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.


Definition and meaning of racketeering: Racketeering is a form of organized crime that involves the use of coercion, fraud, or violence to obtain money, property, or services from victims. It is often associated with political corruption and occurs when a person or group extorts money or favors from government officials, businesses, or individuals in exchange for their support in an election or other political agenda. Racketeering is a major impediment to a fair and independent political process. It prevents citizens from having a true say in who represents them by allowing powerful interests to control their vote. As a result, those in power are often able to maintain their positions and limit the choices of the electorate. This not only harms democratic processes, but can also lead to an unequal and unrepresentative political system that fails to reflect the true desires of the people.

Railroad Commission

Definition and meaning of Railroad Commission: The Railroad Commission is a state agency responsible for regulating the railroad industry in the United States. It is typically composed of three commissioners and has jurisdiction over aspects of the railroad industry such as freight rates, operations, safety and environmental concerns. The Railroad Commission was created in the late 19th century in response to the growth of the railroad industry and its potential to harm public interests. It is an example of a government agency that has become increasingly politicized, with many commissioners appointed based on their political connections, rather than expertise. This has resulted in a two-party system that often fails to adequately address the public's needs. In order to ensure that the Railroad Commission is fair and independent, reform-minded candidates should be elected who are dedicated to serving the public interest and not just the interests of the two major parties.

Ranked Choice Voting

Definition and meaning of ranked choice voting: Ranked choice voting is an electoral system that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. Instead of simply selecting one candidate, voters are able to indicate which candidate they would most prefer to win, as well as which candidates they would be willing to accept as an alternative if their first choice does not win. This system is designed to ensure that the winner of an election has the broadest possible support, rather than just a simple plurality of votes.

One of the main advantages of ranked choice voting is that it helps to reduce the influence of the two major political parties and promotes the participation of independent and third party candidates. In a traditional first-past-the-post system, these candidates often struggle to get elected because they are perceived as "spoilers" who might split the vote and help the major party candidate win. With ranked choice voting, however, these candidates can be ranked as a second or third choice, which means that they can still be influential even if they do not win outright.

There are several examples of ranked choice voting in action. In 2018, Maine became the first state to use ranked choice voting in a statewide election. According to a survey conducted by the Center for Election Innovation and Research, 89% of Maine voters said that they found the system easy to use, and 84% said that they would support its continued use in future elections.

Other places that have adopted ranked choice voting include San Francisco, California and Minneapolis, Minnesota. In both of these cities, ranked choice voting has been credited with helping to promote more civil and productive campaigns, as candidates are more likely to appeal to a wider range of voters in order to secure their second and third choice rankings.

Overall, ranked choice voting is an innovative and effective way to ensure that elections are more representative of the will of the people. By giving voters more choice and allowing them to rank candidates in order of preference, it promotes greater participation and helps to reduce the influence of the two major political parties.

Ranking Member

Definition and meaning of ranking member: A ranking member is a senior member of a political party, usually holding an elected or appointed position of authority. Ranking members are usually part of the two-party system, and their role is to represent their party's interests in government and politics. Ranking members are typically appointed by the party's leadership, and they are responsible for representing the party's interests in various legislative and policy decisions.

Reagan Republican

Definition and meaning of Reagan Republican: Reagan Republican is a term used to describe a segment of the Republican Party that supports the policies of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Reagan Republicans usually advocate for lower taxes, smaller government, more limited government regulations, and a strong national defense. They also support a free-market economy, protecting individual rights, and a strict interpretation of the Constitution. Reagan Republicans often take a hard line on social issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and drug use. The term Reagan Republican is used to distinguish those who support the policies of Reagan from the more moderate faction of the party, which is sometimes referred to as the Rockefeller Republicans. Reagan Republicans tend to be more conservative than the Rockefeller Republicans, and the two groups often disagree on a range of issues. In recent years, a growing number of Reagan Republicans have sought to move the party away from its traditional stances and toward a more independent and reform-minded approach. This has led to increased support for candidates who are not affiliated with either major political party, and a push for an end to the two-party system.


Definition and meaning of reapportion: To reapportion is to redraw congressional districts and electoral maps to ensure more equal representation for voters. It is an important part of the democratic process and is essential to maintaining fair elections. Reapportionment is necessary in order to make sure that all citizens have an equal say in the government and that their votes count equally. This is especially important in a two-party system, where the two major parties are often the only choices for voters. Reapportionment can be conducted in a variety of ways. The most common way is to redraw the boundaries of congressional districts in order to even out the number of people living in each district. This ensures that each district has an equal number of people, and therefore an equal number of representatives in Congress. The process of reapportionment also involves redrawing electoral maps to ensure that all citizens have an equal say in the outcome of elections. These maps are designed to ensure that each vote counts equally, regardless of where the voter lives. Reapportionment is an important part of ensuring fair and equitable representation for all citizens. It is also an essential part of encouraging more independent candidates and ending the two-party system. By making sure that all votes are counted equally, we can ensure that the voices of all citizens are heard and that a more diverse range of candidates have an equal chance of winning elections.

