ELECTED OFFICIALS AND THEIR ROLES
The United States is a representative democracy. This means that the people elect individuals to make decisions on their behalf.
When you cast a vote for a candidate, you are voting for the person you want to cast votes or make appointments on your behalf for the duration of their term.
Below you will find basic descriptions of the top elected federal positions and some of the most common state-wide offices.
FEDERAL Elected Officials
STATE Elected Officials
*At the state level, available positions may vary slightly in each state, and the responsibilities of these positions may also have minor differences. Some may also appear under different titles, but hold similar responsibilities, and there may be positions in your state that are not listed. The offices below can serve as a baseline for understanding the variety of people we can cast a ballot for, but when you get ready to vote, make sure to take a look at which you’ll be able to vote on for each election cycle.
The President of the United States serves as the Chief Executive, ensuring that the laws of the U.S. are faithfully executed. This is primarily done by appointmenting of thousands of federal positions, including cabinet positions such as the Secretaries of State, Education, Defense, Health & Human Services, Housing and Urban Development and more. The President also appoints federal and Supreme Court justices, the heads of the CIA and EPA, the Attorney General and more (nominees subject to confirmation by the Senate).
The President is also commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces and has the power to make treaties with foreign governments (which must be approved by the Senate). The President has the power to sign and veto laws passed by Congress and is the driving force behind the annual federal budget.
The Vice President is the second-highest officer in the executive branch of the U.S. federal government, after the President, and may become President in the event the Office of the President becomes vacant.
The Vice President also serves as the president of the U.S. Senate. They may preside over Senate deliberations, but may not vote except to cast a tie-breaking vote.
U.S. Senators are responsible for writing and passing legislation, approving presidential nominees for cabinet positions, federal judges (including Supreme Court justices), Ambassadors and more. They also approve treaties with other nations and serve as jurors and judges for impeachment trials.
REPRESENTATIVE TO CONGRESS
U.S. Representatives to Congress are responsible for introducing bills and resolutions, offering amendments, serving on committees, and voting to pass laws in Congress.
The United States House of Representatives has the exclusive power to initiate all revenue bills, impeach federal officers, and elect the president if no candidate receives a majority of electoral votes.
Governors are responsible for implementing state laws and overseeing the operation of the state executive branch. They are empowered to call special sessions of the Legislature, recommend legislation, and can sign and veto bills. They play a crucial role in the annual state budget process, grant pardons and paroles, and appoint individuals for various positions (these positions vary by state). Governors also ensure their state or territory is prepared for and responds to crises and emergencies.
The Lieutenant Governor is the highest officer of state after the Governor, standing in when they are absent and, in most states, become Governor in the event the Office of the Governor becomes vacant.
Most Lieutenant Governors also preside over their state senate and serve on many committees and task forces.
SECRETARY OF STATE
In most states, the Secretary of State serves as the Chief Elections Official, responsible for the conduct of elections. These responsibilities include the enforcement of qualifying rules, overseeing finance regulation, and establishment of Election Day procedures. The Secretary of State is also Chief Recording Officer, in charge of the custody and preservation of the State archives. They are also responsible for state trademark registration, business registration and regulation, and for the administration of notaries public.
The State Treasurer is the State's head banker and Chief Investment officer. These responsibilities include accounting for the receipt and disbursement of public funds, managing investments, and keeping track of the state budget. They also advise state policymakers on various fiscal and policy issues.
State Auditors conduct financial audits (accounting inspections) of every State department, institution, and agency.
STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL
The State Attorney General is the chief legal advisor and chief law enforcement officer in the state. They are responsible for enforcing state laws, acting as legal counsel to state agencies and legislature, and representing the state in civil and criminal matters.
A federal version of this position also exists. They are appointed by the President and known as the United States Attorney General.
STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION
The State Superintendent of Education oversees the state educational agency and is chief executive officer of the state Board of Education. They are responsible for the administration of the state kindergarten through twelfth grade education program. Their duties can include certification of teaching staff, approval and accreditation of programs, and the distribution of state and local funds.
State Senators are responsible for providing representation to their voters by serving on committees, introducing and voting on laws, and taking part in other special functions such as electing members to the State Supreme Court.
State Representatives are responsible for serving the people of a specific congressional district. They introduce bills and resolutions, offer amendments, and serve on committees.
SUPREME COURT JUSTICE
The Supreme Court is the highest judiciary in the state. Supreme Court Justices are responsible for hearing appeals and deciding on cases from the Court of Appeals and other lower courts.
The Agriculture Commissioner is in charge of the state's agriculture department. They are responsible for overseeing the regulation of the state’s agriculture industry as well as the promotion of state agribusiness.
The Insurance Commissioner is mainly responsible for regulating the state’s insurance industry. Their duties include helping to maintain fair pricing for insurance products, protecting the solvency of insurance companies, preventing unfair practices by insurance companies, and ensuring availability of insurance coverage.