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Election Vocabulary and Definitions

Ballot Checking: Important Terms to Learn Before the Election

If you went to school in the US, you've undoubtedly learned the ins and outs of our government and electoral process — perhaps more than once. But if you're like me, and yesterday's lessons are fleeting like favorable satisfaction polls, you may need to brush up on some important political lingo. Here are some election-related terms you might want to know before you complete your ballot in November.

Caucus: A meeting at the local level in which members of a political party in that area discuss the support of a candidate. During the presidential election, the parties will round up the caucus recommendations to determine each state's nominee. A caucus can also consist of party members — the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, for example — who join together to advance their interests.

Convention bounce: A sharp increase in a presidential candidate's popularity in the days immediately following the party's national convention, which secures the party's nomination.


Divided government: A situation that occurs when at least one chamber of Congress (the House of Representatives or Senate or both) is controlled by the party opposite the sitting president's.

Electoral base: The groups of people who will normally vote for a candidate often out of party loyalty or because of shared gender, ethnicity, religion, geography, ideology, or other variables.

For six more important election terms, just keep reading.

Electoral college: The voter-selected group of electors who cast votes to select the next president and vice president. Each state has the same number of electoral votes as it does members of Congress, and a candidate must win 270 of the total 538 electoral votes in order to win the presidency.

Persuasion activities: Candidate messages (advertisements, campaigning, debates, endorsements, etc.) that are framed in a way to appeal to undecided voters.

Plurality: When the votes received by one candidate exceed the number of votes of any opponent. Plurality is one way of determining the winning candidate even if that candidate does not receive the majority of the total vote.

Protest vote: A vote for a third-party candidate cast to indicate dissatisfaction with the Republican and Democratic candidates.

Swing voters: Voters who are not loyal to any one candidate but could be persuaded to vote either way.

Third party: A political party that is neither Republican nor Democrat but receives a base of support in challenging these parties and influencing the outcome of the election.

Image Source: Shutterstock
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