Campaigns and Elections in the United States

Vocabulary

527 committee

nonprofit organization that advocates for a particular issue rather than campaigning specifically for or against a particular candidate

Buckley v. Valeo

1976 Supreme Court decision that declared unconstitutional the part of a campaign finance law that limited how much federal candidates could spend because it violated the 1st Amendment right to free speech while upholding the law's limits on direct donations to particular campaigns

caucus

meeting in which party members choose candidates to run for office

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared unconstitutional the part of a campaign law that limited the amount corporations and labor unions could spend to promote the election of particular candidates for federal office because those limits violated the right to free speech

closed primary

election to select a party's candidates for office in which only registered members of that party can vote

cracking

practice of drawing the lines of congressional districts to split members of a particular group so they will not constitute a majority in any district

electoral college

system by which the president and vice president of the United States are selected by electors from each state and the District of Columbia. Each state has the same number of electoral votes as it has representatives and senators in Congress (the District of Columbia has three)

faithless elector

presidential elector who does not vote for the candidate that the elector is pledged to support

Federal Election Commission

independent federal agency that oversees spending in congressional and presidential campaigns to ensure that campaign laws are followed

gerrymandering

redistricting that creates geographic boundaries designed to give an electoral advantage to one political party

incumbent

person who currently holds a political office

jungle primary

system in which all candidates seeking an office appear on one ballot, voters select the candidate they prefer, and the top two vote-getters advance to the general election

money primary

early process of narrowing down the probable candidates based on who can raise the most funds for the campaign

nominating convention

meeting at which specially chosen party members gather to choose candidates for their party

open primary

election to select a party's candidates for office in which all voters, even nonparty members, can vote

open seat

political office whose incumbent resigns, dies, or chooses not to seek reelection

packing

practice of drawing the lines of congressional districts to concentrate members of a particular group in one district to allow supporters of the other party to win neighboring districts

party platform

formal set of goals endorsed by a political party

political action committee (PAC)

organization established by an interest group to raise money and provide financial support to political candidates or parties

primary election

election in which voters select the candidates who will run in the general election

prospective voting

voting choices based on the expectations of the future performance of a political party, officeholder, or administration

redistricting

drawing of new geographic boundaries for political districts

retrospective voting

voting choices based on the past performance of a political party, officeholder, or administration

single-member district

electoral unit in which only one candidate is elected to represent the constituents

Super PAC

independent, expenditure-only political action committee that can raise unlimited funds from individuals, corporations, and labor unions

swing state

state in which no political party dominates, where elections are competitive and either major presidential party candidate has a chance to win

voter identification law

legislation that requires voters to bring a form of personal identification, such as a driver's license or state-issued ID, with them when they vote