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Definitions of Common Voting & Election Terms
A ballot filed by a voter who cannot be present at their polling place on Election Day. Absentee ballots are often filed by people who are:
- Living abroad
- Serving in the military
- Attending school in a different state than their legal state of residence
A list of candidates and proposed laws that voters mark to make choices. A ballot may be made of paper and marked with a pen or hole punch. Or it may be electronic and voters mark their choices with the push of a button or by touch screen.
A proposed law drafted by citizens and placed on the ballot. Citizens will vote to approve or reject it. Ballot initiatives are usually drafted by groups who are passionate about an issue.
A person who lives, works, or pays taxes in an area that a politician represents.
Someone chosen to represent their town or state at a national political convention. A pledged delegate must support the candidate chosen by the voters they represent. An unpledged delegate is not bound to support a specific candidate. A superdelegate is often a party official or veteran politician. Superdelegates are not required to be chosen or elected to the position. They can support any candidate they choose.
A geographical area that an elected official serves or represents.
Criminal activity that impacts the integrity of an election. Election fraud can include:
- Tampering with ballots
- Other illegal ways to interfere with the result of an election
A person appointed to:
- Monitor the voting process at a polling place
- Make sure voters follow state requirements
- Certify an election was conducted legally
- Give the official vote count
A person who is certified to represent their state's vote in the Electoral College.
The process Americans use to elect the president and vice president. The number of electors a state receives is equal to that state's number of U.S. senators and representatives. Those electors then gather to cast the state's votes in the Electoral College. They vote for the candidate who won in their state during a presidential election.
A final election for a political office with a limited list of candidates. The candidates in the general election are the people who won their party's primary election. General elections happen at a local, state, and national level.
The process to remove a high-level government official such as a:
- Vice president
- Federal judge
On the federal level, the House of Representatives investigates and brings impeachment charges. The Senate holds the impeachment trial. Some states and cities use impeachment to remove governors, mayors, or other elected officials. Other states allow officials to be removed through a recall election instead of impeachment. (see Recall Election).
The person currently in a particular job or political office.
The final candidate chosen by a party to represent them in an election.
A collection of beliefs, legislative goals, morals, and ideals. A political party's platform outlines its principles and plans to govern.
A group organized to raise money or support for a politician or cause.
A group whose intent is to govern and legislate in a specific way based on a chosen set of principles or platform.
The votes cast during an election for a candidate or about an issue. Whichever candidate or decision about an issue gets the most votes has won the popular vote. (U.S. president and vice president are determined by an Electoral College vote.)
Each city, county, or geographic area is divided by address into precincts to assign polling places and gather votes. A precinct can sometimes be called an election district or voting district.
An election held to choose which of a party's candidates will be nominated for the general election. In an open primary, all voters can vote for any candidate they prefer, regardless of the voter’s or candidate's party affiliation. In a closed primary, voters can only vote for a candidate from the party that the voter belongs to.
Type of ballot used to collect a vote when there are questions about the voter’s identity or ability to vote at that precinct. A provisional ballot is counted when the voter’s information is confirmed.
An election for voters to choose whether to remove an elected official from office before the end of the official's term. A recall election can generally take place if enough voters sign a petition asking for one. Rules on the number of voters needed and the officials who can be recalled are different from state to state. Federal officials cannot be recalled, only impeached (see Impeachment.) These officials include:
- Vice president
- Federal judges
Counting the votes again because of a suspected error in totaling them the first time.
A proposed new law or a proposal to repeal an existing law, passed to the voters to approve or reject. Some states require the following to be approved by a referendum before they can be adopted:
- Spending bills
- Bond issues
- Constitutional amendments
An election to fill a vacant position if an officeholder dies, resigns, or is impeached. It is not part of the regular election schedule.
The day when the most states and territories hold presidential primary elections or caucuses. The candidates who win on Super Tuesday are more likely to win their party’s nomination.
The set length of time for someone to serve in an elected office. The president and vice president of the United States serve a four-year term. U.S. representatives serve two years and U.S. senators serve six years.
The total amount of terms that an officeholder is allowed to serve in a particular position. Laws set term limits for elected offices. No one can serve more than two terms as president of the United States. There are no laws about term limits for U.S. representatives or senators. Term limits for governors and other elected officials are different in each state and locality.
The group of candidates that a party is running in an election.
A setting in which candidates for office answer questions from voters. In a town hall-style debate, a moderator helps ensure candidates follow the rules they agreed to.
Interfering with the results of an election by doing illegal things that affect the vote's outcome. Types of voter fraud include:
- Illegal voter registration
- Tampering with voting machines or ballot boxes
- Voter impersonation
- Vote buying
- False advertising about the election date or how to vote
An attempt to prevent eligible people from voting or forcing them to vote a certain way. The attempt may be made by an official, individual, or group. Some voter intimidation tactics include:
- Using verbal or physical threats
- Threatening with weapons or jail time
- Tests involving literacy, property ownership, or citizenship
- Poll taxes
- Other types of intimidation to prevent an eligible person from voting freely
Information about candidates and issues in an upcoming election. Guides can be published by political parties, organizations, or other groups. They may be non-partisan or may favor a particular party or viewpoint.
