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On the ballot: The candidates, the issues, the amendments
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Randy Hall fills out paperwork Friday during early voting at the Hall County Government Center in Gainesville. Early voting totals set turnout records in Hall County and statewide. - photo by Erin O. Smith

See Sunday's print edition of The Times for a look at the presidential candidates' positions on the issues

If you haven’t yet made up your mind on some of the down-ticket races, here’s a quick summary of the candidates’ stances on key issues as well as an explainer of the lengthy ballot questions. Go to gainesvilletimes.com for full stories.

U.S. Senate
Incumbent Republican Johnny Isakson faces Democrat Jim Barksdale and Libertarian Allen Buckley. Read a preview of the race. READ MORE

Isakson’s top issues
• Providing national security by supporting Israel in the Middle East and maintaining free and fair trade agreements
• Create jobs by eliminating some regulations
• Rein in national debt by converting the annual federal budgeting process to a two-year cycle with a built-in requirement for more oversight to identify and eliminate programs that are not useful. Simplify the tax code.
• Secure the country’s borders and avoid providing amnesty to immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally
• Repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with a free-market solution
• Avoid new restrictions on bearing arms. Strengthen mental health care.
Learn more at www.johnnyisakson.com

Barksdale’s top issues
• Pursue peace with diplomacy when possible, ensure trade deals that provide an equal playing field for American workers and enhance our exports
• Rebuild infrastructure like roads, increase access to rural broadband internet
• Audit the federal government to reduce overlapping programs and simplify the tax code while eliminating tax loopholes
• Protect the country’s borders and provide a pathway to legal status and, in some cases, citizenship for immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally
• Improve the Affordable Care Act
• Require all gun buyers pass background checks and prevent those accused of crimes and those suspected of terrorism from buying guns
• Avoid privatizing Social Security or turning Medicare into a voucher program
• Pay women equally; provide paid family and medical leave, paid sick days and comprehensive reproductive health care services
Learn more at www.jimbarksdale.com

Buckley’s top issues
• Avoid amnesty but allow more people to enter country legally
• Address $20 trillion national debt with balanced budgets
• Maintain strong military but reduce the nation’s 800 foreign bases
• Unleash market forces to reduce health care costs
• Protect environment in a practical, cost-effective manner
• Reduce government regulations
• Simplify tax code
• Reform entitlements, which account for 70 percent of federal spending
Learn more at www.buckleyforsenate.com

State House District 30
Incumbent Republican Emory Dunahoo and Democrat Michelle Jones are running to represent areas of South Hall. This race will only appear on ballots in that district. READ MORE

Dunahoo’s top issues
• Change Georgia’s tax system to reduce the state income tax while increasing sales taxes to make up the difference
Continue reforms to criminal justice system, including tightening domestic violence laws and curbing underage drinking
• Support in-state cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana
Learn more at www.emorydunahoo.com

Jones’ top issues
• Improve relationships between law enforcement and minorities
• Provide in-state college tuition students who came to the U.S. illegally as young children
• Expand Medicaid
Learn more at jonesforga.com

Hall County Board of Commissioners District 4
Incumbent Republican Jeff Stowe will face Democrat Angela Thomas Middleton to represent an area including Gainesville. This race will only appear on ballots in that district. READ MORE

Stowe’s top issues
• Keep property taxes low
• Boost affordable housing and economic development on south side of Gainesville
• Protect Lake Lanier and ensure water supply
Learn more at Stowe's Facebook page 

Middleton’s top issues
• Private-public partnership to provide affordable housing
• Workforce development with high school training, technical school and business apprenticeship programs
• Infrastructure including water, sewer and roads to support growth
Learn more at www.electangelathomasmiddleton.com

State amendments
• 1. “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”

What it means: This would create the Opportunity School District, which can essentially take over a local schools that have three years of failing scores on the state’s College and Career Ready Performance Index. READ MORE

• 2. “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?”

What it means: Increases penalties for a variety of sex crimes and directs taxes on adult entertainment directly to help victims of those sex crimes.

• 3. “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?”

What it means: This commission handles reports of judges’ unethical behavior. The amendment would change how members to the commission are appointed, eliminating the state bar’s three appointments and giving the speaker of the house and lieutenant governor two appointments each. The governor’s appointment would also automatically become the chairman.

• 4. “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?”

What it means: Taxes levied on fireworks would be used specifically to fund public safety.

Local referendums
• “Should Hall County pursue, by independent study, options for the potential merger of municipal-county governments?”

What it means: Gauges opinion on whether Hall County should invest in studying a possible merger with cities within the county. READ MORE

 “Shall the governing authority of the City of Lula be authorized to issue licenses to sell distilled spirits for beverage purposes by the drink, such sales to be for consumption only on the premises?”

What it means: Would allow city council members to approve restaurants selling liquor by the drink except on Sundays. READ MORE

Compiled by Shannon Casas, The Times

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