Terms Glossary

Good Party's Terms Glossary is a list of definitions of words from the political and elections world. These terms are from an independent's perspective with an eye toward reform. If you have a suggestion for a new definition, send it to ask@goodparty.org.


Democracy is a form of government in which the power is held by the people, either directly or through their elected representatives. It is based on the idea that all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives, and that the government is accountable to the people it serves.

However, democracy is not always perfect, and there are often challenges to ensuring that it is truly representative and accountable. One of the main problems is that the two major political parties in the United States often dominate the political process, which can limit the choices available to voters and exclude alternative viewpoints.

This is especially true for independent and third party candidates, who often struggle to get their voices heard and their ideas taken seriously. Despite the fact that many Americans are dissatisfied with the two major parties and want more choices, these candidates often face significant barriers to participating in the democratic process.

It's time for a change! We need a democracy that is more open, inclusive, and responsive to the needs and concerns of all citizens. This means creating a more diverse and representative political system that allows for a wider range of candidates and viewpoints. By doing so, we can create a stronger and more vibrant democracy that works for everyone, not just the powerful few.

Direct Democracy

Direct democracy is a political system in which citizens have the ability to make policy decisions and laws directly, rather than through elected representatives. This can take the form of citizen-initiated referendums, where citizens can propose and vote on laws, or citizen-initiated recalls, where citizens can vote to remove elected officials from office. Direct democracy is based on the principle of giving citizens a direct say in the decision-making process and allowing them to hold their elected officials accountable.

In some states and municipalities, direct democracy is utilized through the use of citizen initiatives and referendums. For example, in California, citizens can gather signatures to put a proposed law on the ballot for a public vote, and in Colorado, citizens can petition to recall a state official.

However, not all states and municipalities have such systems in place. In some places, the process of citizen initiatives and referendums can be difficult and costly, and may not be available to all citizens. Furthermore, some states and municipalities may have laws and regulations in place that limit citizens' ability to participate in direct democracy.

While direct democracy can be a powerful tool for holding elected officials accountable, it is important to consider the potential impact of this system on the political process. It is essential to ensure that the process of citizen initiatives and referendums is accessible and fair for all citizens, and that the system is not used to undermine the rights and representation of marginalized groups. Furthermore, the use of direct democracy can increase the participation of citizens in the decision-making process, and also support the rise of independent and third party candidates for office, as they are not bounded by party lines and can present their views to the public through a direct vote.

District Lines

District lines refer to the boundaries that are drawn to divide a state or municipality into electoral districts. These districts are used to determine the areas in which candidates will run for office, and the voters who will be represented by those candidates. District lines are often drawn by state legislatures or independent commissions, and are used to determine the number of representatives a state or municipality will have in the United States House of Representatives, as well as the boundaries of state legislative districts.

In some states and municipalities, district lines are drawn in a way that is intended to be fair and impartial. For example, in California, a 14-member commission is responsible for drawing the district lines, with the goal of creating districts that are geographically compact, respect communities of interest, and avoid diluting the voting power of any particular group.

However, in other states and municipalities, district lines may be drawn in a way that is intended to benefit one political party or group over another. This process is known as gerrymandering, and it can be used to create districts that are heavily skewed in favor of one party, making it difficult for candidates from other parties to win elections.

Gerrymandering can have a significant impact on the political process and representation, as it can lead to a system where a small number of voters hold disproportionate power and representation while others are left marginalized. Therefore, it is essential to consider the need for redistricting reform in order to ensure fair and transparent political process. Furthermore, the use of independent commissions or mathematical algorithms in drawing district lines may prevent gerrymandering, and therefore help to increase the competition and representation of different political views in the government.

Divided Government

Divided government refers to a situation where different political parties control different branches of government. For example, if one party controls the White House and another party controls Congress, then the government is considered to be "divided."

Divided government can lead to gridlock and political stagnation, as the two parties may be unable to agree on key issues and pass legislation. It can also create a situation where one party is able to block the initiatives of the other, which can make it difficult for the government to effectively address the needs and concerns of the public.

Divided government could be an opportunity to break the stranglehold of the two major parties and create a more open and inclusive political system. By providing more choices and competition, independent and third party candidates can help to bring fresh ideas and new perspectives to the table and challenge the status quo.

According to the Congressional Research Service, divided government has been relatively common in the United States over the past several decades. For example, between 1981 and 2012, the President and Congress were from different parties for a total of 26 years. This suggests that there is a significant demand for alternative viewpoints and that the two major parties do not always have a monopoly on power.

By encouraging independent and third party candidates to run for office and by supporting their efforts to participate in the political process, we can create a more diverse and representative democracy that works for everyone.