought against state government. As Governor Deal correctly stated in his May 3, 2016 veto statement for House Bill 59, “[w]hile the concept of sovereign immunity is relatively simple on its face, it is complex in application . . .” In considering the possible ramifications of a waiver, it is essential that the provisions be appropriately tailored in conjunction with the executive branch to provide pathways for judicial intervention without unduly interfering with the daily operations of the state. For example, this bill bars claims against the state by individuals in a state mental health facility. Until a workable waiver can be crafted, it is important to note that not all suits against the state are barred. The Supreme Court in Lathrop v. Deal, 301 Ga. 408 (2017), Olvera v. Univ. Sys. of Ga.’s Bd. of Regents, 298 Ga. 425 (2016), and Ga. Dep’t of Nat. Res. v. Ctr. for a Sustainable Coast, Inc., 294 Ga. 593 (2014) has provided a path for suits to be brought against the state. Further, the defense of sovereign immunity is also waived for certain actions, including breach of contract and tort claims against state officers and employees while such individuals are acting within the scope of their official duties of employment. For the foregoing reasons, I VETO HOUSE BILL 311."

Putting the language into a Constitutional Amendment circumvents the governor's office and therefore, makes the change veto-proof.  

A Georgia Supreme Court decision in 2017 took away resident's access to the courts in these cases. This would hand the courthouse keys back to Georgians, though they cannot seek monetary damages.

The statewide referendum would give charities that finance no-interest home loans, like Habitat for Humanity, a property tax exemption. Lawmakers say the property will return to the tax rolls once it is transferred to the homeowner.

State law requires polling places to display sample ballots for voters to see, but Hamilton says elections workers cannot help beyond that.

"We're not allowed to answer any of your questions regarding your ballot other than did I get the correct ballot, but tell you what's on the ballot and things of that nature, we're not allowed to do," Hamilton said.

Knowing how to plan to vote will get you in and out of the polls faster and help keep things moving for your fellow voters on election day.

Counties should have their sample ballots ready for voters to review by the end of September.