Ballot questions don’t usually get much attention during election season, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important. They’re actually the highest form of direct democracy, where a simple majority vote by the people determines the outcome on a given issue.
This midterm election, you’ll see several ballot questions: four statewide questions, and some district-specific questions depending on where you live. This guide explains each ballot question, and what it means to vote yes or no.
To see what’s on your ballot this election, head to the Secretary of State website’s My Voter Page.
Statewide Ballot Questions
There are four statewide ballot questions this election: two proposed constitutional amendments, and two referenda. All four measures were approved by wide margins in the Georgia Legislature back in the spring, but they need approval from a majority of voters to become law.
What’s the difference between a constitutional amendment and a referendum? The answer’s in the name: the amendments alter the text of the Georgia state constitution, while referenda change other parts of the law—in this case, both referenda amend Georgia’s tax code.
Proposed Georgia Constitutional Amendment #1: Suspending salaries for indicted public officials
What it does: This amendment, if passed, would withhold pay for high-ranking public officials and legislators if they are indicted for a felony and suspended from office. Read full text and more info here.
Why it’s on the ballot: As the law stands, a public official or legislator who is indicted for committing a felony is automatically suspended from office, but still collects a paycheck for the job while their case moves through court. Calls to change the law began in 2019, when reports emerged that Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck, who was suspended from office after being indicted for a massive fraud scheme, had collected nearly $350,000 in salary during his suspension. Lawmakers rewrote the law this year, and Governor Brian Kemp signed it, but it requires passage by a majority of Georgia’s voters to become law.
A “yes” vote means: You support changing the constitution to suspend the salary of high-ranking public officials or state lawmakers if they are indicted for committing a felony. If the indicted official is cleared of charges, they get reinstated to office with backpay for the withheld payments.
A “no” vote means: You support keeping the law as is, where indicted officials are suspended from serving office, but continue to collect a salary while their case moves through court.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment #2: Tax relief for homeowners hit by natural disasters
What it does: This constitutional amendment would give local governments and school boards the option to provide tax relief to homeowners whose house is damaged or destroyed in a natural disaster. It only applies in areas where the federal government has declared a natural disaster. More info and full text here.
Why it’s on the ballot: When a tornado tore through Coweta County in March 2021, it destroyed or seriously damaged nearly 500 homes. But because those homes had their property value assessed in January, homeowners still had to pay property taxes as if their homes were intact. In response, State Rep. Lynn Smith (R-Newnan) introduced this amendment, which gives local governments the option to provide tax relief to homeowners affected by natural disasters like floods or tornadoes. It passed both chambers unanimously and now awaits a vote from the public.
A ”yes” vote means: You support amending the constitution to give local governments and school boards the authority to grant temporary tax relief to homeowners if their homes are damaged or destroyed by a nationally-declared natural disaster. Local governments wouldn’t have to provide this relief, but the amendment gives them the authority to do so.
A ”no” vote means: You support keeping the constitution as is, in which property taxes are appraised once per year, and remain consistent regardless of a natural disaster’s impact on the home.
Proposed Georgia Referendum A: Tax exemption for timber equipment
What it does: This referendum would allow timber producers to exempt their production and harvesting equipment from ad valorem property taxes. More info and full text here
Why it’s on the ballot: Agriculture equipment is exempted from property taxes in the same way, and sponsors for this law said timber producers should get the same breaks. Georgia leads the nation in timber production, and timber and logging companies play an important role in the health of the state’s forests, planting up to 300 million trees a year. The exemption passed nearly unanimously in the Georgia General Assembly last spring, but requires a majority vote from the public before becoming law.
A “yes” vote means: You support amending the Georgia tax code to exempt timber and logging equipment from ad valorem property tax. Motor vehicles are not included in this exemption.
A “no” vote means: You support keeping the tax code as is, in which timber and logging equipment is taxed as part of a company’s property.
Proposed Georgia Referendum B: Expanded tax exemptions for family-owned farms and for dairy and egg products
What it does: Georgia’s tax code allows family-owned farms to exempt some of their farming equipment from property taxes, and if passed, this referendum would amend that rule in two ways. First, it would extend that exemption to family-owned farms that merge with other family-owned farms, a common practice that allows small farms to share expensive equipment. Second, it expands the list of farm products that are exempted from taxation to include dairy products and unfertilized chicken eggs.
