Election terms - a handy glossary

Election terms - a handy glossary

Every profession, field of study, and speciality utilizes words and phrases unique to their work. Government and elections are no different. Sometimes the use of these terms can act as a barrier to understanding current events and actions.

Below is a list of common phrases and terms used to discuss elections, voting, and governmental offices:

Provisional Ballot

This is used to record a vote when there are questions about a voter’s eligibility. For example, a provisional ballot would be given to an individual who did not bring the proper form of identification.

Absentee Ballot

An absentee ballot is a vote cast by someone who is unable to vote at their official polling station on election day.


A candidate who is currently holding an office


The party member who makes sure that all other members are present for crucial votes and that they vote in accordance with the party line.


The reorganization of voting districts by the party in power to insure more votes for their candidates.

Midterm Election

An election for legislators that occurs in the middle of a President’s term.

General Election

A regular election of candidates for office that occurs in November.

Primary Election

A state election in the spring which determines candidates for a general election.

Special Election

An election scheduled at other than the usual date for a specific purpose, often to fill an office that has become vacant before the incumbent has completed the term.

If you are interested in learning about more political jargon please click here for a Scholastic Political Word Vocabulary list.

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