Get Out The Vote! GA Midterm Elections 2018

The Peak

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MIDTERM ELECTIONS APPROACHING 

The midterm elections are fast approaching on TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 6TH and, with most Americans saying that this election is the most important midterm in their lifetime, it is essential that voters are well informed. Not only does this election include the election of state governor, but a whole host of statewide offices, Georgia constitutional amendments and ballot referendums. Here is a brief rundown of the things you may need to know.

As represented on the useful Georgia 2018 elections and voter registration calendar, the final day for voter registration passed on October 9. However, if you have voted previously within the last two election cycles, it is likely you are still active and able to vote. You can check your voter status, voter information and local polling locations online on the Georgia “My Voter Page“. If your status is set to active, you’re good to go. This page also has a link to a sample ballot for the county you are registered in that is very worth checking out prior to voting. You are also able to contact the Georgia elections office by phone at (844) 753-7825 if you have any additional questions or the website isn’t working out for you.

If you don’t wish to wait in a longer line on the general election date, November 6, early voting may be the better option for you. Early in-person voting for the midterm election began on October 15 and ends on November 2. Your “My Voter Page” can show you the closest early voting locations and hours.

MEET THE CANDIDATES 

The statewide offices up for a vote this midterm are the positions of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, State School Superintendent, Agriculture Commissioner, Insurance Commissioner, Labor Commissioner and Public Service Commissioner. Below is a list of the most important position’s candidates and a link to each candidate’s website to learn more about their specific platform and where they stand on the issues:

Another very useful resource for learning about all of the candidates is ballotready.org. After simply typing in your registration address, it displays all of the candidates, both statewide and local, that you will be voting on, as well as tons of basic information about the candidates and their policy platforms.

GET THE ISSUES 

Also on this year’s midterm ballot are five proposed Georgia constitutional amendments and two ballot referendums. The five constitutional amendments are obviously proposals to amend the Georgia constitution, which is much harder to overturn, while the ballot referendums simply amend current law. All of them were referred to the ballot by the legislature. However, some of them are quite confusing in their wording, therefore, below is a brief explanation of each. The AJC has also published a detailed explanation, which will be quoted or paraphrased from in this explanation.

Amendment 1: Land conservation, parks, trails

How it will appear on the ballot:

Without increasing the current state sales tax rate, shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to create the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund to conserve lands that protect drinking water sources and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; to protect and conserve forests, fish, wildlife habitats, and state and local parks; and to provide opportunities for our children and families to play and enjoy the outdoors, by dedicating, subject to full public disclosure, up to 80 percent of the existing sales tax collected by sporting goods stores to such purposes without increasing the current state sales tax rate?

What it would do: This amendment would allow the legislature to allocate up to 80 percent of the existing sales taxes on sporting goods to conservation efforts. The measure would not raise taxes and expires after 10 years. Funds would be used to support state parks and trails, and acquire land for the provision or protection of clean water, wildlife, hunting, fishing, or outdoor recreation.

Amendment 2: Business courts

How it will appear on the ballot:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to create a state-wide business court, authorize superior court business court divisions, and allow for the appointment process for statewide business court judges in order to lower costs, improve the efficiency of all courts, and promote predictability of judicial outcomes in certain complex business disputes for the benefit of all citizens of this state?

What it would do: This proposal would create statewide business courts, and according to advocates is a pro-business and cost-saving measure. However, under this measure judges to these courts are appointed by the governor to five-year terms with the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee and its counterpart in the House currently all trial court and appeals court judges are elected directly by voters rather than appointed. Under current law, presiding judges can already assign complex business cases to special masters with expertise in the subject area.

Amendment 3: Timber tax

How it will appear on the ballot:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to revise provisions related to the subclassification for tax purposes of and the prescribed methodology for establishing the value of forest land conservation use property and related assistance grants, to provide that assistance grants related to forest land conservation use property may be increased by general law for a five-year period and that up to 5 percent of assistance grants may be deducted and retained by the state revenue commissioner to provide for certain state administrative costs, and to provide for the subclassification of qualified timberland property for ad valorem taxation purposes?

What it would do: This amendment is somewhat complicated and has a number of missions. Under a 2008 constitutional amendment, a property tax class was created to allow for the special assessment and taxation of forested land over 200 acres to encourage conservation of the state’s forests. This current proposal would allow the legislature to reassess these properties according to fair market value, rather than as forestlands, when reimbursing local governments for lost tax revenue and allow the state to keep up to 5 percent of these reimbursements for the purpose of administering the program. The proposal also authorizes the legislature to create a new class of timberland property, that is over 50 acres, to qualify for a lower property tax without being required to set it aside for conservation. The amendment contains no provisions for the state to reimburse local governments that lose revenue due to this new land classification.

Amendment 4: Crime victims’ rights

How it will appear on the ballot: 

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide certain rights to victims against whom a crime has allegedly been perpetrated and allow victims to assert such rights?

What it would do: This amendment would add legislation known as “Marsy’s law” to the state constitution and grants specific rights to crime victims. It requires notification of crime victims on hearings and other proceedings in their cases and gives victims the right to demand a court hearing if they feel proper notice has not been given in the case. Advocates say the measure will protect the rights of victims and grant them rights like defendants, however, opponents, like the ACLU, argue it undermines due process.

Amendment 5: Local option sales tax

How it will appear on the ballot: 

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize a referendum for a sales and use tax for education by a county school district or an independent school district or districts within the county having a majority of the students enrolled within the county and to provide that the proceeds are distributed on a per-student basis among all the school systems unless an agreement is reached among such school systems for a different distribution?

What it would do: This amendment, according to the AJC, would “remove the requirement that a county school district and a city school district within the county’s boundaries must agree before calling a referendum to raise sales taxes for education.” The 1 percent sales tax would expire after 5 years.

Referendum A: Homestead exemptions for homes spanning county lines

How it will appear on the ballot: 

Do you approve a new homestead exemption for a municipal corporation that is located in more than one county, that levies a sales tax for the purposes of a metropolitan area system of public transportation, and that has within its boundaries an independent school system, from ad valorem taxes for municipal purposes in the amount of the difference between the current year assessed value of a home and the adjusted base year value, provided that the lowest base year value will be adjusted yearly by 2.6%?

What it would do: This referendum, according to the AJC, would “allow a homestead exemption for homes in jurisdictions such as the city of Atlanta that straddle more than one county.”

Referendum B: Tax exemption for homes for the mentally disabled (technical change)

How it will appear on the ballot:

Shall the Act be approved which provides an exemption from ad valorem taxes on nonprofit homes for the mentally disabled if they include business corporations in the ownership structure for financing purposes?

What it would do: This measure ensures that homes for the mentally disabled are not disqualified from ad valorem tax exemptions, even when corporations are involved, or the housing constructed is paid for by financing from corporations.


Article originally published by The Peak