Why it’s on the ballot: Agriculture is Georgia’s leading industry, but family-owned farms struggle to compete with large-scale industrial farms, an issue that’s been compounded by inflation and rising production costs. Lawmakers passed this amendment by wide margins, but passage requires approval from a majority of Georgia voters.
A “yes” vote means: You support amending Georgia tax code to extend the tax exemption to family-owned farms that merge with other family-owned farms, and to include dairy products and eggs to the list of qualified tax-exempt products.
A “no” vote means: You support keeping the tax code the way it is, with no extensions of tax exemptions for merged family-owned farms.
City of Atlanta Only
City of Atlanta Special Referendum: Buying alcohol on Sunday mornings
What it does: This measure, if passed, would allow package stores, groceries, and wine shops to sell alcohol on Sundays beginning at 11 a.m., rather than 12:30 p.m., as the law currently stands. It also extends sales until midnight on Sunday, rather than the current restriction of 11:30 p.m. More info and full text here.
Why it’s on the ballot: You probably remember the very-popular “Brunch Bill” of 2018, which allowed restaurants to start serving alcohol on Sundays beginning at 11 a.m. This referendum would extend those rights to retailers selling alcohol, who weren’t included in the 2018 law. If the law passes, it will be another nail in the coffin for Georgia’s archaic ban on Sunday alcohol sales, which has been steadily eroding since 2011, when the state Legislature authorized local governments to make their own liquor laws.
A ”yes” vote means: You support changing Atlanta’s liquor laws to allow the Sunday sale of beer, wine, and liquor between 11 a.m. and midnight, whether by the drink at a restaurant or by the package at a retailer.
A “no” vote means: You support keeping the law the way it is, which allows restaurants to sell alcohol by the drink beginning at 11 a.m., but allows retailers to begin selling it by the package at 12:30 p.m., until 11:30 p.m.
Ballot Questions by County
Fulton County: Homestead Exemption for some older homeowners
What it does: Homestead exemptions are a common tax tool that reduce the amount of property tax a homeowner owes on their legal residence (these exemptions don’t apply to rental or commercial properties). This proposed exemption would allow homeowners in the Fulton County School District who are over 65 years old, and have lived in the county for at least five years, to exempt $10,000 from their property’s appraised value, reducing the taxes they owe on the home.
Why it’s on the ballot: With Atlanta developing at breakneck pace, Fulton County housing values have skyrocketed, raising property taxes even for longtime homeowners. This homestead exemption is intended to provide some financial relief for elderly, longterm Atlanta residents.
A ”yes” vote means: You support passage of a homestead exemption of $10,000 for Fulton County residents who are 65 years or older and have lived in Fulton County for at least five years.
A “no” vote means: You do not support this homestead exemption.
Gwinnett County: Renew SPLOST sales tax for county projects and developments
What it does: A SPLOST is a penny sales tax that helps county governments fund projects like bridge and road repair. Short for “special purpose local option sales tax,” SPLOST measures put a 1 percent tax on all eligible sales within the county. The revenue from the tax goes toward repairing existing infrastructure and building new facilities for senior services, animal welfare, and first responders. More information on Gwinnett County SPLOST here.
Why it’s on the ballot: Gwinnett voters have approved SPLOST measures regularly since 1985, raising, to date, $1.9 billion for county projects. Each SPLOST measure has a built-in expiration date; this midterm, residents will vote to renew their county’s SPLOST for another six years. Gwinnett County Commissioners expect their 2023 SPLOST to raise about $1.3 billion over the full six-year period.
A ”yes” vote means: You support renewing the Gwinnett County SPLOST for another six years.
A “no” vote means: You support letting the Gwinnett County SPLOST expire at the end of 2022.
Forsyth County: Create TSPLOST for county transportation projects
What it does: A TSPLOST uses the same penny sales tax as a general SPLOST, but the revenue is used only for county transportation projects, including road improvements, sidewalk and trail construction, and other transportation initiatives. More information here.
Why it’s on the ballot: Forsyth has a separate SPLOST measure currently in effect for general county revenue. This TSPLOST, if approved, would create a different 1 percent sales tax, lasting five years, to pay for transportation projects. Forsyth County Commissioners expect it to generate $250 million in transportation revenue over five years.
A “yes” vote means: You support creation of a T-SPLOST in Forsyth County, to last five years.
A “no” vote means: You do not support creation of a T-SPLOST in Forsyth County.