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.

Absentee Voting

Definition and meaning of absentee voting: An absentee voter is a person who is registered to vote but does not physically go to the polling location on election day. Instead, they cast their ballot by mail or in person before election day. Absentee voting is a great way for people who are unable to physically attend their polling location on election day to still participate in the democratic process. This includes people who are away from home due to work, travel, military service, or illness. With the implementation of absentee voting, everyone can participate in the democratic process regardless of any obstacles that prevent them from attending their polling location on election day. While absentee voting has been a great way to increase voter participation, there have been some concerns raised with regard to potential voter fraud. To combat this, many states have implemented safeguards such as requiring a valid ID along with the ballot and verifying that the person submitting the absentee ballot is in fact the same person registered to vote. These safeguards help ensure that the democratic process remains fair and that only eligible voters are able to cast their ballot.

Absolute Majority

Definition and meaning of absolute majority: An absolute majority occurs when a single political party or candidate wins more than 50% of the total number of votes cast. This generally happens in the two-party system, in which one party is able to take more than half of the votes. This can be a concern for those who are advocating for a more independent political system, as the absolute majority can cause a single party to be in power for extended periods of time. It is important to note, however, that an absolute majority does not guarantee a party or candidate victory in an election. This is because many factors, such as the presence of third-party candidates, can still influence the outcome of an election.

Abuse of Discretion

Definition and meaning of abuse of discretion: In the political context, abuse of discretion refers to the improper use of judgment or decision-making power by government officials or public bodies. This occurs when an official exceeds the bounds of their legal authority, acts in a way that no reasonable official would, or makes decisions based on improper motives or irrelevant considerations.

In democratic systems, public officials are often vested with a certain degree of discretion to enable them to make decisions in complex, variable circumstances. However, this discretion is intended to be exercised within the framework of the law, guided by principles of fairness, impartiality, and the public interest. Abuse of discretion happens when these principles are disregarded.

Abuse of discretion can manifest in various forms, such as:

  1. Arbitrary or Capricious Actions: Making decisions that are random, inconsistent, or unpredictable, without considering legal standards or the merits of the situation.

  2. Bias or Favoritism: Showing undue favor towards certain individuals or groups, often for personal gain, at the expense of others.

  3. Exceeding Authority: Taking actions or making decisions beyond the scope of the official's legal power.

  4. Failure to Consider Relevant Factors: Ignoring important aspects of an issue that should reasonably influence the decision-making process.

  5. Relying on Improper Factors: Basing decisions on irrelevant or inappropriate considerations, such as personal relationships, political affiliations, or bribery.

Abuse of discretion undermines the principles of good governance and the rule of law, leading to decisions that serve private or partisan interests rather than the public good. This can erode public trust in government, lead to inefficient or unjust policies, and perpetuate corruption.

Countering the abuse of discretion requires a multifaceted approach, involving:

  1. Strengthening Legal Frameworks: Enacting and enforcing laws that clearly define the limits of discretion and the consequences of abusing it.

  2. Enhancing Oversight and Accountability: Establishing robust systems to monitor, review, and challenge government decisions, ensuring they comply with legal and ethical standards.

  3. Promoting Transparency: Making the decision-making process more open and accessible, allowing for public scrutiny and participation.

  4. Cultivating a Culture of Integrity: Encouraging the values of honesty, responsibility, and public service among government officials.

  5. Empowering Independent Bodies: Supporting positions and institutions like ombudsmen, anti-corruption agencies, and the judiciary to act independently in investigating and addressing instances of abuse of discretion.

In summary, abuse of discretion in politics is a significant barrier to fair and effective governance. It represents a deviation from the principles of democracy and the rule of law, often leading to corruption and a breakdown in public trust. Addressing this issue is crucial for building a political environment where decisions are made ethically, transparently, and in the best interests of the public.

