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There Are Other Things To Vote For Besides The Next President

Whether you're #withher, #MAGA or voting third party, there's a lot more on the 2016 ballot that deserves your attention.

Posted on October 31, 2016, at 3:28 p.m. ET

First things first: are you registered to vote? If you're not sure, you can check your status here.

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Your local deadline may have passed, but several states and the District of Columbia allow you to register in person and vote on Election Day, November 8. Check out the details for your state here.

Ready to get to the polls? Great! Let's talk about what's on the ballot besides you-know-who.

BTW, you can look up your local polling place here and check if you need to bring ID or other documents here.
@just_kitty1980 / Via instagram.com

BTW, you can look up your local polling place here and check if you need to bring ID or other documents here.

Down-ballot candidates and measures tend to get a lot less coverage than the presidential race. But the results of these elections can have a huge impact on policy at the federal, state and local level.

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Let's start with Congress, the people who make our federal laws — and can do a lot to make life easier or harder for whoever's elected president.

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Why it matters: All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 34 out of the 100 Senate seats are up for grabs this November. Republicans currently control both chambers. The Democrats aren't likely to take over the House, but the battle for the Senate is expected to be close, with key races in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Republican candidates have faced pressure to denounce Donald Trump after leaked audio revealed the presidential nominee bragging about sexual assault. Some GOP leaders have openly shifted focus from electing a Republican president to maintaining the party's power in Congress.

Check out who's running in your state and Congressional District here. You can look up the voting records of candidates who've already served in Congress here.

Next up: your state legislatures and executives, the people who make and implement policies at the state level.

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Why it matters: Governors do a lot. In most states, they put together the state budget, which funds health care, education, services for people with disabilities and many other things you probably care about. They can also veto bills passed by your state legislature. Your state senators and representatives, in turn, approve the budget and make the state laws. A lot of the issues we grill presidential candidates on play out heavily at the state level, including battles over reproductive rights, LGBT rights, police accountability, minimum wage, drugs and guns.

Voters in 12 states will elect governors, while 80 percent of all state legislative seats nationwide are up for grabs this year. Some states will also vote for lieutenant governor, attorney general and other statewide elected offices.

Get up to speed on who's running in your area here. You can check out candidates' public statements, voting and executive action records here.

You may also have the chance to vote on some state ballot measures, which can get pretty interesting.

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Why it matters: ballot measures ask you to vote directly on proposed policies. Issues on the ballot in several states include marijuana, guns, minimum wage and the death penalty.

Learn more about your state's 2016 ballot measures here.

Voters in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will vote on measures to legalize recreational marijuana use.

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There are also measures on medical marijuana in Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota.

California voters will also decide if the law should require adult film performers to use condoms when they're making porn.

@majorejulian / Via instagram.com

Colorado voters will have the option to update a line in the state constitution that bans slavery and involuntary servitude "except as a punishment for crime."

Amendment T would strike the last part of that sentence.
@ctcircusfreak / Via instagram.com

Amendment T would strike the last part of that sentence.

And the District of Columbia is voting on a referendum to become the 51st state (a decision Congress still has to approve.)

Hillary Clinton supports it; Donald Trump has said "statehood is a tough thing for DC."
@bailiwick_clothing / Via instagram.com

Hillary Clinton supports it; Donald Trump has said "statehood is a tough thing for DC."

You may also be voting for local elected officials this year — like mayors, city council and school board members — and local ballot measures.

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Why it matters: The Leslie Knopes of the world literally run your town and decide how to spend taxpayer funds in your community. Debates going on at the national level also play out in local measures like proposed fracking bans and minimum-wage ordinances.

Research your local candidates and issues here.

Hang in there, we're allllllllmost done. Remember the judicial branch? In many states, you get to vote for the judges who serve in your state courts.

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Why it matters: This is the most puzzling part of the ballot for a lot of voters, but these judges have an arguably more direct impact on people's lives than many other officials. Their job is literally to make decisions, hearing most criminal cases and handing down sentences when juries find people guilty. They also decide civil matters, like child custody disputes.

Aside from a few high-profile cases like Aaron Persky, the California judge widely criticized for sentencing Brock Turner to only six months in jail after he was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, most Americans know very little about the judges we're asked to elect. If you've ever felt tempted to just skip this section at the polls, you're not alone — around a quarter of people who vote for president leave it blank.

Find out who's running in your area here. The National Association of Women Judges Informed Voters project has compiled resources you can use to learn more about the judges on the ballot in your state. Your local media outlets are another place to look for coverage of judicial elections.

Still got questions? Visit your local election office, Vote 411 or Ballotpedia for a non-partisan guide to the elections in your area, and check out Vote Smart, a goldmine for researching elected officials' records.

@jenwoodhouse / Via instagram.com

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