Down Ballot Races
Secretary of State
In most states, Secretaries of State, known as Secretaries of the Commonwealth in some states, are their state’s chief election official, charged with overseeing election processes. This often includes overseeing compliance with campaign finance laws. These elected officials are critically important to ensuring a free and fair election, regardless of their personal political preferences.
- Note, this position does not exist in Alaska, Hawaii, or Utah.
- Secretaries of State are directly elected in 35 states. In 2022, voters will cast ballots for Secretary of State in 27 states.
Lindsay Langholz, ACS Director of Policy and Programs, speaks with Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson about the importance of Secretaries of State and how listeners can support election integrity in their states.
State Attorney General
State attorneys general (AGs) are their states’ chief legal officers. Their job is to uphold the law and serve the public interest in doing so. They provide legal advice to and represent the state, its government agencies, officers, and legislature. Specific responsibilities differ by state, with attorneys general in many states leading their state’s Department of Justice, akin to how the U.S. Attorney General heads the U.S. Department of Justice and its respective functions, except most state AGs do not have equivalent authority over criminal matters. State AGs routinely engage on civil rights enforcement, consumer protection, health care law, workers’ rights, reforms to the criminal legal system, anti-trust, environmental justice, and other policy priorities that impact our daily lives and communities.
- State AGs are directly elected in 43 states. In 2022, voters will cast ballots for state AG in more than 30 jurisdictions.
“Get to Know Your State Attorney General; Their Work Matters More than You Know,” by Ta’Myrah Hudson, ACS Associate for the Programs and Policy Department
Valerie Nannery, ACS Senior Director for Network Advancement, speaks this week with Lisa Madigan, former state Attorney General for Illinois, about what it means to run for and serve as a state attorney general, and how voters can learn more about this important position before voting this fall.
District or County Attorneys are the chief prosecutors of their jurisdiction and are extremely powerful people in the criminal legal system. They are responsible for the vast majority of criminal prosecutions throughout the country. They decide against whom to press criminal charges and what those charges will be. They also have influence over sentencing and the power to offer and accept plea bargains. District or County Attorneys are directly elected in 47 states.
State Judges and Justices
The overwhelming majority of cases in this country are heard in state courts. Like with federal courts, state courts have a significant impact on nearly every policy issue. Additionally, it is state courts that are responsible for interpreting and upholding the rights and protections provided in state law and in state constitutions, which can provide stronger civil right protections than federal law. This includes on voting rights, reproductive rights, the right to education, labor rights, and more. State court judges and justices are elected by the voters in certain states.
ACS believes our courts should reflect the diversity of the public they serve. Our long-term goal is to build a continuous pipeline of diverse lawyers who can see themselves as judges and are armed with the knowledge and network to become state court judges and justices.