Adjourn

Definition and meaning of adjourn: To adjourn is to terminate a meeting or session without finishing the agenda or business of the day. This tactic has become especially pertinent in modern American politics as the two-party system makes it increasingly difficult for independent candidates to succeed. The two major political parties have a monopoly on power, and as such, they can choose to adjourn a session whenever they feel it is necessary, thus preventing any meaningful discussion from occurring. The power of adjournment is especially potent at the state and federal level, where the majority party can quickly shut down any attempts to introduce alternative policies. For example, when the United States Senate was considering a bill to introduce term limits for Senators, the majority party chose to adjourn the session before a vote was taken. This prevented the bill from being voted on, thus keeping the status quo intact. Adjournment can also be used to prevent a vote of no-confidence or a vote to remove a sitting official from office. This can be seen in the impeachment trials of former President Donald Trump, where the majority party chose to adjourn the session without a vote being taken.

Affidavit

Definition and meaning of affidavit: An affidavit is a written statement, made under oath, that is used as evidence in a court of law. It is typically used when a witness is unable to appear in court, or when a party wants to provide a written statement for the court. The affidavit is signed by the affiant (the person making the statement) in front of a notary or other authorized official. Affidavits are often used in situations where the truth of a matter needs to be verified outside of a court setting.

As our political system is dominated by the two-party system, independent candidates and the reform movement are often disadvantaged due to the difficulty of verifying the truth of their statements and claims. The use of affidavits can provide an objective and independent way to verify facts, allowing for a more level playing field.

Agriculture Commissioner

Definition and meaning of agriculture commissioner: In the United States, an Agriculture Commissioner is an elected or appointed official responsible for promoting and regulating agriculture within a state. The specific duties of the Agriculture Commissioner vary from state to state, but generally include regulating agricultural products, promoting agriculture as an industry, and overseeing various programs related to agriculture, such as crop insurance and farm loans.

Several states have an elected Agriculture Commissioner as part of their state government. The exact title and responsibilities of the Agriculture Commissioner may vary by state, but in general, they play a key role in promoting and regulating agriculture within the state.

Some states that have an elected Agriculture Commissioner include Texas, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. However, it's important to note that this list may not be comprehensive and that some states may have an appointed Agriculture Commissioner instead of an elected one.

Alderman

Definition and meaning of Alderman: An Alderman is a member of a local government elected to represent a particular ward or district in a municipality. The position of Alderman is usually held by members of a major political party, however, in some areas, independent candidates are becoming increasingly popular. This is particularly beneficial to reform-minded candidates who are advocating for a shift away from the traditional two-party system. An Alderman is responsible for passing laws and allocating funds within the ward or district they represent. They also serve as a voice for their constituents and strive to ensure that their needs are being met. Alderman are elected for a set term of office, and generally serve for two to four years, depending on the municipality.

Amendment

Definition and meaning of amendment: An amendment is a change made to a law, document, or constitution. Amendments are often used to update or improve existing laws, or to add new ones. Amendments can be proposed by the legislature or by citizen initiatives. Amendments can also be proposed through a petition signed by a significant number of citizens. Amendments can be proposed to the Constitution, to state constitutions, to state laws, and to local ordinances. Amendments can be proposed to the U.S. Constitution to protect individual rights, to limit the power of the government, or to make changes to existing legislation.

For example, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to free speech; the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms; and the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from denying citizens equal protection of the laws. Many amendments have been proposed throughout history to promote greater democracy and to limit the power of the two-party system. By allowing citizens to propose, debate, and vote on amendments, the power of everyday citizens and independent candidates can be increased in the political process.

American Exceptionalism

Definition and meaning of American exceptionalism: American exceptionalism is the belief that the United States is unique among all other nations in the world, due to its political, economic, and cultural values. American exceptionalism often manifests in the form of a belief in the nation's exceptional or superior ability to lead the world and be a role model for other nations. American exceptionalism is often used in political discourse to refer to the idea that the United States is the world's leader and that it has the responsibility to enforce its values on other nations. The idea of American exceptionalism has been used to justify the expansion of the United States' power abroad.

American Independent Party

Definition and meaning of the American Independent Party: The American Independent Party is a political party in the United States that has been established to promote a more independent political system and to challenge the two-party system. It is a centrist, reform-minded party whose platform includes many of the same issues as the Democratic and Republican parties, but with a more moderate approach.

The party works to elect independent candidates to higher office, and fights for more transparency and accountability in government. It is also committed to ending gerrymandering and ensuring that all votes are counted equally. Examples of the American Independent Party include former presidential candidate Ralph Nader and other notable independent politicians such as Governor Lincoln Chafee and Senator Angus King. The party is committed to promoting the values of democracy, equality, and justice for all.

