What's on My Ballot? How Does it Impact Me?
Knowledge equals power. Know what's on your ballot. Minnesotans will elect federal, state, county, and local officials on November 6th. Not sure who is running for what? Go the Secretary of State website and click on “View your sample ballot” to see the list of your candidates and ballot questions.
Learn about the candidates and the issues. Now you know which candidates are running, take some time to work out who stands for the things that are important to you. For more on this, see Election Central’s Inform your vote!
What do these officials do, and why should you vote for them? Your vote matters up and down the ballot! These officials affect many aspects of our lives, and local and state officials have even more influence than federal officials.
What do they do? Your two U.S. Senators serve an important role in passing federal laws, overseeing and funding federal agencies in the Executive Branch, and confirming presidential nominees and federal judges. They serve six-year terms.
U.S. House Representative
What do they do? Your U.S. House Representative represents their constituents in your district and also serves an important role in passing federal laws and overseeing and funding federal agencies in the Executive Branch. All Representatives are up for election every two years.
Governor and Lieutenant Governor
What do they do? The Governor serves as the head of your state with the power to pass executive orders and veto bills that pass the state legislature. The Governor can call a special session of the state legislature. The governor also has pardon power, controls the state prison system, and has the power to appoint, hire and fire, and direct the work of thousands of state employees to preserve civil rights and liberties, and should be held accountable for their work.
Minnesota House of Representatives
What do they do? As members of the state legislature, they introduce and vote on bills, oversee the state budget, provide oversight to the governor and state agencies, and oversee the drawing of legislative districts.
What do they do? The duties of state senators are similar to state representatives, but their districts are twice as large. This year, there is only one state senate race, a special election in District 13 (parts of Benton and Stearns counties near St. Cloud.) This race will determine which political party controls the state Senate for 2019-20.
What they do: “The Attorney General is the chief legal officer of the State of Minnesota. The Office provides legal representation to over 100 state agencies, boards, and commissions and represents the State of Minnesota in state and federal court and administrative hearings. … The Office enforces state consumer protection and antitrust laws, regulates charitable institutions, and advocates for people and small businesses in utilities matters.” Learn More.
Secretary of State
What do they do? In Minnesota, the Secretary of State’s “main responsibilities include overseeing statewide elections; the review, approval, and filing for all businesses and organizations operating in the state; and administering the state's address confidentiality program to help protect those who fear for their safety.” The Secretary of State can make it easier or harder to vote, can influence voter turnout, and assure the security of voter information and election systems. Learn More.
What do they do? Judges supervise trials and make sure the court system runs smoothly. They ensure that legal proceedings adhere to the law and oversee hearings and trials to be sure they are conducted impartially, independently and fairly. You’ll be voting for judges at multiple levels this year, as there are MN statewide contests for both Supreme and Appeals Court, plus local (district court) seats up for election. The Appeals Court judges serve six year terms and serve int three judge panels that travel throughout the state. They review decisions from trial courts, state agencies and local governments. The Supreme Court justices serve six year terms and hears appeals from the Appellate Court, and directly in cases of first degree murder and elections appeals. Learn about the candidates from the Minnesota State Bar Association. The League of Women Voters is another source for information on judicial candidates.
What do they do? County commissioners administer county government. They levy taxes, administer county services like prisons, courts, property registration, public health oversight, county parks, and road maintenance as well as advocating for their counties at the state and federal level. Minnesota counties have at least 5 commissioners; Counties with populations of 100,000+ can opt to have 7 commissioners.
What do they do? A County Attorney in Minnesota serves as the chief prosecutor for all felony crimes committed within the county and for misdemeanor crimes in townships within the county. As prosecutor, they weigh the evidence and make decisions on whether and what changes to bring against a defendant.
What do they do? Sheriffs are law enforcement officers, enforcing the law within a county and helping to shape county law enforcement priorities. They oversee deputies who make arrests, serve warrants, write tickets/citations, patrol roads and assist at accident sites. Duties vary from county to county but usually includes running the county jail and security of county facilities.
What do they do? According to the League of Minnesota Cities: “As the head of the city, the mayor officially speaks for both the government and the community as a whole. In all statutory cities and in most charter cities, the mayor is the presiding officer and a regular member of the city council. The mayor has all the powers and duties for the office of council member in addition to those of mayor.”
City Council Member
What do they do? Your city council member is one of the most local representatives elected, and is responsible for setting rules, ordinances, budgets, and policies that make your city and town a place you and your neighbors want to live.
What do they do? The school board sets the vision, goals, and policies of a school district (within state and federal laws), hires the superintendent, sets the budget, and is the community’s voice for the district.
What do they do? Some cities like Minneapolis have separately-elected boards to manage and develop city parks. The oversee the parks including recreational spaces, services and urban forestry
Soil and Water Conservation District
What do they do? According to the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, “Soil and Water Conservation Districts are local units of government that manage and direct natural resource management programs at the local level. Districts work in both urban and rural settings, with landowners and with other units of government, to carry out a program for the conservation, use, and development of soil, water, and related resources.”
SWCD boards set overall policy and long-term objectives for their district and work with the SWCD staff to see that policies and plans are implemented.
What do they do? Judges supervise trials and make sure the court system runs smoothly. They ensure that legal proceedings adhere to the law and oversee hearings and trials to be sure they are conducted fairly. District courts are courts of original jurisdiction and handle criminal, civil and family court issues.
Ballot Initiatives, Measures, Referendums, and Bonding Issues
What do they do? Some law changes and budget measures are brought directly to voters to decide, via petition or because the vote is mandated by law. Measures may be worded in unusual ways, so be sure to read carefully. Minnesota law requires that voters approve issuing of new bonds for capital improvement and new construction of facilities. School bond measures are separate from municipal bonding. Wording of school bonding measures is always as follows:
"Shall the increase in the revenue proposed by (petition to) the board of ........., School District No. .., be approved?"
Also, under Minnesota law, a warning is put at the bottom of the question for a yes vote by stating:
BY VOTING "YES" ON THIS BALLOT QUESTION, YOU ARE VOTING TO EXTEND AN EXISTING PROPERTY TAX REFERENDUM THAT IS SCHEDULED TO EXPIRE-For extending a referendum
"Passage of this referendum will result in an increase in your property taxes." For new referendums.
"Passage of this referendum extends an existing operating referendum at the same amount per pupil as in the previous year." For existing levies.