Absentee Voting - A process by which voters can participate in elections when they can't get to their assigned polling place
Affirmative Action - Government programs that seek to create special opportunities for victims of discrimination
Amendment - Addition to the Constitution which requires 2/3rds approval by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and 3/4 of the States.
Appropriation - An act of Congress that enables Federal agencies to spend money for specific purposes
Authoritarian Government - Political system in which a single power holder wields all authority in government
Autocracy - Government in one which one person has unlimited authority or control
Balanced Budget - A balanced budget occurs when the total revenues that a government takes in (mostly in the form of taxes) is equal to total expenditures for a fiscal year
Balance-of-Power Theory - An approach to international relations in which power is shared across nations such that no one nation is strong enough to dominate all others
Bicameral Legislature - This means two legislative houses. The United States has a bicameral legislature featuring the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Bill of Rights - The name for the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution. The Bill of Rights guarantees personal rights and liberties and limits the power of the government.
Blanket Primary - Voters in a blanket primary may select a candidate from any party for each office. Blanket primaries use the same basic procedures as a general election.
Block Grant - Federal money given to the states with only general guidelines for use. The receiving states decide how the money will be spent.
Budget Deficit - When the government spends more money than it takes in during a given fiscal year
Budget Resolution - A set of spending guidelines for the following fiscal year. The budget resolution must pass both houses of Congress in identical form by April 15th.
Bureaucracy - Administrative system governing a large institution
Bush Doctrine - Named for President George W. Bush, this Doctrine describes the idea that the U.S. should take preemptive action against threats to national security
Cabinet - The cabinet is an advisory body to the President and includes the heads of the executive departments and agencies. Cabinet members are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate
Categorical Grants - Federal aid given to states with strings attached. To receive the money the states must adhere to federally mandated guidelines for spending it.
Caucus - a group within a larger body organized to further a specific interest
Census - The process mandated by the Constitution by which the population of the United States is officially counted every ten years. Census data is used to determine congressional districts and to help distribute federal money.
Checks & Balances - This refers to the fact that all branches of the government have different powers which are able to check and balance the powers of the other branches. For example, the President can veto bills passed by the Legislature and the Senate can block presidential appointments
Chief Justice - The head of the U.S. Supreme Court (currently Justice John Roberts)
Civil Disobedience - Nonviolent civil disobedience requires activists to protest peacefully against laws they believe are unjust. The concept was made popular by Henry David Thoreau in refusing to pay his taxes in support of a war he disagreed with
Civil Liberties - Personal freedoms that the government cannot abridge which guarantee citizens to the right to free speech, freedom of religion, and the right to a fair trial.
Civil Rights - Enforceable rights protecting citizens from government overreach or discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, physical handicap, or sexual orientation.
Closed Primary - A primary election in which only registered voters who are members of a given party can vote for their party's nominee for a political race.
Cloture - A motion or process aimed at bringing debate to a quick end. In the U.S. Senate, cloture is the only formal way to break a filibuster
Coalition - A combination of groups of people who work together to achieve a political goal.
Commander in Chief - The president's role as the leader of the United States military.
Concurrent Powers - Powers in nations with a federal system that are shared by different levels of government, such as the authority of the state and of the federal government in the U.S. to levy taxes
Conference Committee - temporary panel composed of members of both houses of a bicameral legislature formed for the purpose of reconciling differences in legislation that has passed both chambers
Conservative - Political identity that generally emphasizes respect for traditional institutions and opposes attempts to achieve sweeping social changes through government action. In the U.S., conservatives tend to favor free market capitalism with limited government regulation, traditional societal norms and customs, and opposition to progressive taxation. Conservatives tend to be members of the Republican Party.
Constituency - Body of voters in a given area who elect a representative to a legislative or other governmental office
Delegate - A person authorized to represent others
Delegated Powers - Authority to legally transfer power or authority from one person or group to another
Democracy - Form of government in which citizens may participate in the proposal and establishment of the laws by which their society is run. This participation often takes the form of voting for representatives, running for elected office, or advocating for the establishment of certian laws.
Deregulation - The process of removing or reducing government regulations or laws
Discretionary Spending - optional government spending on programs that are controlled through the regular budget process
Dissenting Opinion - A formal written disagreement with the majority ruling in a judicial case.
Divided Government - Situation in the U.S. where one party controls the Presidency and another party controls one or both houses of Congress
Due Process - Legal obligation of a government to operate within the law. This principle is codified in the U.S. Constitution by both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Electoral College - A set of electors who are selected to elect the President and Vice President by a simple majority of the 538 Electors that are apportioned to each state based on population. Electors typically vote based on the popular vote of their state or district, but there have been instances in history where the Elector has not voted for the candidate to whom they were pledged
Eminent Domain - The power of a government to take away private property for the public good which requires the government to provide just compensation for the property taken
Equal Protection Clause - Provision of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which states that no state shall deny 'equal protection of the laws' to any person
Executive Agreement - An agreement between the executives or heads of two or more nations that has not been ratified by the legislature as treaties are typically ratified. Executive Agreements are often used in the U.S. because the President does not need to seek ratification by two thirds of the Senate, as is the case with Treaties.
Executive Order - A legally binding order from the President of the U.S. to the federal agencies or departments
Expressed Powers - The list of powers explicitly granted to Congress by Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution
Filibuster - A procedure in the U.S. Senate which allows one or more members to delay or prevent a vote on a given proposal by continually holding the floor. A Senator may hold the floor and speak for as long as they wish on any topic unless cloture is invoked by three-fifths of the Senate.