The Fight for the Right to Vote
How to Become President of the United States
Voting & Election Resources at the SJR State Library
Right to Vote by
Call Number: St. Johns River/St. Augustine Circulation -- JK1846 .K48 2000
Publication Date: 2000-08-22
Most Americans take for granted their right to vote, whether they choose to exercise it or not. But the history of suffrage in the U.S. is, in fact,the story of a struggle to achieve this right by our society's marginalized groups. In The Right to Vote, Duke historian Alexander Keyssar explores the evolution of suffrage over the course of the nation's history. Examining the many features of the history of the right to vote in the U.S.--class, ethnicity, race, gender, religion, and age--the book explores the conditions under which American democracy has expanded and contracted over the years.Keyssar presents convincing evidence that the history of the right to vote has not been one of a steady history of expansion and increasing inclusion, noting that voting rights contracted substantially in the U.S. between 1850 and 1920. Keyssar also presents a controversial thesis: that the primary factor promoting the expansion of the suffrage has been war and the primary factors promoting contraction or delaying expansion have been class tension and class conflict.
The Most Fundamental Right by
Call Number: St. Johns River/eResources eBooks
Publication Date: 2012-10-17
Passed in 1965 during the height of the Civil Rights movement, the Voting Rights Act (VRA) changed the face of the American electorate, dramatically increasing minority voting, especially in the South. While portions of the Act are permanent, certain provisions were set to expire in 2007. Reauthorization of these provisions passed by a wide margin in the House, and unanimously in the Senate, but the lopsided tally hid a deep and growing conflict. The Most Fundamental Right is an effort to understand the debate over the Act and its role in contemporary American democracy. Is the VRA the cornerstone of civil rights law that prevents unfair voting practices, or is it an anachronism that no longer serves American democracy? Divided into three sections, the book utilizes a point/counterpoint approach. Section 1 explains the legal and political context of the Act, providing important background for what follows; Section 2 pairs three debates concerning specific provisions or applications of the Act; while Section 3 offers commentaries on the previous chapters from attorneys with widely divergent viewpoints.
Will Your Vote Count? by
Call Number: St. Johns River/St. Augustine Circulation -- JK1976 .P47 2009
Publication Date: 2009-04-30
Voters in a democratic society should have confidence in the electoral process. Yet, as Americans have witnessed in every election since 2000, voting-the basic act of citizenship--is under assault: technologically complex, subject to manipulation, and fiercely contested on many levels. Documenting the areas of collapse in the American electoral process, this book analyzes ongoing problems in the casting and counting of ballots, as well as new threats: future elections could be compromised by new voting machines that are unreliable, poorly programmed, and prone to tampering. At this critical moment for American democracy, the author issues a call for urgently needed reforms. Our electoral system was not built for high-intensity conflict, high voter turnout, and close elections. This book: * Systematically examines the problems voters may face as they cast a vote and the factors that may prevent a cast ballot from being counted. * Clarifies the degree to which electronic voting machines' security and reliability have been problematic in elections. * Critically analyzes acts of voting intimidation and discrimination in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. * Traces the increasing number of election lawsuits, a trend established as a result of the 2000 election debacle. * Explains the intent of the U.S. founders and fundamental Constitutional principles as they relate to electoral politics at the national level. * Proposes reform measures to reclaim America's electoral system for the people.
Student's Guide to U. S. Elections by
Call Number: St. Johns River/eResources eBooks
Publication Date: 2008-01-01
The first elections reference specifically created to support students and teachers in U.S. government coursesa"
Campaign Talk by
Call Number: St. Johns River/eResources eBooks
Publication Date: 2009-07-01
Roderick Hart may be among the few Americans who believe that what politicians say in a campaign actually matters. He also believes that campaigns work. Even as television coverage, political ads, and opinion polls turn elections into field days for marketing professionals, Hart argues convincingly that campaigns do play their role in sustaining democracy, mainly because they bring about a dialogue among candidates, the press, and the people. Here he takes a close look at the exchange of ideas through language used in campaign speeches, political advertising, public debates, print and broadcast news, and a wide variety of letters to the editor. In each case, the participants choose their words differently, and this, according to Hart, can be a frustrating challenge to anyone trying to make sense of the issues. Yet he finds that the process is good for Americans: campaigns inform us about issues, sensitize us to the concerns of others, and either encourage us to vote or at least heighten our sense of the political world. Hart comes to his conclusions by using DICTION, a computer program that has enabled him to unearth substantive data, such as the many subtle shifts found in political language, over the past fifty years. This approach yields a rich variety of insights, including empirically based explanations of impressions created by political candidates. For example, in 1996 Bill Clinton successfully connected with voters by using many human-interest words--"you," "us," "people," "family." Bob Dole, however, alienated the public and even undermined his own claims of optimism by using an abundance of denial words--"can't," "shouldn't," "couldn't." Hart also tracks issue buzzwords such as "Medicare" to show how candidates and voters define and readjust their positions throughout the campaign dialogue. In the midst of today's increased media hype surrounding elections, Americans and the candidates they elect do seem to be listening to each other--as much as they did in years gone by. Hart's wide-ranging, objective investigation upends many of our stereotypes about political life and presents a new, more bracing, understanding of contemporary electoral behavior.
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