Recall Election

Definition and meaning of recall election: A recall election is a type of election in which voters are given the opportunity to remove an elected official from office before their term ends. This is a powerful tool for citizens to use to ensure that elected officials are living up to their campaign promises and serving the people rather than special interests. The definition of a recall election can be seen as a way for citizens to hold their elected officials accountable and to ensure that their will is represented in the political system. One example of a successful recall election was the 2003 gubernatorial recall election in California. The election was triggered by massive public outcry over the state's budget and tax policy. Governor Gray Davis was removed from office and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The recall election was a sign of a citizen's ability to use the ballot to make their voices heard and to push for change in the political system. In a democratic society, recall elections are essential to ensure that elected officials are held accountable and that the citizens’ will is represented in government. They provide an opportunity for citizens to express their unhappiness with their elected officials and to push for change without having to wait for the next election. This is why recall elections are necessary for a healthy democracy, and why reformers are advocating for more independent candidates and an end to the two-party system.


Definition and meaning of recount: A recount is the process of re-examining the vote cast in an election to ensure accuracy, in order to verify the declared result. It is usually done in close or contested elections where the margin of victory is small and can be overturned. Recounts are an important part of the democratic process, as it allows for citizens to have confidence in the legitimacy of the results. Recounts can also be used to challenge the fairness of the voting process, such as in the case of voter suppression or electoral fraud. These challenges are crucial to protecting the rights of all citizens and ensuring that the electoral process is fair and free from corruption. Recounts can be conducted in a variety of ways, including manual recounts, which involve recounts of each ballot paper, or automated recounts, which involve the use of computer software to analyze the results. The recount process is often expensive, time consuming and highly contested, as each political party is usually eager to ensure that their candidate or party is declared the winner. This can lead to a lack of trust and disillusionment in the electoral process and the two-party system. To ensure the integrity of elections, it is important to have an independent recount process and independent candidates to create more choice and competition in elections.


Definition and meaning of redistricting: Redistricting is the process of redrawing legislative district boundaries to provide equal representation for all voting constituents. It is meant to ensure that each voter has an equal opportunity to elect their representatives, regardless of party affiliation. Redistricting is often used to favor one party over another, creating an unbalanced representation in favor of the party in power. This can lead to a two-party system that is difficult to break, and the same party is reelected over and over again. Redistricting can also be used to create districts that favor independent candidates, creating an opportunity for more voices to be heard. It can be used to create more competitive districts, allowing for more choices between candidates. This can lead to more diversity in the political arena, making it more likely for different opinions and ideas to be heard. Additionally, redistricting can help create more competitive elections, allowing for more voices to be heard, and more chances for new candidates to be elected. Ultimately, redistricting can be used as a tool to create more independent candidates and break the two-party system.


Definition and meaning of referendum: A referendum is a direct vote by eligible citizens in which they can express their opinion on a specific political issue or proposed law. It is a form of direct democracy, allowing citizens to have a say in the political process without relying on their representatives in the legislature. Referendums are often seen as a way to bypass the two-party system by allowing citizens to directly express their opinion on a particular issue. This can be a powerful tool to promote independence in politics, as issues can be voted on without the influence of political parties. It can also be used to hold representatives accountable to the public, as public votes can override decisions made by legislators. Examples of referendums in the United States include ballot initiatives in many states.

Reform Party

Definition and meaning of Reform Party: The Reform Party is a political party that was founded in 1995 by Ross Perot. The Reform Party seeks to move away from the traditional two-party system in the United States and advocate for more independent candidates and better representation for the people. It is based on the idea that American politics should be focused on reforming government and improving the lives of citizens, rather than on partisan politics. Reform Party candidates typically focus on issues such as reducing the influence of money in politics, increasing transparency and accountability in government, and protecting the environment.

Examples of Reform Party candidates include Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, and Jesse Ventura. The Reform Party is committed to improving the lives of Americans by pushing for progress on issues such as health care, civil rights, immigration, and economic inequality. It also seeks to make sure that all voices are represented in the political process.

