Vote on or before November 8!: Voting is the most fundamental way to exercise your political power. By voting, we decide who shapes the public policies that affect our lives and which ballot measures become law.
Be prepared to vote for all questions on the ballot. While the Presidential election is getting the most attention, there will be a lot more to decide on the ballot this year, including who will represent you in the state legislature. In Georgia, voters will also be asked to decide on 4 amendments to the state constitution.
We’ve put together the following post to help you prepare to vote on the constitutional amendments that will be on your ballot. We have attempted to provide neutral information and links to a variety of views, so that you can make an informed decision about the issues at stake. (If you have a resource or link to recommend we add to better represent all points of view, please email it to [email protected]).
Take note that in addition to the statewide constitutional amendments, your ballot may have local questions that you need to learn about as well (download your sample ballot from the state’s My Voter Page here.)
Why are these questions on the ballot? The four constitutional amendments were placed on this year’s ballot due to legislation passed during the 2015-2016 state legislative session, which had to receive a two-thirds majority vote in both the state House and Senate. You can click on the link to the original legislation listed under each amendment to see how your own legislators voted on the issues (look under the section of the web page titled “Votes”.)
- “Here’s what 4 proposed constitutional amendments could mean for Georgia” – AJC
- Proposed Constitutional Amendments on the 2016 Georgia Ballot – WABE
- Ballotpedia summary
- Families First Ballot Presentation
- State Rep. Stacy Abrams’ (Democrat) endorsements
- Don Cole (Republican) endorsements
- WSB TV People to People interview with LWVGA
- NAACP endorsements (update!)
Amendment 1: Creating an Opportunity School District
Ballot Title: “Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement.”
Ballot Question: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”
Explanation: Amendment 1 would allow the creation of an Opportunity School District (OSD), for state intervention in schools deemed to be “chronically failing.” The OSD would be a new state agency with a new superintendent, who would be appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate. The OSD superintendent would have broad power in terms of selecting and approving staff, approving curriculum, deciding which State Board of Education rules to follow, and expending state, federal, and local funds appropriated for the schools.
Schools that have received an “F” grade for three or more consecutive years are the ones that would be deemed “chronically failing” under the new OSD rules. The OSD can take over up to 20 schools per year, and can have a total of up to 100 schools. A school would be required to be a part of the OSD for at least five consecutive years, unless it scores above an “F” for three years in a row.
- Senate Resolution 287 (legislation that placed the amendment on the ballot) and Senate Bill 133 (legislation that goes into effect if voters approve the amendment)
- Ballotpedia summary
- “7 things to know about Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District” – AJC
- Georgia Leads on Education (For)
- Georgia Federation of Teachers (Against)
- Op Ed – AJC (For)
- Op Ed – AJC (Against)
Amendment 2: Funding services for child victims of sex trafficking
Ballot Title: “Authorizes penalties for sexual exploitation and assessments on adult entertainment to fund child victims’ services.”
Ballot Text: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow additional penalties for criminal cases in which a person is adjudged guilty of keeping a place of prostitution, pimping, pandering, pandering by compulsion, solicitation of sodomy, masturbation for hire, trafficking of persons for sexual servitude, or sexual exploitation of children and to allow assessments on adult entertainment establishments to fund the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund to pay for care and rehabilitative and social services for individuals in this state who have been or may be sexually exploited?”
Explanation: Amendment 2 would create the Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund, as well as a commission to oversee the Fund. The Fund would be used to provide rehabilitation services, including housing, health care, education, and counseling, to victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. The commission would be responsible for allocating funds to nonprofit organizations that provide these services.
The money for the Safe Harbor Fund would come from a $2500 fine on convicted traffickers and an annual fee of $5000 or 1% of gross revenue (whichever is greater) on adult entertainment establishments, such as strip clubs. The Constitutional Amendment would be needed in order to have the ability to place the fees that are collected into a dedicated fund.
- SR 7 (legislation that placed the amendment on the ballot) and Senate Bill 8 (companion legislation);
- Ballotpedia summary
- “Amendment 2: Help for sex trafficking victims has broad political support” – Georgia Health News ;
- Safe Harbor Yes Campaign (For)
- Op Ed – Macon Telegraph (Against)
Amendment 3: Judicial oversight
Ballot Title: “Reforms and re-establishes the Judicial Qualifications Commission and provides for its composition, governance, and powers.”
Ballot Text: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to abolish the existing Judicial Qualifications Commission; require the General Assembly to create and provide by general law for the composition, manner of appointment, and governance of a new Judicial Qualifications Commission, with such commission having the power to discipline, remove, and cause involuntary retirement of judges; require the Judicial Qualifications Commission to have procedures that provide for due process of law and review by the Supreme Court of its advisory opinions; and allow the Judicial Qualifications Commission to be open to the public in some manner?”
Explanation: The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) is responsible for investigating alleged misconduct of judges, and for disciplining and/or removing judges who have been found guilty of misconduct. It was created in 1972, and currently consists of two judges selected by the Georgia Supreme Court, three lawyers appointed by the State Bar of Georgia and two citizens appointed by the Governor.
Amendment 3 proposes abolishing and then reinstating and restructuring the JQC. The main change would be in how members are appointed—the proposed amendment would increase the number of political appointees from 2 to 5. Appointments would be made by the Speaker of the House, the Lieutenant Governor, and the Governor.
Resources – UPDATED:
- HR 1113 (original legislation)
- Ballotpedia summary
- “In voters’ hands: Future of agency that judges GA judges” – AJC
- Georgia House of Representatives JQC Study Committee Video Archives
- Georgians for Judicial Integrity (Against)
- “Judges with Grudges” – NPR’s This American Life (update!)
Amendment 4: Trauma care funding
Ballot Title: “Dedicates revenue from existing taxes on fireworks to trauma care, fire services, and public safety.”
Ballot Text: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the proceeds of excise taxes on the sale of fireworks or consumer fireworks be dedicated to the funding of trauma care, firefighter equipping and training, and local public safety purposes?”
Explanation: Georgia legalized the sale of consumer fireworks in 2015, in spite of opposition from some public health and safety groups. Amendment 4 would allocate the revenue generated from sale “excise” taxes on fireworks to fire safety, trauma care, and public safety services. Amendment 4 calls for allocating 55% of revenue toward the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission, 40% toward the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council for improving firefighters’ training and equipment, and 5% of revenue toward local governments for public safety purposes. The Constitutional Amendment would be needed to achieve this, because excise taxes normally go into the general fund as opposed to being dedicated to specific purposes.
- SR 558 (legislation that placed the amendment on the ballot) and SB 350 (companion legislation)
- Ballotpedia summary
- An article about the earlier legislation that legalized fireworks and created the excise tax – AJC