Georgia voters picking state, national races and settling ballot questions

    The center court scoreboard at States Farm Arena provides voters instructions on how to use the touch screen machines at Georgia's largest voting precinct. John McCosh/Georgia Recorder

    The presidential race dominates the news, but Georgia voters will also decide the outcome of campaigns for two U.S. Senate seats, a pair of highly competitive congressional races and whether Republicans will hold onto the state House. Also on the ballot are two seats on the Public Service Commission, the panel that regulates Georgia Power and other utilities.

    There’s also ballot questions and local elections. A record five million Georgians are expected to vote in-person or via absentee ballots.

    Here is a guide to what Georgia voters will see on their ballots. Early voting continues through Oct. 30, the Friday before Election Day.

    U.S. Senate

    Georgia has two U.S. Senate seats up for grabs.

    After Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson stepped down for health reasons last year, Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Atlanta businesswoman Kelly Loeffler. She faces a crowded field in a wide-open competition that includes fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins and Democrat Raphael Warnock, pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

    In the other Senate race, GOP Sen. David Perdue is bidding for a return for a second term by defeating Democrat Jon Ossoff, an investigative journalist. 

    U.S. House of Representatives

    Each of the state’s 14th congressional districts is on the ballot, and with some incumbents not seeing re-election, Georgia will send at least a few new people to Capitol Hill.

    Georgians who live in neighboring 6th and 7th congressional districts in north suburban Atlanta have a chance to vote in two of the most closely watched races in the nation.

    U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath is in a 6th District rematch with former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, who lost the seat two years ago by a little more than 3,000 votes.

    In the 7th district contest, Republican Rich McCormick is campaigning to keep the GOP control seat after Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall decided not to run again. McCormick faces Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, a Georgia State University professor who narrowly lost to Woodall in 2018. 

    State races

    Every one of Georgia’s 236 legislative seats are on the ballot in their districts. 

    The Georgia House is targeted for takeover by state Democrats, who would need to  claim at least 16 more seats to regain control for the first time since 2005. Democrats are buoyed by gains made in 2018, when they increased their numbers in the chamber by 11 seats. 

    Statewide ballot measures

    Constitutional Amendment 1: Georgians can tell state lawmakers that money collected for special funds must be spent as originally intended.

    That would mean fees like the $1 charged to dispose of tires can only pay for clearing illegal tire dumps and other environmental hazards instead of being diverted to the state’s general fund.

    If the amendment passes, legislators still need to pass legislation next year to make the fee dedication a state law.

    Amendment 2: Asks voters if they want to waive the state’s sovereign immunity law that says local and state governments must first agree to be sued in state court before someone can challenge a law’s constitutionality.

    The ballot question has bipartisan support from legislators who want to let Georgians ask state court judges to issue a declaratory judgment when governments exceed their authority.

    Referendum A: Creates a tax exemption for real property owned by charities. This aims to provide a tax break to charitable organizations like Habitat for Humanity who build or repair single-family homes. 

    Stanley Dunlap
    Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.