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Glossary of Campaigns and Elections

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15th Amendment
Forbids a state to deny a person the right to vote because of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
19th Amendment
Firbids a state to deny a person the right to vote because of their sex
24th Amendment
Forbids levying of a poll tax in primary and general elections for national office
26th Amendment
Lowers the legal voting age to 18 for all national, state, and local elections
"beauty contest"
A presidential primary in which candiates compete for popular votes, but the results have little or noeffect on the selection of delegates to the national convention, which is made by the party elite.
blanket primary
A primary election system in which each voter receives a single ballot listing each party's candidates for each nomination and the voter can vote for candidates for either party of an office.
bundling
The practice of adding together maximum individual campaign contributions to increase their effect.
caucus
A closed meeting of party leaders or members to select party candidates or to decide on policy.
closed primary
The selection of party candidates in an election limited to party members.
coattail effect
The influence of a popular or unpopular candidate or elected official on the electoral success or failure of candidates on the same party ticket.
credentials committee
A committee used by political parties at their naitonal conventions. The committee inspects the claim of each prospective delegate to determine whether he or she is a legitimate representative of his or her state and can participate in the convention.
crossover voting
The ability to cast a vote in a primary for a candidate from another party.
dealigning election
A general election in which a widely established coalition of voters committed to consistent support for the candidates of one party dissolves and disappears from the electoral horizon.
elector
A person on the partisan slate, selected according to state laws and the applicable political party apparatus, who casts ballots for president and vice president. The number of electors in each state is equal to that state's number of representatives in both houses of Congress.
electoral college
The group of electors selected by the voters in each state and Washington DC. This group officially elects the president and the vice president of the United States.
eligible voter
A voter who meets the legal requirements for the right to vote.
expanding electorate
a factor contributing to low voter turnout. Since voter turnout rates are based on statistics counting all potential or eligible voters, rather than registered voters, an expanding electorate negatively impacts the overall voter turnout rate.
expansion of the franchise
Granting voting rights to more and more members of society.
Federal Election Campaign Act
Controls the raising and spending of funds for political campaigns. Second Act passed imposed additional reforms, including the creation of the Federal Election Commission; providing public financing for presidential primaries and general elections; limiting presidential campaign spending; limiting contributions by citizens and groups; and requiring disclosure of contributions.
focus group
A small group of people in a moderator-led discussion that gathers feelings, opinions, and responses to specific candidates and political or economic issues.
front-loading
The practice of scheduling presidential primary elections during early parts of election campaign to increase the amount of influence that certain states or regions exert on the nomination.
front runner
The presidential candidate considered to have the lead at any given time in an election.
general election
A statewide election usually held shortly after a primary election to fill state and national offices.
gerrymandering
The practice of drawing legislative district boundaries with an eye toward creating a political advantage for a particular party of faction.
Hatch Act (Political Activities Act)
A law that limits contributions to political parties and spending by political parties. Made it illegal for individuals and corporations under contract with the government to contribute to political candidates or to political parties.
independent candidate
Candidate not affiliated with a political party.
indirect election
An election in which voters do not vote to fill the office but vote for the people who will cast the votes to fill the office.
Iowa caucus
The first caucus of the presidential campaign season, which is closely watched and strongly contested.
issue voting
Casting a vote for a candiate primarily due to his or her stand on a particular issue of importance to the voter.
legitimacy
The acceptance of the government's right to rule by the people the government rules. Rises from a shared belief that the government is operating as it should, that is, making decisions by following correct decision-making policies and using power appropriately within a justly defined Constitutional role.
low voter turnout
A situation in which only a small percentage of eligible voters actually cast their votes in an election.
majority method (majority rule)
A principle of democracy asserting that a simple majority, defined as 50 plus one in most cases, should select public officials and determine the policies and actions of their government.
Motor Voter Law
A law that requires state to make voter registration procedures easier and more accessible to citizens.
national party convention
The meeting held every four years by each majority party to select presidential and vice presidential candidates, to write a platform, to choose a national committee, and to conduct party business.
New Hampshire primary
The first primary of the presidential election season. It is watched closely and contested strongly.
open primary
A voting system that permits voters to choose the party primary of their choice without disclosing party affiliation.
platform plank
One of the articles, or statements, in a party platform.
plurality
More voters than any other candidate but less than fifty percent. It's possible to win an election with a plurality (and not a majority) of votes in most national, state, and local elections.
plurality method
A method of determing the winner in nearly all elections in the US, in which the candidate who receives more votes ( a plurality) than any other candidate wins.
plurality runoff method
A method used in some Southern states. If no candidate receives a majority vote, a second, runoff election is held between the two highest vote getters.
political consultant
A paid professional whom a political candidate, party, or campaign hires to develop a campaign strategy and manage the campaign's activities and efforts.
presidential debate
Series of televised debates generally held once the two major parties ( or sometimes three) select their candidates for president.
presidential primary
A statewide election in which a party votes for delegates to their national convention as part of hte process of determing a presidential nomineel
primary election
A preliminary election in which voters narrow the field of candidates for specific offices.
proportional voting system (proportional representation)
An electoral system that allocates seats in the legislature to each party or group approximately equal to its popular voting strength.
realigning election
A general election in which a new coalition of electoral support ( voters) coalesces around a party's candidates on their agenda to form a semipermanent electoral coalition
reapportionment
The reallocation of seats in teh House of Representatives. Takes place only after a census, though if there are no significant population changes, it may not.
referendum
A process in whihc legislative or constitutional proposals are presented to the voters for their approval.
registered voter
An eligible voter who has signed up to vote.
registration
Listing the names of eleigible voters. registrations helps determine that people meet certain legal requirements before voting, such as age, citizenship, and residency.
registration requirements
Legal barriers enforced on all potential voters.
single-member district
An elctoral district from which a single legislator is chosen, usually by a pluarlity vote, in contrast to proportional representation or at-large system.
socieconomic status (SES)
A group of people within the society who share similar income levels and similar types of employment.
soft money
Campaign contributions that get around laws setting maximum campaign contributions because they're given to political parties and party committees to fund general party activities, instead of to a specific candidate.
Super Tuesday
A Tuesday in March in which a large number of presidential primaries, including those of most Southern states, are held.
super-delegate
A party leader or election official who's granted the right to vote at a party's national convention due to the leader's political position, not due to an election at state level.
swing voters
Refers to those voters who are uncommitted to a particular party or candidate up until election time.
telescoping effect
The occurence, in a winner-take-alll system, of a presidential candidate winning in a state by just a few popular votes yet recieving all of that state's electorial college votes.
third party
A political party other than the two main parties in a two-party system. Third parties are usually made up of independent voters and dissatisfied members of one or both major parties.
tracking poll
A poll taken on a nearly daily basis for a candidate as election day nears.
voter turnout
The percentage of citizens who participate in an election by casting a vote.
Voting Rights Act
Eliminated restrictions on voting that had been used to discriminate against African Americans and other minority groups.
winner take all
A voting system in which the candidate who recieves a plurality of hte votes wins.

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