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Campaigns and Elections


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activist
An individual, usually outside government, who actively promotes a political party, philosophy, or issue he or she cares about.
Australian ballot
A government-printed ballot of uniform size and shape to be cast in secret that was adopted by many states around 1890 to reduce the voting fraud associated with party-printed ballots cast in public.
blanket primary
A primary election that permits all voters, regardless of party, to choose candidates. A Democratic voter, for example, can vote in a blanket primary for both Democratic and Republican candidates for nomination.
closed primary
A primary election limited to registered party members. Prevents members of other parties from crossing over to influence the nomination of an opposing party’s candidate.
critical or realigning periods
Periods during which a sharp, lasting shift occurs in the popular coalition supporting one or both parties. The issues that separate the two parties change, and so do the kinds of voters supporting each party.
527s
Organizations that raise money for political campaigns that are not (yet) regulated by campaign-finance laws.
general election
An election used to fill an elective office.
independent expenditures
Political money raised and spent by an organization on behalf of a candidate done without direction of or coordination with the candidate.
matching funds
In presidential elections, money given by the national government to match, under certain conditions, money raised by each candidate.
motor-voter laws
A law passed by Congress in 1993 to make it easier for Americans to register to vote. The law, which went into effect in 1995, requires states to allow voter registration by mail, when one applies for a driver’s license, and at state offices that serve the disabled or poor.
new deal coalition
The different, sometimes opposed voters—southern whites, urban blacks, union workers, and intellectuals—whom Franklin D. Roosevelt made part of the Democratic party in the 1930s and 1940s.
office- bloc ballot
A ballot listing all candidates for a given office under the name of that office; also called a “Massachusetts” ballot.
open primary
A primary election that permits voters to choose on election day the party primary in which they wish to vote. They may vote for candidates of only one party
party-column ballot
A ballot listing all candidates of a given party together under the name of that party; also called an “Indiana” ballot.
political action committee (PAC)
A committee set up by and representing a corporation, labor union, or special-interest group that raises and spends campaign contributions on behalf of one or more candidates or causes.
presidential primary
A special kind of primary used to pick delegates to the presidential nominating conventions of the major parties.
primary election
An election prior to the general election in which voters select the candidates who will run on each party’s ticket.
prospective voters
Those who vote for a candidate because they favor his or her ideas for addressing issues after the election. (Prospective means “forward-looking.”)
registered voters
People who are registered to vote. Although almost all adult American citizens are theoretically eligible to vote, only those who have completed a registration form by the required date may do so.
retrospective voters
Those who vote for or against the candidate or party in office because they like or dislike how things have gone in the recent past. (Retrospective means “backward-looking.”)
runoff primary
A second primary election held in some states when no candidate receives a majority of the votes in the first primary; the runoff is between the two candidates with the most votes. Runoff primaries are common in the South.
selective attention
Paying attention only to those parts of a newspaper or broadcast story with which one agrees. Studies suggest that this is how people view political ads on television.
soft money
Money raised by political parties for activities other than directly supporting a federal candidate.
split-tickets
Voting for candidates of different parties for various offices in the same election. For example, voting for a Republican for senator and a Democrat for president.
spots (campaign)
Short television advertisements used to promote a candidate for government office.
straight- ticket voting
Voting for candidates who are all of the same party. For example, voting for Republican candidates for senator, representative, and president.
visual campaign
A campaign activity that appears on a television news broadcast.
voting-age population (VAP)
Citizens who are eligible to vote after reaching a minimum age requirement. In the United States, a citizen must be at least eighteen years old in order to vote.
voting-eligible population (VEP)
The VAP minus aliens and felons.