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US Election Glossary

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

Election Glossary

Absentee Ballot

A ballot filed by a voter who cannot be present at their polling place on Election Day.


A list of candidates and proposed laws that voters mark to make choices

Ballot Initiative

A proposed law drafted by citizens and placed on the ballot.

Campaign Finance Disclosure

A report explains how a candidate spends the money raised for the campaign and the source of money.


A person who lives, works, or pays taxes in an area that a politician represents

Delegate, Convention (Unpledged, Pledged, and Super)

Someone chosen to represent a town or state at a national political convention.

District (also Ward)

A geographical area that an elected official serves or represents

Election Official (also Poll Worker, Election Clerk, Election Judge)

A person appointed to:

Monitor the voting process at a polling place

Make sure voters follow state requirements

Certify an election was conducted legally

Give the official vote count


A person who is certified to represent the state's vote in the Electoral College

Electoral College,

The process Americans use to elect the president and vice president.

General Election

The final election to choose a winner for a political office.


The person currently in a particular job or political office

Midterm Election

The federal election for members of Congress held between presidential elections


The final candidate chosen by a party to represent them in an election

Open seat

An election in which an incumbent is not seeking re-election

Political Action Committee (PAC)

A group organized to raise money or support for a politician or cause

Political Party

A group whose intent is to govern and legislate in a specific way based on a chosen set of principles or platform

Polling Place (Polling Station)

The location in which you cast your vote. It may be schools, churches, community centers, or other central public places.

Popular Vote

The votes cast during an election for a candidate or about an issue. Whichever candidate or decision about an issue gets the most votes wins the popular vote

Precinct (Election District, Voting District)

Each city, county, or geographic area is divided by address into precincts to assign polling places and gather votes. A precinct can sometimes be called an election district or voting district.

Primary Election (Open and Closed)

An election held to choose candidates for the general election. In an open primary, all voters can vote for any. In a closed primary, voters can only vote for candidates from the party that they belong.

Provisional Ballot

Type of ballot used to collect a vote when there are questions about the voter's' identity to vote at a precinct.

Recall Election

An election for voters to choose whether to remove an elected official from office before the end of the official's term.


Counting the votes again because of a suspected error in totaling them the first time


A proposed new law or a proposal to repeal an existing law, passed to the voters to approve or reject.

Registered Voter

Someone who is qualified and is in the voter list

Sample Ballot

An example of what the official ballot will look like.

Special election

An election to fill a vacant position if an officeholder dies, resigns or is impeached.

Super Tuesday

The day when most states and territories hold presidential primary elections.


The set length of time for someone to serve in an elected office.

Term Limit

The total amount of terms that an elected representative is allowed to serve in a particular position.


The group of candidates that a party is running in an election


An election where any candidate may win.

Town Hall Meeting or Debate

A setting in which candidates for office answer questions from voters.

Voter Fraud (Election Fraud)

Interfering with the results of an election by doing illegal things that affect the outcome.

Voter Intimidation (Voter Suppression)

An attempt to prevent eligible people from voting or forcing them to vote a certain way.

Voting Guide / Voter Guide

Information about candidates and issues in an upcoming election. Political parties, , organizations, or other groups can publish guides. They may be non-partisan or may favor a particular party or viewpoint.

Source: US Assistance Commission, Glossary of Key Election Terminology

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