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.

Qualified Majority

Definition and meaning of qualified majority: "Qualified Majority" is a term used in political and legislative contexts to describe a type of voting requirement that exceeds a simple majority. Unlike a simple majority, where more than half of the votes cast is sufficient for decision-making, a qualified majority requires a higher percentage of votes, making it a stricter and often more consensus-oriented threshold.

The concept of a qualified majority has its roots in the desire to ensure broader agreement for critical decisions, particularly those that have far-reaching implications. It is a mechanism designed to prevent major decisions from being made by a slim majority, which could potentially ignore the interests of a significant minority. By requiring a higher threshold, a qualified majority ensures that decisions have wide support and are less likely to be contentious or divisive.

Different organizations and government bodies use the term "qualified majority" in slightly different ways:

  • In the European Union (EU), the term "qualified majority" is often used in the context of the Council of the European Union. Here, a qualified majority is defined under the Treaty of Lisbon as at least 55% of the member countries, representing at least 65% of the EU population. This rule is designed to ensure that decisions reflect both the majority of states and the majority of the European population.

  • In the United States Senate, a qualified majority usually refers to the three-fifths majority required to end a filibuster, known as "cloture". This means that 60 out of 100 senators must agree to end debate on a legislative issue, thereby allowing for a vote on the matter. This higher threshold is meant to encourage bipartisan cooperation and prevent a minority from perpetually blocking legislation.

  • In international organizations, such as the United Nations, a qualified majority can be required for decisions of particular importance. For example, in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), certain key decisions require a qualified majority of 85%, ensuring that major policy changes have wide support among member nations.

  • Many countries require a qualified majority in their legislative bodies to amend the constitution. This often means that a supermajority, such as two-thirds or three-quarters of the votes, is needed. The rationale is that constitutional amendments are significant changes to the fundamental laws of the land and thus should have broad support.

Requiring a qualified majority has a number of benefits and advantages. By requiring a larger percentage of votes, a qualified majority encourages broader consensus and cooperation across political or national lines. It prevents a small majority from making decisions that could significantly impact a large minority, thus maintaining a balance of interests. Consequently, decisions made with a qualified majority are often seen as more legitimate and acceptable, as they reflect wider agreement. In democratic systems, requiring a qualified majority can act as an important check and balance, ensuring that critical decisions are made with substantial agreement rather than by a marginal majority.

However, achieving a qualified majority can be challenging, especially in diverse or divided bodies. Requiring a qualified majority can lead to gridlock if consensus is hard to achieve, and in some cases, it may empower a small minority to block decisions, leading to inefficiency in decision-making processes.

Qualifying Period

Definition and meaning of qualifying period: A qualifying period is a set time frame during which candidates can officially register to run for office or for initiatives to gather signatures. It's a window of opportunity for political hopefuls to submit their paperwork and meet the requirements to get their name on the ballot. The length of the qualifying period varies depending on the state and the office or initiative being sought. Some states have a qualifying period of just a few days, while others have a period that lasts several weeks.

For example, in California, the qualifying period for state and legislative offices is roughly 3 months, while in Texas, the qualifying period for state offices is only a week.

The qualifying period is an important part of the democratic process. It ensures that candidates have a fair and equal opportunity to get on the ballot and that voters have enough time to make informed decisions about who they want to vote for. It also helps to prevent last-minute surprises and ensures that the election process runs smoothly.

It's worth noting that some states have different qualifying period for different type of elections, for example, a state may have shorter qualifying period for special elections than for general elections.

The qualifying period is an integral part of the democratic process, giving candidates a fair and equal opportunity to get on the ballot, and giving voters enough time to make informed decisions. It ensures the integrity of the election process and prevents last-minute surprises.

Quid Pro Quo

Definition and meaning of quid pro quo: Quid pro quo, a Latin phrase meaning "something for something" or "this for that," refers to a mutual agreement where one party provides something of value to another in exchange for something else of value. In the context of politics and governance, the term "quid pro quo" often carries a negative connotation, especially when it pertains to corrupt practices or unethical exchanges between public officials and private entities.

In politics, quid pro quo can manifest as an exchange of favors where a public official might offer preferential treatment, policy changes, or other benefits in return for something of value, such as campaign contributions, gifts, or personal favors.

Not all quid pro quo arrangements are illegal or unethical. For example, political negotiation often involves quid pro quo, such as when legislators agree to support each other's bills. However, when the exchange involves personal gain or conflicts with public duty, it crosses into the realm of corruption.