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.

Ballot Access

Definition and meaning of ballot access: Ballot access is the process by which candidates and political parties gain the right to have their names appear on the ballot in an election. This is an important factor in the political process, as it determines which candidates and parties are able to compete in an election and have their views heard by the public.

Unfortunately, ballot access can be a major obstacle for independent and third-party candidates, who often struggle to meet the requirements set by the two major parties. These requirements can include collecting a large number of petition signatures, paying high filing fees, and meeting other burdensome criteria.

This is especially true at the federal level, where the Democratic and Republican parties have a virtual monopoly on the electoral process. They use their control of the system to exclude competitors and maintain their dominance, which makes it difficult for independent and third party candidates to get their voices heard.

It's time for a change! We need a more open and inclusive electoral system that allows for a wider range of candidates and viewpoints. This means reforming the ballot access process to make it more accessible and fair for all candidates, regardless of their party affiliation. It's time to break free from the stranglehold of the two major parties and create a more vibrant and diverse democracy!

Ballot Chasing

Definition and meaning of ballot chasing: Ballot chasing, also known as "ballot harvesting," is a political practice involving the collection and submission of absentee or mail-in ballots by individuals other than the voter. While the specifics can vary by jurisdiction, this process typically involves party operatives, volunteers, or activists who collect completed ballots from voters to submit them to election officials.

The practice is controversial and subject to varying legal regulations across different regions. Proponents argue that ballot chasing helps increase voter turnout, particularly among groups who might find it challenging to submit their ballots themselves, such as the elderly, disabled, or those living in remote areas. It's seen as a way to ensure that every vote is counted and can be particularly useful in large-scale elections where the volume of mail-in ballots is significant.

Critics, however, raise concerns about the potential for fraud and manipulation. They argue that allowing third parties to handle ballots could lead to undue influence over voters' choices, loss or tampering of ballots, and challenges in verifying the authenticity of the votes. As such, some jurisdictions have strict laws limiting or entirely prohibiting the practice of ballot chasing, requiring voters to mail or submit their ballots personally.

Ballot Fatigue

Definition and meaning of ballot fatigue: Ballot fatigue refers to the phenomenon where voters become overwhelmed and fatigued by the number of choices on the ballot, which in turn may lead to decreased voter turnout or a lower likelihood of casting a vote for certain candidates or measures. Ballot fatigue can be caused by a variety of factors, such as a large number of candidates running for office, a large number of measures on the ballot, or a lengthy ballot that takes a long time to complete.

Ballot fatigue can also be caused by the cognitive effort required to evaluate each candidate and measure. Research shows that when presented with too many options, individuals tend to experience decision paralysis and a decreased ability to evaluate each option effectively. This can lead to a higher likelihood of not voting or making a decision based on heuristics, such as a candidate's name recognition or party affiliation, rather than the candidate's qualifications or policy positions.

This phenomenon can also be exacerbated by a lack of information about the candidates and measures on the ballot. This can lead voters to feel overwhelmed by the number of choices and uncertain about how to make an informed decision.

Ballot fatigue can also be a problem in elections with many independent and third-party candidates. When there are many candidates running for a single office, it can be difficult for voters to differentiate between them and make an informed choice. This can lead to fewer votes for any one candidate, and potentially result in a candidate winning with a small percentage of the vote.

In conclusion, ballot fatigue refers to the phenomenon where voters become overwhelmed by the number of choices on the ballot, leading to decreased voter turnout or a lower likelihood of casting a vote for certain candidates or measures. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including a large number of candidates or measures on the ballot, the cognitive effort required to evaluate each option, and lack of information about the candidates and measures.

Ballot Harvesting

Definition and meaning of ballot harvesting: Ballot harvesting is a process in which political campaigns are allowed to collect and submit absentee ballots on behalf of voters. This practice has been increasingly used in recent elections, and while it can increase voter turnout, it also has the potential to be abused by campaigns, leading to voter fraud. In order to ensure fair elections, it is important to have detailed regulations in place for ballot harvesting, such as requiring that all ballots be dropped off at an official polling location, that all ballots be tracked, and that all third parties must be registered and verified with the state. Examples of ballot harvesting include when campaigns send canvassers door-to-door to collect absentee ballots, or when campaigns encourage voters to drop off ballots at a campaign office rather than an official polling location.

