News·6 min read

Our Guide To Every Position You’ll See On Your Midterms Ballot. You’re Welcome.

Person filling in an election ballot
Design: theSkimm | Photo: Getty Images
Sep 1, 2022

ICYMI: it’s midterms season. Which means a lot of federal, state, and local officials are up for election. And while some of the positions that could appear on your ballot are likely to sound familiar, others might have you digging out your middle school civics textbook. But no need to search through dusty bins and boxes – we’ve got everything you need to know. 

Federal level

Representative 

  • Also called: Congressperson 

  • What they do: These are the 435 members of the House.Each one is elected to serve a specific congressional district. Meaning, they advocate for their constituents through proposing and voting on bills, serving on committees, and holding hearings. 

  • Term: Two years

  • Star power: The House is the only legislative body that can intro revenue bills, impeach federal officials ,and elect the president if there is an Electoral College tie. 

Senator 

  • Also called: Congressperson 

  • What they do: The Senate is composed of two senators from each state (100 in total). Whereas House members represent individual districts, senators represent their entire state. So they also spend much of their time advocating for their constituents — by holding hearings, serving on committees, and proposing and voting on bills. 

  • Term: Six years

  • Star power: The Senate has a few exclusive powers, like confirming a president’s nominees for executive and judicial offices, conducting impeachment trials, and providing advice and consent to ratify treaties.

State level

Agriculture Commissioner 

  • What they do: Primarily oversees the state’s agricultural industry and promotes agribusiness (think: state farmers and food and beverage companies). 

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: In some places, this position is also responsible for regulating the state’s animal industry and/or food safety policies. 

Attorney General

  • What they do: They’re in charge of enforcing state laws like abortion bans, overseeing state prosecutors, representing the state in court, and providing legal advice to state agencies and legislatures. 

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: Acts as the state’s lawyer and its top law enforcement official. 

Auditor

  • Also called: Treasurer, controller, or comptroller (who share these duties).

  • What they do: Ensures state and local governments use public funds effectively and legally. They also make sure state agencies aren’t committing fraud. 

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: In some states, they also make sure tax rates are aligned with state laws. 

District Attorney

  • Also called: Prosecuting or state attorney, or a public prosecutor

  • What they do: The district attorney is appointed to represent the state in criminal cases in a specific district. This position decides whether criminal charges are issued, then represents the district in the judicial proceedings. 

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: They can offer plea bargains. 

Governor 

  • What they do: They oversee the state executive branch, issue executive orders, provide policy recommendations, and approve or veto bills that have been passed by the state legislature.

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: Consider this the president — but for a state.

Insurance Commissioner 

  • What they do: The IC is in charge of regulating the state’s insurance marketplace (which includes all types of insurance) and protecting consumers. 

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: In some states, they oversee companies that are doing business in the state. 

Labor Commissioner

  • What they do: Oversees state laws related to labor and the workforce.

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: They ensure that all wages (including minimum wage and overtime pay) are paid to workers. 

Lieutenant Governor 

  • What they do: They stand in for the governor when they leave the state or are otherwise unable to serve. But many of their duties vary from state to state. 

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: This person acts like the vice president — but for your state’s governor.

Natural Resources Commissioner 

  • What they do: In charge of maintaining and protecting a state’s national resources.

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: They protect their state’s parks, forests, and recreation areas.

Public Service Commissioner 

  • What they do: Regulates a state’s essential utility services — including energy, water, and telecommunications. 

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: In some states, they regulate the cable industry too. 

Representative 

  • What they do: Similar to their federal counterparts in the House of Representatives, these state elected officials spend most of their time addressing the concerns of their constituents— by introducing and voting on bills. 

  • Term: Two to four years, depending on the state

  • Star power: They can allocate additional resources to their constituents. 

Secretary of State 

  • What they do: Responsibilities vary depending on the state, but many are the state’s primary record keepers. And, perhaps even more notably, many serve as their state's chief election official. Meaning: they are responsible for administering elections and keeping election results.

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: They hold their state’s seal, meaning they are in charge of putting the seal on official documents. 

Senator 

  • What they do: Like their federal counterparts in the US Senate, these elected officials represent their constituents by introducing and voting on laws.

  • Term: Two to four years, depending on the state

  • Star power: They serve on committees.  

Superintendent of Schools 

  • Also called: The superintendent of public instruction or education, the secretary of education, or the chief school administrator, depending on the state.

  • What they do: They’re in charge of the state's public schools. 

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: In some states, they manage the state’s official library. 

Supreme Court Judge 

  • What they do: They sit on the state's highest court and review appeals for decisions made by lower courts. They decide whether the previous ruling is in line with the state laws and constitution. (Learn more about state Supreme Courts here.) 

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: Consider these people as the state equivalent of a SCOTUS judge.

Local level

County Executive

  • Also called: County mayor 

  • What they do: Is in charge of the executive branch in a county overseeing all departments and agencies.

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: They can also function as a voting member on legislation for an elected county gov. 

County Clerk 

  • What they do: Responsible for maintaining all of the county’s public records.In some states, clerks are also in charge of administering elections — which can include receiving nominations and petitions, preparing ballots, procuring and maintaining voting machines, and training poll workers.

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: They issue marriage licenses and deeds. 

County Commissioners 

  • Also called: County council members or county supervisors

  • What they do: These elected officials act as the legislative branch for a particular county. 

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: In some states, they can control land usage in a county. 

Mayor 

  • What they do: The equivalent of a president — but for a city or town. 

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: Some mayors can appoint and remove department leaders, as well as veto legislation. 

School Board Members 

  • What they do: Establish the goals of a school district and make high-level decisions — including creating and adopting policies and setting the budget.  

  • Term: Varies by state

  • Star power: They can hire the superintendent.

theSkimm

These positions might look like confusing titles on your ballot, but their roles can directly impact your day-to-day life. So before you head to the polls, make sure you know what roles you’ll be voting for.

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