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When it comes to political activism, it is important to be educated. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of terms to understand and even the seasoned activists sometimes need to pull out their cell phone and look up definitions. . Luckily, FFL has you covered and put all the important ones right here all in one place.

Absentee Ballot:  A ballot, usually sent in the mail, which allows those who cannot go to their precinct on Election Day to vote.

Affirmative Action: A policy in job hiring or educational admissions that gives special compensatory treatment or other attention to traditionally disadvantaged groups (in an effort to reduce the present effects of past discrimination).

Amendment: A change to the Constitution.

Bicameral Legislature: A legislature that is comprised of two parts or chambers. The United States Congress is a bicameral legislature; its two chambers are the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Bill: A legislative proposal that if passed by both the House and the Senate and approved by the President becomes law.

Bipartisan: A cooperative effort by two political parties.

Capitalism: An economic system in which the means of production and distribution are mainly in private ownership for private gain at the expense of the non-owners. Mechanisms include free markets and freedom of contract.

Caucus: A caucus is a system of local gatherings where voters decide which candidate to support Caucuses are unique in that they allow participants to openly show support for candidates. Voting is often done by raising hands or breaking into groups according to the candidate participant’s support. The results of the caucus are used to determine the delegates present at county, state and national nominating conventions of each political party.

Checks and Balances: The system of dividing power among the three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) to prevent them from having too much power. Each branch has some authority to check the power of the others, thereby maintaining a balance among the three.

Closed Primary: A type of direct primary limited to registered party members, who must declare their party affiliation in order to vote. The closed primary serves to encourage party unity and prevent members of other parties from infiltrating and voting to nominate weak candidates.

Communism: A way of organizing a society in which the government owns the things that are used to make and transport products (such as land, oil, factories, ships, etc.) and there is no privately owned property.

Convention: A national meeting of a political party, where delegates formally elect a party’s nominee.

Deficit Spending: When the government intentionally spends more money than it takes in.

Delegate: A representative to a party’s national convention chosen by local voters to vote for a particular candidate. Each state is assigned a certain number of delegates based on its population.

Demagogue: A leader whose impassioned rhetoric appeals to greed, fear, and hatred, and who often spreads lies.

Direct Democracy: A system of government where political decisions are made by the people directly, rather than by their elected representatives.

Electoral College: The voters, or electors, of each state that formally elect the United States President and Vice President. Each state has as many Electoral College votes as it does U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators in Congress.

Entitlement Program: A government program that guarantees certain benefits to a particular group or segment of the population.

Executive Branch: The part of government which executes the law of the land

Exit Poll: A poll of voters leaving a polling place, asking how they voted.

Filibuster: An attempt by a Senator or group of Senators to obstruct the passage of a bill, favored by the majority, by talking continuously. Because there is no rule in the Senate over how long a member can speak, a Senator can prevent a bill from coming up for a vote by talking endlessly.

Fiscal: Of or relating to government revenue, especially taxes.

Gerrymander: The reorganization of voting districts by the party in power to insure more votes for their candidates.

Grass Roots: Political activity that originates locally, or arises from ground level.

Gubernatorial: Of or relating to a state governor or the office of state governor.

Inauguration: The beginning or introduction of a system, policy, or period.

Incumbent: A current officeholder.

Indirect Democracy: A form of government in which people elect representatives to rule in their interest.

Interest Group: An organized group that tries to influence the government to adopt certain policies or measures.

Judicial Review: The principle by which courts can declare acts of either the executive branch or the legislative branch unconstitutional.

Judicial Branch: The court systems of local, state, and federal governments, responsible for interpreting the laws passed by the legislative branch and enforced by the executive branch.

Legislation: A law or set of laws made by a government

Legislative Branch: The legislative branch is made up of the two houses of Congress—the Senate and the House of Representatives. The most important duty of the legislative branch is to make laws. Laws are written, discussed and voted on in Congress.

Legislator: A person who writes and passes laws.

Lobbying: The act of attempting to influence government leaders to create legislation or conduct an activity that will help a particular organization.

Medicaid: A joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs for some people with limited income and resources.

Medicare: Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant, sometimes called ESRD).

Naturalization: The process by which a foreign citizen becomes a citizen of a new country.

Non-Partisan: Not biased or partisan, especially toward any particular political group

Nomination: When a political party chooses its official candidate for a particular office.

Nominee: The candidate chosen by a political party to run for a particular office.

Open Primary: A primary election in which voters are not required to declare party affiliation.

Partisan: Prejudiced in favor of a particular cause

Party Platform: A party platform refers to a political party’s formal statement of its basic principles, objectives, and positions on major issues.

Political Action Committee (PAC): An organization created to raise money in support or opposition of a particular candidate or candidates. A PAC must be registered with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and may be formed by any group, including businesses, labor unions, and special interest groups.

Primary: A state election in which party members vote for a candidate from within their party. The vote determines how many of that state’s delegates each candidate gets.

Pundit: A political analyst, commentator, or columnist who usually works for a newspaper or magazine, or in broadcasting.

Recession: A period of temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activity are reduced, generally identified by a fall in GDP in two successive quarters.

Separation of Powers: An act of vesting the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of government in separate bodies.

Socialism: A political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

Statute: A written law passed by a legislative body.

Straw Poll: An unofficial ballot conducted as a test of opinion.

Subsidy: A sum of money granted by the government or a public body to assist an industry or business so that the price of a commodity or service may remain low or competitive.

Superdelegate: A nonelected delegate to a presidential nominating convention, usually an office-holder or influential party leader, who is not pledged to support any particular candidate.

Swing State: A US state where the two major political parties have similar levels of support among voters, viewed as important in determining the overall result of a presidential election.

Swing Vote: The undecided, usually independent, portion of the electorate that can “swing” the outcome of an election one way or the other.

Treaty: A formally concluded and ratified agreement between countries.

Veto: Power that allows the President, a governor or a mayor to refuse approval of a piece of legislation. Federally, a President returns a vetoed bill to the Congress, generally with a message. Congress can accept the veto or attempt to override the veto by a 2/3 majority of those present and voting in both the House and the Senate.

Stephanie F
FFL Cabinet Member