Words to Know

  • Absentee - An absentee ballot is a ballot used to cast an absentee vote. An absentee ballot is used by someone who cannot vote in-person to mail or drop off their ballot instead. An Absentee ballot is a type of mail-in ballot.
  • Amendment - An amendment is a change made to a bill as it makes its way through the government's legislative branch to add too or remove from it. Amendment also refers to the improvement, correction, or revision to the US or State Constitutions.
  • Ballot - A ballot is the paper or electronic form on which voters cast their votes.
  • Bicameral - Bicameral refers to the division of a legislative body into two separate houses, branches, or chambers.
  • Bill - A bill is a draft of a proposed statute presented to a legislature, but not yet enacted or passed and made law.
  • Blanket primary - In a blanket primary, voters choose one candidate for each office on the ballot, regardless of their affiliated party. For instance, a voter might select a Democratic candidate for one office and a Republican candidate for another. The winner for each party then goes on to a general election.
  • Canvass - Canvassing is the act of directly contacting constituents to persuade them to support a cause or candidate.
  • Caucus - A caucus is a meeting of party members to select candidates, elect convention delegates, and establish the party's policy position on specific issues.
  • Constituency - A legislator's constituency refers to the state/district/community they were elected to represent. Constituents are those who work, live, or pay taxes in the area of the legislator.
  • Convention - A convention is a formal meeting of leaders of a political party to vote on candidates and adopt the party's platform and principles and rules for the next election cycle, including the procedure for selecting the presidential candidate 4 years later.
  • Concede - Conceding is the act of a losing candidate publicly yielding to a winning candidate after an election, after the overall result of the vote has become clear.
  • Darkhorse - A Darkhorse is a candidate running for office for whom little is known or for whom expectations are low, but who then unexpectedly wins or succeeds.
  • Decriminalize - To decriminalize something is to eliminate criminal penalties for or remove legal restrictions against it. Civil penalties may still apply.
  • Delegate - A delegate is someone chosen to represent others (usually a district) at a political convention to vote on a political candidate.
  • Dominion Machine - A Dominion Machine is the machine used to scan and count your ballot in Georgia. 
  • Down-Ballot - Down Ballot is a term used to describe races that are near the bottom of the ballot; local races, county races, and lesser-known statewide races are usually considered down-ballot. Some voters neglect to vote down-ballot because they don't know who the candidates are and choose instead to leave those races unmarked.
  • Early Voting - Early voting is available in every county in Georgia every weekday starting October 12 until the Friday before the election. Counties must have at least one early voting location, but many larger counties have multiple. Unlike on Election Day, voters can vote at any early voting location instead of being required to vote at the location in their precinct.
  • Electoral College - The Electoral College was established by the Constitution to indirectly elect the President. Electors are selected to represent a state and they, in turn, vote for the Presidential ticket. Electoral College counts are reapportioned every ten years following the census. Less densely populated states have more Electoral College representation per capita than densely populated states.
  • Electorate - An electorate is a voting group. This can be the "youth electorate," the "Republican electorate," or simply the broad "electorate." 
  • Election Official - Election Officials are nonpartisan employees who administer and oversee elections. State Election Board members rule on changes and rules in state election policy. Local county registrars and supervisors register voters and count ballots. The Secretary of State manages elections statewide. Poll Workers usually only work a few days of the election to run polling locations and voting machines.
  • Endorsement - An endorsement is the act of giving public approval. In electoral politics, this usually entails a celebrity, politician, or community leader giving their support to a candidate in their campaign for a position.
  • Exit poll - An exit poll is performed by asking voters who they voted for after they leave the polling place. No voter is required to disclose who they voted for, as this is confidential information. Exit polls are often used to predict victors in states and races before the actual results of an election can be revealed.
  • Franchise - Commonly known as suffrage, franchise is the right to vote in public, fair elections. Disenfranchisement is the act of taking away that right.
  • General Election - General elections are elections in which the winner takes office. In America, they often occur in November for partisan races where a Republican and a Democrat oppose one another. November 3 is the general election date in 2020.
  • Gubernatorial Election - A gubernatorial election is an election of the Governor of a state.
  • Incumbent - An incumbent is a person who is currently in office.
  • Lame-Duck - The "Lame-Duck" period refers to the window where a new politician has been elected, but the person currently holding the position is still finishing their term. For example, when a new president is elected, the current President is a "Lame Duck" president until the incoming President is inaugurated.
  • Legalize - To Legalize is to make something (that was previously illegal) permitted by law. 
  • Nonpartisan Elections - A nonpartisan election is an election where candidates do not run as members of a political party. No party affiliation will be shown on ballots.
