Those ‘down-ballot’ races: Don’t be surprised when you vote

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Unless you shut off all media -- TV, radio, social media, even email -- you can’t avoid the barrage of political ads and news coverage in advance of Tuesday’s election.

Watch or read enough of those stories and you’ll hear references to “down-ballot races.” According to Mariam-Webster, these are any races below the national races at the top of the ballot. This year -- the so-called midterm elections because it’s the midpoint between presidential elections -- that would be the U.S. Senate and U.S. House races that are the first things you’ll see at the top of your ballot.

That definition would relegate the matchup of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democrat challenger Charlie Crist (or Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Democrat challenger Stacey Abrams in Georgia) as a down-ballot race, but most of us would consider those marquee matchups that are getting the attention and motivating people to go vote.

But I’m here to show some love to those deep down-ballot races, below the cabinet candidates and state lawmakers.

If you’ve read this far, you obviously pay attention to local media and probably know there’s a sheriff’s contest in Jacksonville and some city council, county commissioner and school board members in various counties. You can learn more about the people running in all those contests in the News4JAX Voter’s Guide.

Talk about down-ballot, what about back-of-ballot?

If you care about taxes (and again, if you’re reading this, you care) two of Florida’s three constitutional amendments have to do with giving certain people property tax breaks. Plus seven counties in Northeast Florida are asking their citizens to approve tax hikes to provide additional funds for their schools. Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Flagler, Nassau and Putnam counties are asking voters to approve various sales or property tax proposals in this election.

There are other referendums, proposed amendments and charter changes on various ballots across our region. They’re all spelled out in our Voter’s Guide in clearer language and in more detail than you’ll see on the ballot.

Races that even those of us in the news business often don’t know much about

Everyone is being asked to vote on justice and judicial retention. A few counties are electing Soil and Water Conservation District supervisors. And the poor voters in St. Johns County are electing members of the Airport Authority, Mosquito Control District, and Port, Waterway and Beach District, too.

Florida Supreme Court justices and appellate court judges are initially appointed by the governor and ratified by the state Senate, then their names must go on the ballot every six years so citizens can remove them from the bench if more than half of the voters think they’re not doing a good job.

Because the judges don’t campaign and can’t advertise, most people know nothing about them and many voters just skip over that part of the ballot. Therefore they almost always are retained.

Want to do your due diligence this year? We have their bios and links to more information about them in the Voter’s Guide.

And what about those conservation districts, authorities and other boards in various counties? Most of these are people willing to serve in unpaid elective offices just to make their communities better. There’s not much information about them anywhere but our Voter’s Guide lists them all and gives a little background on the jobs they do as a bonus.

We hope you’ll never feel we are favoring any particular candidate -- please call us on it if we do -- but we do enthusiastically support voting. We’ll always try to empower our readers and viewers with information that can help you make up your own mind and feel good about participating in one of America’s most important traditions.

See you Tuesday!