Demystifying the Ballot

Understanding the Duties & Responsibilities of Our Elected Officials

We’ve all been there…hovering uncertainly over an unfamiliar ballot item. No one you’ve heard of, running for a job you don’t really understand. Sometimes, online research doesn’t really dig up enough info that you’re confident you’re making a well-informed decision. Hey, we get it. That’s why our awesome team put together this guide to help demystify the ballot.


  • U.S. Representative in Congress
    • Serves as one of California’s 53 representatives in the United States House of Representatives.
    • Proposes and votes on new national laws, particularly those that allow the government to spend money and impeach federal officials. 
  • CA Representatives in U.S. Senate
    • Serves as one of the two Senators who represent California’s interests in the United States Congress.
    • Proposes and votes on new national laws.
    • Votes on confirming federal judges, U.S. Supreme Court Justices, and many high-level presidential appointments to civilian and military positions. 
    • Will serve the 6-year term of office beginning on January 3, 2023.

LA City 

How to find your local elections within LA county, based on your address 

City Elections | Los Angeles


  • Official head and chief executive officer of Los Angeles, with veto and emergency powers. 
  • Serves for a four year term and is limited to serving no more than two terms.

City Attorney 

  • Represents the city in civil litigation and provides legal counsel for the city. 
    • May prosecute misdemeanor criminal offenses within the city. (The County District Attorney prosecutes felonies)
  • Serves for four year terms. 


  • The financial  auditor and chief accounting officer of the city. Along with the Treasurer, works to reconcile the city’s cash on hand and obligations.  
  • Analyzes the effectiveness of city departments and oversees the Audit Services, Accounting Operations, and Financial Reporting. 

LA City Council 

  • The governing body of the city of Los Angeles, responsible for enacting laws and authorizing the budget for all departments and agencies.  
  • Composed of 15 members, each councilperson serves four year terms, and is limited to three terms

LAUSD | Board of Education 

  • Responsible for the schools within the 710 square mile district, enrolling nearly 650,000 students from K-12 in approximately 1300 schools and educational centers.

City Ballot Measures 

Click to view the ballot measures on the County website

LA County 

LA County Supervisor 

  • Serves on the five-member governing body of the County of Los Angeles. 
    • Functions as both the County executive and 
    • Will serve for a four year term, and may serve up to three terms. 

Board of Equalizer 

  • Administers property taxes, alcoholic beverage tax, and taxes on insurance companies that operate in California.  


7 Ballot Propositions

  • Proposed state policies placed on the ballot so voters have the opportunity to vote for or against them.

CA State Senator

  • Comprised of 40 members serving four year terms, and limited to three terms.
  • Responsible for writing the laws of the state, as well as the budget 

CA State Assembly Member

  • Along with the Senate, forms CA’s legislative branch, responsible for creating laws and establishing a state budget, and setting tax policy. 
  • Made up of 80 Assembly members serving two year terms, and capped at a maximum of 12 years of service. 


  • As the state’s chief executive officer, oversees most state departments and agencies, and appoints judges.
  • Proposes new laws, approves or vetoes legislation, and submits the annual state budget to the Legislature.
  • Mobilizes and directs state resources during emergencies.

Lieutenant Governor

  • Assumes the office and duties of Governor in the case of impeachment, death, resignation, removal from office, or absence from the state.
  • Serves as president of the State Senate and has a tie-breaking vote.
  • Chairs the Commission for Economic Development; is a member of the State Lands Commission, and the Ocean Protection Council; and sits on the boards of the California university systems.

Secretary of State

  • As the state’s chief elections officer, oversees statewide elections and provides public access to campaign and lobbying financial information.
  • Maintains certain business filings, authenticates trademarks, regulates notaries public, and enables secured creditors to protect their financial interests.
  • Preserves California’s history by acquiring, safeguarding, and sharing the state’s historical treasures.


  • As the state’s chief fiscal officer, serves as the state’s accountant and bookkeeper of all public funds.
  • Administers the state payroll system and unclaimed property laws and conducts audits and reviews of state operations.
  • Serves on the Board of Equalization, the Board of Control, and other boards and commissions.