  • Mail-in Ballot - "Mail-in Ballot" is a broad term that refers to any vote that is sent by mail. An absentee ballot is a specific type of Mail-in ballot used when a voter cannot vote in person for any reason. 
  • Midterm election - Midterm elections are held around the midpoint of the President's term and allow voters to elect representatives, governors, and other officials. 
  • Open/closed primary - In an open primary, any registered voter can vote in a party's primary. In a closed primary, only voters who are registered with that party may vote. Note that you can choose which party's primary you vote in an election with open primaries, but you may only vote in one.
  • Political Action Committee (PAC) - PAC is a popular term for a political committee organized to raise and spend money to elect or defeat candidates. Most PACs represent business, labor, or ideological interests.
  • Partisan - A partisan is a committed member of a political party who strongly supports their party's policies and is reluctant to compromise with their political opponents. Partisan can also be an adjective describing something that was created or decided along party lines.
  • Party Platform - A Party Platform is a formal set of goals supported by a political party or individual candidate.
  • Plank - Plank is the term given to the individual components of a political platform. 
  • Plurality vs. Majority - A "plurality vote" means that the winning candidate only needs to get more votes than a competing candidate. A "majority vote" means that candidates are elected only if they receive a majority of the votes. 
  • Poll - A poll is an election or a survey of people's opinions.
  • Polling Place - A polling place is where voters cast their ballots in elections.
  • Precinct - A precinct is a voting district. It is the smallest unit into which electoral districts are divided into most states.
  • Presidential Election - In a presidential election, the President and Vice President of the United States are elected. This happens every 4 years.
  • Primary Election - In a primary election, members of the same political party compete to be elected as the party's official candidate in the general election. 
  • Ratify - Amendments to the US Constitution require ⅔ of states to ratify, or approve them, to go into effect.
  • Reapportionment - Reapportionment is the redistribution of legislative seats based on new population data from the US Census.
  • Redistrict - Redistricting is the process of drawing new lines for political boundaries.
  • Recall election - A recall election, also known as a recall referendum, recall petition, and representative recall, is a process by which voters can remove an elected official from office before their term ends through a direct vote. There must be some sort of evidence of wrongdoing of misconduct for the recall process to take place in Georgia. In Georgia, the number of signatures required for a recall election for a state officer is equal to at least 15 percent of the number of electors who were registered to vote in the preceding election for that office. For a recall election of local officers or state officers whose electoral districts encompass only a part of the state, valid signatures equal to at least 30 percent of the number of electors who were registered to vote in the preceding election for that office are required.
  • Referendum - A referendum is a policy question, as opposed to a candidate that has been put up to be decided by voters. 
  • Register - Registering is the process by which an eligible citizen fills out an application to be able to vote. In Georgia, you can register to vote here
  • Runoff election - A runoff election is a second general election conducted to determine who will be elected to office among the top vote-getters in the first general election. Runoffs occur when no candidate receives a majority of the votes in states that require candidates to obtain a majority to win. Georgia does conduct general election runoffs for select federal and state-level offices. 
  • State House, Senate, and Legislature - Just like the United States Congress, Georgia has a state legislature called the Georgia General Assembly that is responsible for making the laws that govern people in the state. The Georgia General Assembly is divided into the State Senate and State House of Representatives. Every citizen in Georgia is represented by one member of the State Senate and State House. 
  • Suffrage - Suffrage refers to the right to vote in political elections. Throughout United States history, different disenfranchised groups have led protests to earn their suffrage. 
  • Superdelegate - A Superdelegate is a Democratic Party member who casts a vote to determine the party's presidential nominee, but is not elected by voters to do so. Superdelegates are made up of party leaders and elected officials. 
  • Term limit - A term limit is a legal restriction that restricts the number of times an elected official can hold a particular office. For example, there is a two-term limit on the US President, so they can only have two 4-year terms total or 8 years as President. 
  • Ticket - A ticket is a group of candidates that a party is running together in an election. For example, the President and Vice President run on one Presidential Ticket. 
  • Voter Fraud - Voter Fraud is illegal interference in an election. Voter fraud can be done in various ways, including voting under a fake name or voting more than once in an election.
  • Voter Suppression - Voter suppression tactics are laws, administrative rules, and other attempts to prevent people from voting. This can be done in many ways, from directly throwing away ballots to enacting discriminatory voter ID laws. Georgia has come under fire for supposed attempts to suppress votes in the past.
  • Write-in Candidate - A write-in candidate is someone whose name is not printed on the ballot, but campaigns by asking voters to vote for them by writing their name on their ballot.