Ballot Measure

Definition and meaning of ballot measure: A ballot measure is a proposed law put before voters to decide on its passage or rejection. It is a direct democracy mechanism that allows citizens to have a say in the laws that govern them, outside of the often-limited options of the two-party system. Ballot measures can range from simple questions, such as whether to raise taxes, to more complicated ones like changing the voting system. Examples of ballot measures include the passage of a new law, the repeal of an existing law, the creation of a new tax, or the amendment of an existing law. The ballot measure process is often used to bypass the two-party system when other methods fail. In states like California and Washington, ballot measures have been used to pass laws that both parties refused to act on, such as an increase in the minimum wage. Ballot measures have also been used to overturn laws that have been actively fought by both parties, such as abortion restrictions. This makes the ballot measure a powerful tool for reform-minded citizens who wish to challenge the status quo.

Ballot Order

Definition and meaning of ballot order: Ballot order is a system that determines the order in which candidates are listed on a ballot paper. It is a key factor in influencing the outcomes of elections, as it can provide an advantage to those candidates whose names appear at the top of the ballot.

The ballot order can be determined by a number of methods, including lotteries, alphabetical order, or by random selection. In order to maintain fairness and promote competitiveness, it is important that the ballot order is decided in a transparent and equitable manner. This can help to ensure that the order of the ballot does not give any candidate an undue advantage. Ballot order can also be used to promote diversity and representation, as it allows for the inclusion of candidates from different backgrounds and ideologies. This can help to foster a more inclusive and democratic electoral process.

Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA)

Definition and meaning of Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA): The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act was a 2002 piece of legislation that sought to level the playing field in American politics by providing greater transparency and fairness in campaign finance. The BCRA amended the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971. By creating new rules for the financing of political campaigns, the BCRA helps to reduce the influence of large donors and special interest groups in elections.

It also encourages more independent candidates by providing public financing for campaigns and limiting the influence of political parties. The BCRA also seeks to limit the influence of corporate money in politics by limiting the amount of money that can be spent on campaigns and banning certain types of contributions. In addition, the BCRA requires greater disclosure of political contributions and spending by candidates and their campaigns. By doing so, the BCRA works to ensure that all Americans have access to fair and transparent elections.

Bipartisanship

Definition and meaning of bipartisanship: Bipartisanship is a term used to describe a situation in which two parties, often two political parties in a legislature, are able to work together collaboratively to come to a mutual agreement or resolution. Bipartisanship encourages compromise and the formation of consensus. It often results in legislation and policies that are more broadly accepted, although this can be difficult to achieve in a divided political climate. In the United States, bipartisanship is often difficult to achieve due to the highly divisive nature of the two-party system. At its core, bipartisanship is rooted in the belief that when people with different perspectives, opinions, and backgrounds come together to work on a common goal or issue, the result is often a better outcome than if any one of those groups were working alone. However, bipartisanship is not without its drawbacks. For instance, there is the potential that compromise and consensus-building can result in half-measures that do not fully address the problem at hand. Furthermore, bipartisanship can be challenged by a lack of trust between the two parties, or by the belief that one party has more power than the other. In order to move away from the two-party system and towards a more diverse political landscape, it is important to promote bipartisanship. This means that independent candidates, third-party candidates, and other groups should be included in the conversation and offered a seat at the table. In this way, we can create a political system that is more representative of the people, and one that is more likely to result in solutions that are beneficial to all.

Blanket Primary

Definition and meaning of blanket primary: A blanket primary is a type of primary election process in which a single ballot is used to select candidates for multiple offices. This system is used in some U.S. states to allow voters to vote for candidates of any political party for an office, rather than having to vote for candidates from a single party. This system promotes increased voter turnout, as it allows voters to express their preferences across party lines. Additionally, it encourages more competition between parties by allowing crossover voting. The blanket primary has been criticized for potential violations of the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of association. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in California Democratic Party v. Jones that the blanket primary system in California was unconstitutional. The Court found that the system impermissibly burdened the rights of political parties to choose their nominees in the way that they choose. In spite of the ruling, some states still have blanket primary systems in place. These include Alaska, Louisiana, and Washington. These systems differ from a regular primary system in that they allow voters to cast ballots for candidates of any party. This system has both advantages and disadvantages, as it gives broader choice to voters, but can also lead to vote splitting and reduced party loyalty.

Board of Elections

Definition and meaning of board of elections: A board of elections is a government body responsible for administering and overseeing the electoral process within a specific geographic area. This includes tasks such as registering voters, maintaining accurate voter rolls, preparing and distributing ballots, and counting votes. The board of elections is also responsible for enforcing election laws and regulations, and may investigate and resolve any election-related disputes or complaints.

The composition of a board of elections varies depending on the state or municipality. In some cases, the board is made up of appointed officials or members of a particular political party. In other cases, the board is composed of elected officials or a combination of appointed and elected members. The board typically has a small staff that assist in carrying out the day-to-day functions of the board.