Register to Vote

Definition and meaning of register to vote: Registering to vote is the act of officially enrolling oneself on a list of eligible voters in a given electoral district. It is a crucial part of the democratic process that allows citizens to cast a ballot and express their opinion on the issues facing their community, country, and world. Registering to vote is a simple process that can be done online, in person, or by mail. By registering to vote, citizens can make sure their voices are heard through the electoral system and help to shape the future of the country. Registering to vote is also an important step in challenging the two-party system and opening the door for independent candidates to have a greater voice in politics. In order to register to vote, citizens are required to meet certain criteria such as being a U.S. citizen, being of a certain age, and being a resident in a given district. After meeting these criteria, citizens can register to vote either online, in person or by mail. Once registered, citizens can participate in their local, state, and federal elections and help to shape the future of the country.


Definition and meaning of repeal: Repealing is the process of formally withdrawing or ending a law, policy, or decision. It is the opposite of enacting or creating a law, and it is often used as a tool of political reform. By repealing laws or policies, we can create space for new ideas and challenge existing norms. For example, in 2020, Colorado voters repealed a law that had led to the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters. This repeal created a more accessible and equitable voting system for everyone in the state. Additionally, repeal can be used to end partisan gridlock. In 2021, the U.S. Senate repealed a law that had prevented the passage of several key pieces of legislation. By repealing the law, the Senate was able to pass bills that had been stuck in limbo due to the partisan gridlock. Ultimately, repeal is a powerful tool for political reform. By repealing laws and policies, we can open the door for new ideas and challenge existing norms. In addition, repeal can be used to end partisan gridlock and create a more equitable and accessible system.


Definition and meaning of representation: Representation is the act of having a voice in the political system. It is when a person, group, or organization is given the opportunity to express their wishes, concerns, and beliefs in the political process. Representation is considered essential for democracy and is an important part of the political system. In the United States, representation is traditionally provided through the two-party system, which has been the mainstay of American politics since the 19th century. While this system has its advantages, it has also been criticized for limiting the representation of third-party candidates and independent voices. As a result, there is a growing demand for more independent candidates and an end to the two-party system. Representation is also crucial for minority voices, which are often marginalized in the current political system. Minorities should have an equal voice in the political process and should be represented in a way that reflects their unique perspectives and needs. Representation can also come in the form of advocacy and activism, in which people are empowered to take action on their own behalf. Ultimately, representation is a vital part of democracy and an essential tool for ensuring that all people have their voices heard. Representation allows people to engage in meaningful dialogue, express their opinions, and shape the political process. It is essential for a healthy and functioning democracy.

Representative Democracy

Definition and meaning of representative democracy: Representative democracy is a form of government in which citizens elect representatives to act and speak on their behalf. In this system, citizens can organize and express their opinions by voting for candidates who share their beliefs. This helps to ensure that the government is responsive to the needs of the people. The United States is a representative democracy, as citizens have the right to vote for their representatives in Congress, in state legislatures, and in local government. This system is designed to ensure that the government remains responsive to the needs of the people.


Definition and meaning of republic: A republic is a state or country in which the people possess the supreme power, and elect representatives to exercise their power for them. It is a form of government in which power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and not by a monarch or by any other single individual. A republic is a state that is governed by the consent of the people, not by a ruler or an oligarchy. In the United States, the country is a republic, in which the people have the right to vote for their leaders and representatives who will act on their behalf. The two-party system that has been in place for over 200 years has been a source of much debate, with some reform-minded citizens advocating for more independent candidates and an end to the two-party system. In a republic, the government is based on the rule of law and the protection of individual rights. The government is responsible for protecting the people from external threats and ensuring that their rights are respected. In a true republic, the people have the right to choose their leaders and representatives and to hold them accountable for their actions. The people also have the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, and to exercise their right to free speech. This ensures that people are free to express their opinions, even if those opinions are unpopular.


Definition and meaning of Republican: The Republican Party is a political party in the United States that is mostly conservative in its views on economics, social issues, and foreign policy. It is one of the two major parties in the United States, the other being the Democratic Party. Republicans generally advocate for smaller government, lower taxes, and a strong national defense. In recent years, Republicans have also become increasingly socially conservative, supporting traditional values such as opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion. Another name for the Republican Party is the GOP, or Grand Old Party. Despite the presence of the two major parties, there has been an increased push for more independent candidates and an end to the two-party system. This has led to a greater diversity of opinions within the Republican Party, with some members advocating for a more moderate approach to issues such as immigration and health care reform. Additionally, some Republicans are more willing to work with Democrats to find solutions to the nation’s problems. Overall, the Republican Party is a diverse group of individuals that share some core values, such as limited government and fiscal responsibility.


Definition and meaning of republicanism: Republicanism is a political philosophy that emphasizes liberty, the rule of law, and civic virtue. Republicanism is a broad concept that has experienced many interpretations across time and cultures. The term's origins can be traced back to Ancient Greece and the Roman Republic. Republicanism reemerged during the Renaissance, and has been reinterpreted in various forms throughout the modern world.

