Today is Election Day in the United States. A few weeks ago, we explained the major American political parties. Here’s some more key election vocabulary that you’ve probably heard and read in the news leading up to the election.


Amendment – A change to the constitution of a country or state. Many states include proposed amendments to their constitutions on their ballots.

Ballot – The paper used to record votes. Voting is usually done electronically today, but “ballot” still refers to the list of items that people vote on.

Blue state – A state that usually votes Democratic.

Campaign – The work done to reach the goal of winning an election.

Candidate – A person competing for an elected position, or “running for office”.

Congress – The group that makes federal laws, also known as the legislative branch of government.

Constitution – The document containing the fundamental laws of a country or state.

Debate – A formal discussion of opposing points of view.

Delegate – A representative in the voting process; a member of the Electoral College. Each state has a number of delegates based on its population. For example, Tennessee has 11 delegates, while California has 55.

Electoral College – A group composed of delegates from each state that elects the president and vice president of the U.S. In most states, the presidential candidate who gets the most votes gets all of the electoral votes for that state. (Confused? So are many Americans.)

Endorsement – Official support for a candidate from an individual or organization.

Exit poll – A survey of voters about who they voted for. Media organizations use exit polls to predict election winners before they are officially announced.

Independent – A person (politician or voter) who is not a member of a political party.

(Political) party – An organization of people with common ideas about how to govern. See our post on political parties for more details.

Polling place – A designated location for voting.

Primary – A state-level election that chooses the candidate for each party.

Red state – A state that usually votes Republican.

Referendum – A vote on a question, such as a new constitutional amendment.

Register – To sign up for the official list of legal voters.

Representative – A member of the House of Representatives, one of the two bodies of Congress. The number of representatives from each state depends on the state’s population.

Running mate – The vice-presidential candidate selected by each candidate for president.

Senator – A member of the Senate, one of the two bodies of Congress. Each state has two senators.

Swing state – A state that does not predictably vote for one party; it could “swing” Democratic or Republican. Presidential campaigns focus a lot of time and resources on these states. They’re also called “battleground states”.

 

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