The board of elections plays an important role in ensuring the integrity and fairness of the electoral process. They must ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to register and vote, and that all votes are counted accurately. They must also work to prevent voter fraud and ensure that the rules are followed by all parties involved.

One of the key responsibilities of the Board of Elections is to ensure that all candidates have equal access to the ballot. This includes verifying the qualifications of candidates, ensuring that the candidates have met the required deadlines and filing fees, and ensuring that the candidate's names are listed on the ballot in a fair and impartial manner.

Board of Supervisors

Definition and meaning of board of supervisors: A Board of Supervisors is an elected institution or body of representatives that have the authority to create and implement policy at the local or county level. In the United States, these boards typically consist of five members elected by districts within their county. Although traditionally a two-party system has been the norm in American politics, these local boards are increasingly becoming seen as a chance to break the traditional two-party system and elect independent candidates into office. The meaning of a Board of Supervisors is to provide a direct link between local citizens and the policy makers who have the power to shape their community. By voting for an independent candidate, citizens have an opportunity to have a voice in the decisions being made in their county and make sure that their interests are heard. In addition, these boards are able to provide the resources and oversight necessary to ensure that local services are meeting their needs. The Board of Supervisors can also be seen as a way to provide more accountability in government, as the members of the Board are accountable to their constituents and must answer to them when decisions are made. By electing independent candidates, citizens can ensure that their representatives are not beholden to a political party or special interest group and are instead accountable to the people of their county.

Bond Election

Definition and meaning of Bond Election: A Bond Election is a type of ballot measure in which voters decide whether to authorize a local government to issue bonds to pay for specific projects or services. It is typically used to fund public works projects such as roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. The money raised by the bond issue is usually repaid by raising taxes or other revenue sources. Bond elections are often held in conjunction with other elections, such as municipal or county elections. A Bond Election is a popular way to finance public works projects, as it allows voters to decide how their tax dollars are spent. It also allows the government to borrow money and repay it over time, which can be beneficial if the projects are expensive or the government lacks the funds to pay for them upfront. However, bond elections can be controversial as they often require taxpayers to pay for long-term projects that may not benefit them directly. In order to pass a Bond Election, a majority of voters must approve the ballot measure. This means that it is important for local governments to educate voters on the purpose and potential benefits of the projects before placing the measure on the ballot. Bond elections can also be used to fund public services, such as schools, hospitals, and parks, but their use for these types of projects often requires more extensive public outreach.

Borough

Definition and meaning of borough: A borough is a type of administrative division found in several countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, and others. In the United States, the term "borough" is mainly used in New York City. New York City is divided into five areas called boroughs: Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Each borough is like its own mini-city, with its own local government and services, but they are all part of the bigger New York City government. Each of these five areas in New York City helps manage local issues.

The term "borough" harks back to medieval times, when the term referred to fortified towns, which were crucial to local governance and commerce. Across the world, the concept of a borough, while varying in specifics, generally captures the essence of localized governance. It represents a commitment to ensuring that even within larger administrative units, smaller communities have the representation and mechanisms they need to address their unique needs.

Bureaucracy

Definition and meaning of bureaucracy: Bureaucracy is a system of government in which most of the important decisions are made by state officials rather than by elected representatives. This system of government is often criticized for its lack of transparency and accountability, and for its tendency to entrench the interests of the powerful. Bureaucracy is often associated with the two-party system, as it often creates a situation where the same few parties dominate the political landscape. This can lead to a lack of meaningful competition between candidates and an inability for independent voices to be heard. Bureaucracy also tends to be characterized by slow decision-making processes and a lack of public input into decisions. This can lead to an inefficient government that is not responsive to the needs of its citizens. Ultimately, bureaucracy is an outdated form of government that needs to be replaced with a system that encourages competition and independent voices.

Butterfly Ballot

Definition and meaning of butterfly ballot: A butterfly ballot has the names of candidates, initiatives, or referendums printed on two facing pages in a way that resembles the wings of a butterfly. This type of ballot is particularly problematic when there is a long list of candidates, and it can be difficult for voters to determine the correct choice. Butterfly ballots are also known to create confusion, as it is not always clear which candidate is associated with which party. In 2000, butterfly ballots led to controversy in the U.S. Presidential election in Florida, as they were found to potentially have an impact on the outcome of the election. Since then, several states have moved away from using butterfly ballots and have implemented other voting systems. Butterfly ballots can be used to improve the accuracy of voting, as they can offer a large amount of information in a single page. With the right design and layout, voters can quickly and easily find their desired candidate or referendum. However, this type of ballot can also lead to confusion and frustration if not designed properly.