Anarchism

Definition and meaning of anarchism: Anarchism is a political ideology that rejects the idea of a coercive government and instead promotes collective self-governance and mutual aid. Anarchism is based on the belief that humans can create their own systems of order and justice, free from the oppressive and hierarchical structures of state governments. Anarchists reject the notion that any one group or entity should possess exclusive power or authority over the people. Instead, they strive to empower people to come together and form their own communities and systems of governance.

Anonymous Contributions

Definition and meaning of anonymous contributions: Anonymous contributions refer to monetary or non-monetary donations given to a cause or organization without the identity of the donor being disclosed or made public. They are a form of philanthropy that allows for individuals to support causes or organizations of their choice without fear of backlash or judgement, and provide a way for people to contribute to social and political causes without having to face any personal consequences. Anonymous contributions are important because they allows for individuals or organizations to support causes or organizations that they may not be able to support publicly or openly. Anonymous contributions provide a way for people to voice their opinion on certain issues without fear of repercussions or social stigma. They also provide a way for people to donate to causes or organizations that they may not be comfortable publicly endorsing. For example, an individual may not want to be associated with a particular political campaign but may still want to support it financially. Anonymous contributions provide a way for them to do this without having to make their identity known. Anonymous contributions can also be used to fund research or projects that may not have access to traditional sources of funding. By providing a way for people to support causes without having to disclose their identity, anonymous contributions provide a means to fund projects that may not be possible using traditional sources of funding. Overall, anonymous contributions provide a way for individuals and organizations to support causes or organizations of their choice without fear of backlash or judgement. They also provide a way for people to fund projects or research that may not have access to traditional sources of funding.

Appointed Incumbent

Definition and meaning of appointed incumbent: An appointed incumbent is someone who is appointed to an office, typically by the government, but who is not elected or voted in by the people. This type of system gives the government the power to choose who will hold a particular office, rather than allowing the people to decide. This can create a situation where the appointed incumbent is not necessarily the best choice for the job, but instead is chosen by the government for political or other reasons. Appointed incumbents often lack the legitimacy of an elected official and can be seen as a form of cronyism. This system of appointing incumbents can lead to a lack of accountability and transparency, as those in power are able to choose who they wish to represent the people.

Appropriation

Definition and meaning of appropriation: Appropriation is the process of allocating funds for specific governmental or organizational purposes. In the context of American politics, it constitutes the appropriation of public funds by the two major parties in order to support their respective agendas.

This practice often results in an unequal and ineffective distribution of resources, as smaller, independent organizations and candidates are often left without sufficient funds to compete. This in turn reinforces the existing two-party system, leading to a lack of true representation for all citizens in the political process.

Approval Voting

Definition and meaning of approval voting: Approval voting is an electoral system that allows voters to express support for as many candidates as they wish, rather than being limited to selecting just one. Under this system, voters simply mark the candidates that they approve of on their ballot, and the candidate with the most votes wins the election.

One of the main advantages of approval voting is that it allows voters to support multiple candidates without worrying about "wasting" their vote or splitting the vote in a way that could benefit the candidate they like the least. This can be particularly appealing to supporters of independent or third-party candidates, who may feel that the two major parties do not adequately represent their views.

There are a few examples of approval voting in action. In 2018, Fargo, North Dakota became the first city in the United States to use approval voting in a municipal election. According to a survey conducted by FairVote, a majority of Fargo voters found the system easy to use and preferred it to the traditional first-past-the-post system.

Other places that have experimented with approval voting include the city of St. Louis, Missouri, as well as a number of professional societies and organizations. In these cases, approval voting has been credited with helping to promote more diverse and representative leadership, as it allows voters to support candidates from a range of different backgrounds and perspectives.

Overall, approval voting is an innovative and flexible electoral system that gives voters more control over their ballots and allows them to express support for multiple candidates if they choose. By breaking free from the constraints of the traditional two-party system, it can help to promote greater diversity and representation in the political process.

