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.

Early Voting

Early voting refers to the practice of allowing voters to cast their ballots before election day. This can be done in person at designated polling places or through absentee voting, which allows voters to request a ballot by mail or online.

Early voting is often seen as a way to increase voter participation and make the electoral process more convenient and accessible. It can be especially beneficial for voters who may have difficulty getting to the polls on election day, such as those who are elderly, disabled, or have demanding work schedules.

However, early voting can also have its drawbacks. For example, some critics argue that it can lead to increased voter fraud or confusion, as there is less time for election officials to verify and process the ballots. Others worry that it could favor certain candidates or parties, depending on how the early voting period is structured.

Despite these concerns, early voting is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 37 states and the District of Columbia now offer some form of early voting, and many more are considering it.

For independent and third party candidates, early voting can be a helpful tool for increasing voter turnout. By making it easier for people to cast their ballots, we can create a more representative and inclusive democracy that works for everyone.

Election Board

An election board is a government body responsible for overseeing the administration of elections. This includes tasks such as registering voters, maintaining voter rolls, and ensuring that voting machines and other equipment are properly calibrated and functioning. The board also plays a role in enforcing election laws and regulations, such as those governing campaign finance and voter eligibility. In some jurisdictions, the election board is also responsible for certifying the results of elections and issuing official tallies.

Some states and municipalities have independent or third-party members on their election boards to ensure impartiality and fairness in the election process. For example, Iowa has a bi-partisan election board, composed of two Republicans and two Democrats, that oversees the state's elections. Similarly, the city of New York has a Board of Elections that is composed of ten members, with five members from each of the two major political parties.

However, not all states and municipalities have independent or third-party members on their election boards. In some cases, this is because the board is appointed or selected by the governor or other elected officials, which can lead to a lack of diversity in perspectives and potential political bias. In other cases, the board may be composed entirely of members of one political party, which can also raise concerns about impartiality.

In any case, it is important for election boards to be impartial and unbiased in order to ensure free and fair elections. This includes not only the members on the boards but also the election process and the counting of the votes.

In summary, an election board is a government body responsible for overseeing the administration of elections, enforcing election laws and regulations, and certifying the results of elections. Some states and municipalities have independent or third-party members on their boards to ensure impartiality and fairness in the election process, while other places do not. It is important for election boards to be impartial and unbiased to ensure the integrity of the election process.

Election Clerk

An election clerk is a person who is responsible for overseeing and conducting the administrative aspects of an election. This can include tasks such as registering voters, verifying voter eligibility, maintaining voter rolls, and counting votes. Election clerks are typically appointed or hired by a local or state government, and may work under the supervision of an election commission or board.

In some states and municipalities, election clerks are trained and certified by the state to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to conduct elections fairly and accurately. For example, in Ohio, election clerks must complete a training program and pass a certification exam before being allowed to work on elections. Additionally, some states and municipalities have implemented measures such as background checks and security protocols to ensure that election clerks are qualified and trustworthy.

However, not all states and municipalities have such measures in place. In some places, the process of appointing or hiring election clerks may be less rigorous, and may not include training or certification requirements. Furthermore, some states and municipalities may have laws and regulations in place that limit the responsibilities and qualifications of election clerks, leading to an inadequate election process.

It is essential to ensure that election clerks are qualified, trained and trustworthy, as they play a crucial role in the integrity of the election process. A well-trained and qualified election clerk, can ensure that the voting process is accurate, fair, and secure, and also, it can prevent the manipulation of the vote and ensure the representation of independent and third-party candidates for office. Furthermore, the use of background checks and security protocols can increase the transparency and accountability of the election process, and prevent any misconduct or fraud during the election.

Electoral College

The electoral college is a formal body of 538 electors that elects the President and Vice President. Each state has as many electors in the Electoral College as it has Senators and Representatives in Congress, including the District of Columbia’s three electors. When voters cast a vote in the Presidential election, they are actually voting for the slate of electors who will then cast their vote for the candidate in the Electoral College. This system was chosen as a compromise between a purely democratic process and one where Congress would choose the President. The electoral college ensures that smaller states have adequate representation in elections as well as it allows for elections to be widely accepted. However, This results in disproportionate voting power to states, with favor being placed on smaller states as well as the inability for voters to directly choose their representation.

There are several occasions in which the President elected lost the popular vote, which many Americans feel isn’t a true representation of what voters want. There is also the possibility of rogue electors. Electors are bound by tradition of voting for the candidate who won their state, but many states don’t have laws regulating an elector’s vote which has proved to be a problem several times throughout elections. Finally, an electoral college reinforces the two-party system by making it harder for a third party candidate to break into the national level and increases the risk that a third party candidate would create a spoiler effect, which discourages people from voting outside of the two-party system. 

The electoral college is an aggregate of 538 electors from every state that elects the President and Vice President. This system was chosen as a way to balance the voting power of more populous states and less populous states when voting for the president. 

Exhausted Ballot

An exhausted ballot is a type of ballot that is not counted towards the final vote tally in an election. This can happen when a voter casts a vote for a candidate who has already been eliminated from the race, or when a voter casts multiple votes for the same office, which is known as overvoting. In some cases, exhausted ballots may also be the result of a voter not properly filling out the ballot, such as by failing to properly mark their vote or by writing in a candidate who is not officially running for office.

Exhausted ballots can have a significant impact on the outcome of an election, particularly in races where there are multiple candidates or where the margin of victory is close. This is especially true in elections where independent or third-party candidates are running, as their votes may be split among multiple candidates, making it more likely that some of these votes will be exhausted.

For example, in the state of Maine, they use Ranked choice voting, in which the voters can rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives the majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and the votes for that candidate are redistributed to the voter's next-choice candidate. This process is repeated until one candidate receives a majority. In this way, exhausted ballots are avoided, and the voter's intention is respected.

On the other hand, not all states and municipalities have exhausted ballots. In some cases, this may be because the state or municipality uses a different voting system, such as plurality voting, where the candidate with the most votes wins, regardless of whether they have a majority.

In summary, exhausted ballot is a type of ballot that is not counted towards the final vote tally in an election. This can happen when a voter casts a vote for a candidate who has already been eliminated from the race, or when a voter casts multiple votes for the same office. Exhausted ballots can have a significant impact on the outcome of an election, particularly in races where there are multiple candidates or where the margin of victory is close. Some states and municipalities use different voting systems to avoid exhausted ballots such as ranked choice voting, which allows the voter to rank the candidates in order of preference.