20 Glossary

Voter Registration

residency requirement the stipulation that citizen must live in a state for a determined period of time before a citizen can register to vote as a resident of that state

Voter Turnout

chronic minority voters who belong to political parties that tend not to be competitive in national elections because they are too small to become a majority or because of the Electoral College system distribution in their state

early voting an accommodation that allows voting up to two weeks before Election Day

voter fatigue the result when voters grow tired of voting and stay home from the polls

voting-age population the number of citizens over eighteen

voting-eligible population the number of citizens eligible to vote


caucus a form of candidate nomination that occurs in a town-hall style format rather than a day-long election; usually reserved for presidential elections

closed primary an election in which only voters registered with a party may vote for that party’s candidates

coattail effect the result when a popular presidential candidate helps candidates from his or her party win their own elections

delegates party members who are chosen to represent a particular candidate at the party’s state- or national-level nominating convention

district system the means by which electoral votes are divided between candidates based on who wins districts and/or the state

Electoral College the constitutionally created group of individuals, chosen by the states, with the responsibility of formally selecting the next U.S. president

incumbent the current holder of a political office

midterm elections the congressional elections that occur in the even-numbered years between presidential election years, in the middle of the president’s term

open primary an election in which any registered voter may vote in any party’s primary or caucus

platform the set of issues important to the political party and the party delegates

political action committees (PACs) organizations created to raise money for political campaigns and spend money to influence policy and politics

super PACs officially known as Independent Expenditure-Only Committees; organizations that can fundraise and spend as they please to support or attack a candidate but not contribute directly to a candidate or strategize with a candidate’s campaign

top-two primary a primary election in which the two candidates with the most votes, regardless of party, become the nominees for the general election

winner-take-all system all electoral votes for a state are given to the candidate who wins the most votes in that state

Campaigns and Voting

ballot fatigue the result when a voter stops voting for offices and initiatives at the bottom of a long ballot

incumbency advantage the advantage held by officeholders that allows them to often win reelection

shadow campaign a campaign run by political action committees and other organizations without the coordination of the candidate

straight-ticket voting the practice of voting only for candidates from the same party

Direct Democracy

initiative law or constitutional amendment proposed and passed by the voters and subject to review by the state courts; also called a proposition

recall the removal of a politician or government official by the voters

referendum a yes or no vote by citizens on a law or candidate proposed by the state government


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