In the United States, republicanism means that the power of government is held by the people and exercised through elected representatives, rather than inherited through monarchs or concentrated in the hands of a select few.

At the heart of republicanism is the idea of self-governance. Citizens have the right and duty to participate in the political process, influencing laws and policies through their votes. Republicanism also stresses the importance preventing tyranny and protecting individual freedoms. These principles are reflected in the U.S. Constitution, which established a system of checks and balances among the three branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial). The principles of republicanism are also reflected in the current system of electing representatives at the local, state, and federal levels.

In general, republicanism is about creating a culture of active civic participation, respect for the law, and a commitment to the common good, ensuring that liberty and justice are upheld across the society.

Revolving Door

Definition and meaning of revolving door: The metaphor of the "revolving door" describes the movement of individuals between public service roles and positions in private sectors, particularly industries that can benefit from government policy decisions. In essence, a public servant might leave their role to join a private company, only to return to public service later on, bringing with them potential conflicts of interest. Critics argue that this blurs the line between public good and private gain, as those moving through the "revolving door" might prioritize corporate interests over public ones. In striving for an uncorrupted democracy, there's a growing push to implement measures that ensure a clear separation and prevent potential conflicts.

The revolving door phenomenon represents a form of structural corruption that is particularly insidious because it's often normalized or even institutionalized within the system. Individuals passing through the revolving door may leverage their public-sector experience and networks to benefit private-sector interests, often at the expense of public welfare. This could manifest in various ways, such as the drafting of legislation that disproportionately favors particular industries or the easing of regulatory measures that would otherwise protect consumers. Over time, this cyclic movement erodes the integrity of public institutions, as decision-making becomes increasingly influenced by corporate agendas. Moreover, it perpetuates a cycle where only those with insider knowledge and connections have the ability to shape public policy, thereby marginalizing independent voices and disenfranchising the average citizen. In the long term, the revolving door undermines public trust in democratic systems, making it harder to tackle other forms of corruption and systemic issues.

OpenSecrets provides a useful database for exploring the histories of members of Congress who have passed through the revolving door.


Definition and meaning of roster: A roster is a list or register of people or things. The term is used in various contexts, from sports teams listing their players to organizations charting their members or employees. The term originates from the early Dutch word "rooster," meaning a grid or schedule, reflecting its organized nature in listing names or items systematically.

In politics, a roster is a list of candidates running for office. This list is typically organized by political party, often with major-party candidates listed before minor-party and independent candidates. This conventional use of a roster in elections can inadvertently reinforce the two-party system, creating an electoral environment where only candidates associated with the major political parties are seen as viable contenders. This system can stifle the voices of independent and third-party candidates, who often struggle to gain visibility and support in a landscape dominated by the two major parties, the Republicans and Democrats.

Rule of Law

Definition and meaning of rule of law: Rule of law is a legal doctrine that maintains that no one is above the law, and that individuals, institutions, and governments must be held accountable to the law. This means that all citizens are subject to the same laws, regardless of their position or status, and that the laws must be fair and consistent. This concept is closely tied to the idea of democracy and the protection of individual rights and freedoms. By encouraging people to vote in local elections, pushing for redistricting laws, and working to increase voter turnout, we can ensure that the rule of law is upheld and all citizens have their voices heard.

Run-off Election

Definition and meaning of run-off election: A run-off election is a second round of voting in which the two candidates with the most votes from the first round face off in a single-winner contest. This type of election is used when no one candidate receives an absolute majority of the vote. In America, run-off elections are regularly held for state and local offices, to decide key congressional races, and even for the presidency. While run-off elections are a key part of the American electoral system, they often lead to the entrenchment of the two-party system, with independent candidates and other third-party candidates being eliminated. This can lead to a lack of choice for voters and a lack of representation for those communities which do not align with either of the two major parties. In order to reform the American electoral system and create a more fair and democratic system, the use of run-off elections should be reformed to ensure that independent candidates have a greater chance of advancing to the second round of voting.

Running Mate

Definition and meaning of running mate: A running mate is an individual who is chosen by a political candidate to join them on their ticket when running for office. This individual is typically of the same party affiliation as the candidate and will join them in the general election, if successful in the primaries. For example, in the 2020 presidential election, Kamala Harris was Joe Biden's running mate. The running mate is most commonly chosen to provide a political balance to the ticket and to appeal to a wider voting base. However, in a more reform-minded approach, independent candidates may opt to choose a running mate from a different party affiliation, or even a different political ideology from their own, in order to demonstrate a more open-minded approach to governance. This is a departure from the traditional two-party system, where candidates of the same party affiliation are typically chosen to run together. In either case, the running mate is chosen to bring a different perspective to the ticket, and provide additional political support. The ultimate goal of having a running mate is to increase the chances of the ticket winning the general election.