Framing - The process whereby presentation of an issue shapes the way in which it is received by the target audience
Free Riding - Using or benefiting from resources without paying for them
Front-Runner - A candidate who is leading the race based on polls, fundraising, and/or name recognition
Gerrymandering - The process of establishing political boundaries such as electoral districts in a manner that a particular party or group will gain electoral advantage.
Grants-in-Aid - A transfer of money from one level of government to a more localized level of government, institution, or individual for the purposes of funding a specific project or program
Grassroots - A movement or campaign that is driven by a local group or community
Impeachment - Formal process by which a government official is charged with wrongdoing with the intent to remove that official from office
Incumbent - The current office holder of a political position. Incumbents in upcoming elections are often viewed as the front-runner due to the advantage of name recognition and a more formalized current platform to share their beliefs and reach constituents
Interest Group - Association of individuals or organizations that attempts to influence public policy related to a specific cause or purpose
Issue Advocacy - Generalized political communication intended to influence a specific issue or policy rather than advocating for or against the election of an individual candidate or candidates
Judicial Activism - The exercise of judicial review in which a judge is willing to affect public policy by proactively deciding constitutional issues in a manner that overturns legislation, executive orders, or judicial precedent
Judicial Restraint - When a judge is less than willing to affect public policy or prior legislative, executive, or judicial actions unless absolutely necessary as a result of a clear constitutional violation, for example.
Judicial Review - Power of the courts to examine and determine the constitutionality of legislative or executive actions.
Landslide - An election in which one candidate wins over the other by a very large majority
Liberal - Political identity that has historically emphasized ideas rooted in individual liberty. In the U.S., Liberals tend to believe that the government has a role in reducing economic and social inequalities, protecting civil rights, and allowing for a higher level of government involvement in society and business than is preferred by Conservatives
Lobbying - The act of attempting to influence policy through persuasion of government officials
Logrolling - A process of trading votes to obtain passage of legislation
Majority leader - The elected leader of the party holding a majority in a legislative body
Majority System - Type of electoral system in which a candidate must receive more votes than all other candidates combined
Mandatory Spending - Federal spending on programs required by law that is not controlled through the regular budget process
Minority Leader - the elected leader of the party holding the second largest number of seats in a legislative body
Monetary Policy - Actions taken by a central bank to influence the amount of money and credit in an economy. The Federal Reserve is in charge of monetary policy in the U.S. and is tasked with attempting to maximize employment levels, maintain stables prices, and control inflation through buying and selling government securities, setting the discount rate, and establishing reserve requirements for banks
Mudslinging - Negative attacks on the opposition - frequently exaggerated - in order to discredit the other side's opinions
Multilateralism -The approach to foreign policy that seeks to achieve objectives through alliances, treaties, and cooperation with several other countries
Multi-member District - An electoral district from which two or more members are sent to the legislature
Non-partisan - Not supporting one party over the other
Oligarchy - A form of government in which power is held in the hands of a relatively small number of people
Open Primary - A primary election in which registered voters can choose the party primary in which they wish to vote
Partisan - Support for a single party or cause
Party - A group of people who join together based on shared ideas and ideals
Party Vote - A roll call vote in which at least 50% of the members of one party take a particular position and are opposed by at least 50% of the members of the other party
Patronage - The practice of elected officials filling government positions with appointees based on political considerations rather than objective merit-based criteria
Pluralism - Political theory that governance is the product of a complex web of competing institutions and interest groups, rather than single individual/group or the collective will of the people as a whole
Plurality System - An electoral system where the winner is the candidate who receives the most votes, even if that is not a majority of votes cast
Pocket Veto - An indirect method for the President to veto a passed bill while the legislature is in recess. A bill passed by the Congress normally becomes law if the President does not sign it within 10 days, but if Congress adjourns during the 10-day period, then the bill does not become law without he President's signature
Political Action Committees (PACs) - Group that is organized for the purpose of raising and spending money in elections
Political Socialization - The process by which political ideas, orientations, and culture are disseminated and acquired
Pork-barrel legislation - Appropriations made by legislative bodies for localized projects created with the intent of benefiting a specific constituency in return for their political support
Precedents - Decisions made by a court that are used to help answer future legal questions
Privatization - The process of transferring property from government control to the private sector
Progressive Taxation - A policy of taxation that taxes higher earners at a greater percentage than lower income earners
Proportional Representation - Electoral system in which the distribution of seats in a legislative body corresponds to the overall proportion of total votes cast for each body
Pundit - An individual who provides commentary to the public on a particular subject
Quorum - The number of Representatives that must be present before the legislature can conduct business. In the U.S. House of Representatives, 218 members must be present for a quorum and 51 members must be present in the Senate.
Referendum - Vote by an electorate on a single political question referred to them for direct decision
Regressive Taxation - Tax policy in which lower income earners pay a greater percentage than higher income earners
Rider - An amendment or provision that is not relevant to the legislation to which is its attached.
Roll-Call Vote - A vote in which each legislator's yes or no vote is recorded
Separation of Powers - Division of power in which each branch of government is given different areas of responsibility
Suffrage - The right to vote in political elections
Totalitarian Government - A political system in which individual freedom is held as completely subordinate to the power or authority of a single power holder that attempts to control all aspects of life of its citizens
Unilateralism - An approach to foreign policy that seeks to avoid international alliances and commitments by attempting to pursue objectives individually
Veto Power - The ability for the President to unilaterally block legislation from becoming law. If the President chooses to exercise Veto power, the legislature can overrule the President's veto with a 2/3rds vote of both the House of Representatives and the Senate