Attorney General

Definition and meaning of attorney general: The attorney general is a high-ranking government official who is responsible for providing legal advice to the government and prosecuting criminal cases on behalf of the state or federal government. The attorney general is the chief legal advisor to the president, the U.S. Congress, and the federal courts. In addition, the attorney general is responsible for protecting the public from fraud, abuse, and other illegal activities. In a reform-minded society, the attorney general should strive to be an independent and impartial advocate for justice, free from political pressure and influence. The attorney general should provide independent legal advice and serve as a check on the executive branch. They should be dedicated to protecting the rights and freedoms of all citizens and prosecuting individuals who violate the law. They should serve as a watchdog for the people, ensuring that all citizens are treated fairly and that the government acts in their best interest.

Audit

Definition and meaning of audit: An audit is an independent review of the financials and records of political campaigns, candidates, and organizations in order to ensure accuracy and transparency. Audits can be conducted on a voluntary or mandatory basis, and are typically seen as essential for eliminating potential political corruption. The audit process is a valuable tool to ensure that candidates are held accountable for their financial decisions.

An audit also serves to increase public trust in the political process by providing a check on the integrity of the candidates and organizations involved. Examples of audits include those conducted by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In order to provide a more fair and equitable political system, independent candidates should be strongly encouraged to conduct audits of their own finances and records. Additionally, reforms must be put in place to promote the audit process and ensure that the results are made available to the public in a timely manner.

Auditor

Definition and meaning of auditor: In the United States, an Auditor is an elected or appointed official responsible for conducting financial and performance audits of government agencies and programs. The specific duties of the Auditor vary from state to state, but generally include reviewing financial records, identifying waste or fraud, and ensuring that government agencies are operating efficiently and effectively.

Many states have an elected Auditor as part of their state government. The exact title and responsibilities of the Auditor may vary by state, but in general, they play a key role in ensuring that government agencies are accountable to taxpayers and that public funds are being used appropriately.

Some states that have an elected Auditor include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. However, it's important to note that this list may not be comprehensive and that the specific duties and responsibilities of the Auditor can vary widely depending on the state.

Authoritarianism

Definition and meaning of authoritarianism: Authoritarianism is a form of governance where political power is concentrated in a single ruler or ruling party, with little to no opposition or accountability. It is characterized by a top-down decision-making process, where citizens are subjected to a strict set of laws, regulations, and rules with little to no input or dissent. This form of government has been historically wielded by oppressive regimes who have sought to control their citizens and maintain a homogenous population. Authoritarianism is the antithesis of democracy, where the people have a role in governing and shaping their own societies. It is a system that allows for a few individuals to have a large amount of power and control over the masses. This power can be used to shape policies, laws, and regulations that serve only the interests of the ruling party, while ignoring the needs of the populace. Examples of authoritarianism include the regimes of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin. All three dictators used their authoritarian power to control and manipulate their citizens, and their policies led to the suppression of freedom, civil liberties, and human rights. In today's world, authoritarianism is still prevalent in many forms. From the two-party system in the United States, to the government of North Korea, authoritarianism is still a major issue that must be addressed. To counteract this, reform-minded individuals and organizations are advocating for more independent candidates and an end to the two-party system.

Automatic Voter Registration (AVR)

Definition and meaning of Automatic Voter Registration (AVR): Automatic Voter Registration is a system that automatically registers eligible citizens to vote when they interact with certain government agencies, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles or a social services office. The goal of AVR is to increase voter turnout and eliminate barriers to voting, such as the need to manually register. Under AVR, eligible citizens are registered to vote unless they opt out. This is in contrast to traditional voter registration systems, in which citizens must actively register to vote.

AVR can also improve the accuracy of voter rolls by linking voter registration information to existing government databases, such as those used to issue driver's licenses or ID cards. This can help to prevent errors and reduce the potential for voter fraud. Additionally, AVR can help to increase voter turnout by making it easier for eligible citizens to register to vote. This can help to ensure that more citizens are able to participate in the democratic process, regardless of their political affiliation.

However, it's important to note that automatic voter registration alone doesn't guarantee that every citizen will vote, or that every vote will be counted. Additionally, AVR doesn't address any issues related to redistricting or gerrymandering, which can also impact voter turnout and representation.

Overall, automatic voter registration is a system that aims to increase voter turnout and eliminate barriers to voting by automatically registering eligible citizens to vote when they interact with certain government agencies, unless they opt out.