  • As the state’s banker, manages the state’s investments, and administers the sale of state bonds and notes.
  • Serves on several commissions, most of which are related to the marketing of bonds.
  • Pays out state funds when spent by the Controller and other state agencies.

Attorney General

  • As the state’s chief law officer, ensures that state laws are enforced and investigates fraudulent or illegal activities.
  • Heads the Department of Justice, which provides state government legal services and represents the state in civil and criminal court cases.
  • Oversees law enforcement agencies, including county district attorneys and sheriffs.

Insurance Commissioner

  • Heads the Department of Insurance, which enforces California insurance laws and adopts regulations to
  • implement the laws.
  • Licenses, regulates, and examines insurance companies.
  • Answers public questions and complaints about the insurance industry.
  • Member of State Board of Equalization | Serves on the Board of Equalization, the state’s elected tax commission, which
    • Assesses the property of regulated railroads and specific public utilities, and assesses and collects the private railroad car tax.
    • Oversees the assessment practices of the state’s 58 county assessors
      • Assesses and collects the alcoholic beverage tax, and jointly administers the tax on insurers.

State Courts | Retention Votes for Supreme Court & Court of Appeals

The California Courts have three levels: fifty eight trial courts that reside in each of the state’s counties,, six Courts of Appeals, and the highest court, the California Supreme Court.

CA  Supreme Court | The state Supreme Court serves as the highest court in the state and has discretion to review decisions of the Courts of Appeal in order to settle important questions of law and to resolve conflicts among the Courts of Appeal. The court also must review the appeal in any case in which a trial court has imposed a judgment of death. In addition, the Supreme Court reviews the recommendations of the Commission on Judicial Performance and the State Bar of California concerning the discipline of judges and attorneys for misconduct. The only other matters coming directly to the Supreme Court are appeals from decisions of the Public Utilities Commission. 

Comprised of six associate justices and one chief justice,  the seven justices are appointed by the Governor and subject to retention elections every twelve years. State Supreme Court justices hold statewide office so all California voters participate in Supreme Court retention elections.

CA Court of Appeals | After the trial is completed, if the losing party is dissatisfied with the outcome and believes that the superior court or administrative agency made an error that adversely affected the result, it may ask the trial court judge to overturn the decision or to order a new trial. If the judge denies the request, the losing party may file an appeal in the Court of Appeal. When parties to a case are not satisfied with the trial court’s ruling, they may appeal, requesting that a three-judge panel review the lower court’s decision. 

California has a total of 101 appellate justices, distributed among its six appellate districts and nineteen sub-divisions, based on the jurisdiction where the trial case was heard. Only registered voters within an appellate district are asked to determine if the justices of that district will be retained.

The Courts of Appeal decide questions of law, such as whether the superior court judge applied the law correctly in a case. The Courts of Appeal do not hear testimony or retry cases. An appeal from a superior court judgment is decided based on the record from the original trial or proceeding. The Court of Appeals’ decisions are published if the case establishes a new rule of law, involves a legal issue of continuing public interest, criticizes existing law, or makes a significant contribution to legal literature. Justices are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments.

CA Superior Courts | CA has 58 trial courts, one in each county. In trial (superior) courts, a judge and sometimes a jury hears witnesses’ testimony and other evidence and decides cases by applying the relevant law to the relevant facts in criminal or civil cases adjudicating matters ranging from family, traffic, or criminal cases. The superior courts have nearly 1500 judges who serve six year terms and are elected by voters in their county.  

Retention Election for Appellate Justices 

  • California is one of seven states that use nonpartisan elections to initially select judges (at the trial court level) and then use retention elections to determine whether judges should remain on the bench. Every 12 years, the public votes “yes” or “no” on whether to retain each justice. 
  • In retention elections, justices do not run against opposing candidates. If a justice receives more “yes” votes, the justice may remain in their position. If a justice receives more “no” votes, the justice will complete the current term and then a new justice will be appointed by the Governor.

Still have questions? Connect with us on social media, everywhere @ladefensx.

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