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Glossary of Political Jargon

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Balanced Budget
A budget in which spending and revenues are equal.

Budget Deficit
The annual gap between how much money the federal government spends and how much it raises in revenues, such as taxes.

A collection of individual campaign donations by an interest group that "bundles" them into one larger contribution to a candidate. Such contributions can carry the clout of a political action committee donation but are much harder to trace.

The heads of the departments of the executive branch of a government; they advise the president at the federal level or governors at the state level.

A meeting of members or leaders of a political group, usually within a political party or legislative body, to make plans, choose candidates or decide how to vote on a bill or an issue.

Concession Statement
A speech made by a candidate that formally announces that he or she has lost an election.

Conference Committee
A special committee of members of the Senate and the House who are appointed to iron out differences between competing versions of a bill.

One who elects or assists in electing another as his or her representative in a deliberative or administrative assembly; a voter.

Crossover Vote
A vote by a member of one party for a candidate from another party.

Dark Horse
An unexpected winner about whom very little is known; a person who is not expected to win, but may have a chance.

A person given power or authority to act for others; a representative.

To deprive someone of their right to vote.

Electoral College
A assembly elected by the voters to perform the formal duty of electing the president and the vice president of the United States. The electors of each state, equal in number to its members of Congress, are expected to cast their votes for the candidates selected by the popular vote of the state.

The citizens who have the right to vote.

A statement of approval or support.

Executive Branch
The part of government that has the duty and power to put laws into effect.

Favorite Son
A candidate favored by the political leaders of his or her own state or city for nomination to a high office, such as the presidency.

An action taken by members of Congress to obstruct, by parliamentary rules or long, irrelevant speeches, a bill that they oppose. Most filibusters take place in the Senate.

The candidate with the best chance of being elected.

To install in office with a ceremony.

Someone who holds a public office.

Not a member of a political party.

Independent Expenditures
Political contributions, such as the purchase of television commercial time, made on behalf of a candidate but not funneled through the candidate's campaign or a political party.

Judiciary Branch
The part of the government that interprets laws and administers justice through a system of courts.

An overwhelming majority of votes for one candidate or political party in an election.

Legislative Branch
The part of government that has the duty and power to make laws.

A person who tries to get legislators to introduce or vote for measures favorable to the special interest that he or she represents.

The wishes of constituents expressed to a representative in such a clear way that it is taken almost as an order; an overwhelming victory.

An attempt to discredit the competition by not talking about legitimate issues; calling an opponent names or questioning his or her character.

A person who has been selected to run for a public office; a candidate.

Over The Top
During the counting of votes, the point at which a candidate has won the minimum number of votes necessary to clinch the election.

Party Bosses
City or state leaders of political party organizations.

A part of the platform of a political party about a specific issue.

A public statement of the principles and policies of a political party.

Political Action Committee (PAC)
An independent campaign fundraising organization set up by a special interest group to donate money to candidates.

Poll (Opinion)
A scientific survey of what the public thinks about a particular subject or candidate.

Poll (Voting)
The place where votes are cast and counted.

Poll Tax
A special tax, now illegal, that people in some states had to pay before they could vote.

Poll Watcher
A person who makes sure the election is run fairly.

Pork Barrel
Government appropriations for political patronage such as local improvements to please a lawmakers constituents.

A local voting district in a county or city.

An election in which members of a political party choose candidates to run for office in the general election.

Average citizens.

To approve or affirm.

A change intended to improve conditions; improvement.

Having one's name on the list or record of eligible voters.

Running Mate
A candidate for the lesser of two closely associated offices as for the vice presidency.

Seconding Speech
A speech giving additional support after the nomination of a candidate.

A list of candidates or officers to be considered for appointment, nomination or election.

Soft Money
Spending by political parties or other organizations that doesn't count against a candidate's campaign spending limits. Most soft money contributions are get-out-and-vote, direct mail or polling services conducted by the parties or special interest groups.

Speaker of the House
The presiding officer in the House of Representatives who is usually a senior member of the majority party.

Special Interest Group
A group of people who want similar things from the government and who work together to gain support for their interests.

To go out and make campaign speeches.

The right to vote.

Third Party
A political organization other than the Democratic or Republican parties such as the Libertarian and Reform parties.

Uncommitted Delegate
A convention delegate who is able to vote for any candidate.

A candidate who is considered unlikely to win.

The power of the president or governor to refuse to allow a bill passed by Congress or a state legislature to become law.

Veto Override
A vote by each house of a legislative body to overcome an executive veto and make a bill become law.

An officer of a political party in Congress who maintains discipline and enforces attendance.

Whistle-Stop Campaign
An early method of campaigning in which the candidate crossed the country by train and made speeches at each place the train stopped.

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