Digital Glossary of Election Related Terms
Welcome to our Multimedia Glossary of terms and concepts related to the Presidential Election. Here you will find both definitions and real world examples of some of the key terms students should understand when discussing Presidential Elections. Resources in this glossary are intended for classroom use, to help students connect terms and concepts with the actual events that occur in an election. Some of our resources reference past elections as examples of the concepts in action. We will continue to add resources to this glossary through the November elections.
1st Amendment: The First Amendment to the United States Constitution defines some of the rights that citizens have. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, and the right to peaceably assemble are all included.
Related Resource: Inside the Voting Booth
Ballot Proposition: A ballot proposition is a voting process where citizens decide if a state or local law should be made, changed, or removed.
Related Resource: Power to the People: Jackie Thrasher
Blue States: States where the Democratic candidate is likely to win are called blue states.
Related Resource: Voting Rights Act (1965) and Resource Materials
Branding Ads: These are messages meant to connect the candidate to the voter. The purpose of branding ads is to make the candidate seem likable, smart, and trustworthy.
Campaign Finance: Campaign finance is all of the money that is raised and spent to bring attention to a candidate in an election.
Candidate: A person running for political office is a candidate.
Caucuses: Caucuses are when voters gather together to listen to a candidates' ideas and to vote. Similar to primaries, caucuses are used by some states to narrow down the group of candidates.
Citizen Responsibilities: Citizens hold the power to elect leaders. Citizen responsibilities include having a basic understanding of how the government works and exercising one's rights in a way that is beneficial.
Related Resource: Voter Registration Training Tool
Civic Participation: Civic participation is the idea that people should be informed and active participants in their communities and in the democratic process.
Civil Rights: These are freedoms granted to citizens by law. Some examples of civil rights are the right to vote and the right to a fair trial.
Constitutional Democracy: In a constitutional democracy, the people are the source of the power of the government. Majority rules, but the rights of the minority are protected. Government power is defined in a constitution. Different parts of the government check and balance each other. Leaders are replaced through regular elections.
Conventions: National Party Conventions are meetings held by each major party, usually in the late summer before the general election. This is when the party officially announces their candidate for President.
Related Resource: Drawing the Lines: Parties Fight for Redistricting Power
Debates: During a debate, the candidates answer questions and discuss their views on important political issues.
Delegates: Delegates are the people selected to vote at their party’s national convention. The delegates pick their party's candidate for the general election.
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Electoral College: The electoral college is key to how the President of the United States is elected. Each state has a number of electors based on the number of state Senators and Representatives. Washington, D.C. has 3 electoral votes. A candidate needs 270 out of 538 electoral votes to win the general election. A candidate gets electors from each state by winning that state’s general election.
Electors: Electors or members of the electoral college cast the votes for President and Vice President. Each elector is selected by his/her party and certified by his/her state.
Related Resource: Honk if You Agree
FEC: The FEC is the Federal Election Commission. The group was created by Congress in 1975 to enforce rules on how candidates pay for their campaigns. This includes making fundraising information available, enforcing limits on campaign contributions, and overseeing the public funding of Presidential elections.
Fundraising: A person running for office gets money to support their campaign by fundraising: raising or collecting, funds or money.
General Election: The general election is held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. This is when voters have the chance to choose who will represent them in the federal government.
"Get out the Vote": The idea is to encourage people to vote. "Get out the Vote" is an effort to get as many voters to the polls as possible, since a candidate wins by getting the most votes.
Grassroots organizing: A volunteer effort at the local level in a community that works independently of a campaign to support a candidate or an issue.
Related Resource: The Ground Game (2008)
Ground game: Promoting a candidate through ads on TV, on radio, online, and in flyers is called the ground game. The ground game also includes speeches that the candidate gives and rallies that the candidate attends.
Natural Rights: Natural rights are fundamental freedoms that all people are entitled to such as life and liberty or freedom.
Related Resource: Conventions (2008)
Nomination: The endorsement of a candidate by a political party is a nomination. It's like an official thumb's up.
Opinion Polling: Collecting information from voters on how they view a candidate and how many votes each candidate can expect to win.
Related Resource: In Iowa, Young Voters Unenthusiastic About Obama
PACs: PACs are Political Action Committees. These are groups that collect and spend money to campaign for a candidate, a ballot initiative or a law. There are specific rules about how much money can be donated to PACs, who can donate to them, and how this money can be spent.
Party Platforms: The position held by a political party on a set of issues is that party's platform.
Political Messaging: The campaign tries to convince voters that a candidate is the best person to represent their interests in government. What they say and how they say it is political messaging.
Political Party: A political party is an organized group of people who share a common view about important issues and the role that government should play.
Popular Vote: The actual number of votes a candidates receives from citizens is the popular vote.
Related Resource: Town Hall Highlights Social Media's Uses as a Political Tool
Primaries: The primary election is the first round of voting. The primaries help each party narrow down their group of candidates.
Red States: States where the Republican candidate is likely to win are called red states.
Related Resource: Eight States That Will Shape 2012 Election
Speeches: Candidates give speeches, or planned talks, at events across the country. Speeches are designed to drum up support for the candidate.
Related Resource: Analyzing the Candidates in the 2012 Presidential Election
Super Delegates: These are the party leaders who attend and vote at the national party convention. Super delegates help to make sure that their nominated candidate is the person the majority of their party wants.
Related Resource: Rich vs. Poor: How Wealth is Impacting the 2012 Elections
Super PACs: Super PACS are Political Action Committees that can raise unlimited campaign money from corporations, individuals, unions, or other groups. Super PACs work independently to advance a candidate or ideals. They are not allowed to give money directly to candidates or work directly with a candidate’s campaign.
Super Tuesday: The Tuesday in February or March when several states hold their primary elections is called Super Tuesday. Many delegates are awarded on this day and it can greatly affect which candidate receives the nomination.
Swing States or Battleground States: States where neither the Republican nor the Democratic candidate holds a strong majority are called swing states or battleground states. Candidates often campaign heavily in these places to try to win these states.
Ticket: The ticket is the combination of one Presidential and one Vice Presidential candidate who are paired together on the ballot in the general election.
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