Elections are an important part of political life and an essential part of democracy (a political system where people vote for politicians). Minor (smaller) elections are usually held once a year, while major (larger) elections are held every few years. In the lead up (time before) to an election, there’s a lot of news coverage about the election, the candidates (people running for office), and their policies (ideas of how to run things). It can be hard to understand what’s being spoken of in the news if you don’t know some of the election vocabulary involved. This is where Bespeaking can help!

We’ve looked at some of the most important election vocabulary you will hear as an election draws nearer (comes closer), and put it all in one convenient place for you. If you’re struggling (having trouble) with some of the election vocabulary you hear in the news, check out this list!

Election

An election is the event around voting for politicians. Elections are when people are able to choose the politicians they would like to represent them, and place their vote for them. An election usually takes place on one certain day, although voting can sometimes happen before Election Day. In the United States, we sometimes talk about election season, which is the lead up to Election Day, when people are trying to get their message out and get people to vote for them.

For example:

  • I still don’t know who I’m going to vote for in the election. There are two people I really like, and I’ll have to decide between them.
  • Do you know how I can help with the election? I’d like to help out in some way, because I think it’s really important.

To vote for/to elect

When you choose who you want to represent you, you vote for them or elect them (if they win). The two verbs are similar, but not quite the same. To vote for someone is the act of saying who you would like to win an election. To elect someone, however, is how we talk about the winner of an election. You can vote for anyone, but if your choice doesn’t win, then they haven’t been elected, and we can’t use the verb to elect for them.

For example:

  • Do you know who you’re going to vote for in the election? Who do you want to win?
  • The candidate who was elected isn’t my favorite, but I hope they do a good job anyway.
  • I voted for my favorite candidate, but sadly they didn’t win, so they weren’t elected.
  • Every year, we vote to elect new people to office.

Ballot

So now that you have the election vocabulary for the actual election and the act of voting down pat, you may be wondering what you actually cast your vote on. Do you just write down a name on a piece of paper? Do you tell someone? No! When you cast your vote, you do so on a ballot. A ballot is an official piece of paper that has the names of the people running for office on it, that you mark when you go to vote. In the U.S., many voting machines are now digital, but you still use a ballot to vote, even if it’s on a screen.

If you can’t vote in person on Election Day, you can usually get a ballot sent to you that you fill out and send back. This is called mail-in voting or absentee voting.

For example:

  • I haven’t received my mail-in ballot yet. I’ll have to call my local election office and see where it is.
  • In this year’s election, there will be the names of the candidates on the ballot, as well as some potential policy changes.

Campaign

You can’t have an election without candidates (people running for office), and in order to tell people what they think, the candidates need to run a campaign. A campaign is the organization behind a candidate: people calling strangers and knocking on doors to tell them about the candidate, sending flyers in the mail, putting advertisements on TV, etc. The campaign is all of the logistical (organization and planning) aspects used to get a candidate elected.

For example:

  • He wanted to help her campaign to help get her elected, because he supports what she stands for. To help out, he said he would knock on doors to help inform people.
  • His campaign didn’t have enough money to keep running, so he had to drop out of the race for president.

Debate

When an election is happening, how do you know the views of each candidate? How can you easily compare what they think about certain topics? This is where a debate comes into play. A debate is essentially a structured argument, where candidates talk about issues and how they would handle (take care of) each issue. Debates are very interesting to watch and can provide a lot of insight into what a candidate thinks!

For example:

  • Did you watch the debate last night? What did you think about what each candidate had to say?
  • I think she performed very well in the debate. She spoke very well and made her points clearly.

Poll

Polls play a very important role in elections (and in election vocabulary)! A poll is where voters are surveyed (asked) who they would vote for, which then shows the percentage of people who are in favor of a candidate. While polls are helpful in seeing where a candidate stands, they’re not always reliable (trustworthy). Polls have been wrong before, which have provided some surprises on election night. Polls are a helpful way of seeing where a candidate stands on a large scale.

For example:

  • How is he doing in the polls? Are the majority of people going to vote for him?
  • The polls said she was leading by eight percentage points, but they turned out to be wrong and she lost the election.

Polling place/polling station

Finally, after all the campaigning, debates, and polls, it’s time to go vote! When you’re ready to vote, where do you end up going? If you’re voting in person, you go to a polling place or polling station to place your vote. A polling place or polling station is usually held in a public place, such as a school, where people can meet to vote in an election. There are many polling places in order to make it easy for people to vote. Where’s your polling station?

For example:

  • When I was a child, I would always have off of school on Election Day, since my school turned into a polling place.
  • Our polling station is far away from our house, but voting is very important, so we make an effort to go every time there’s an election.

Are you familiar with any of this election vocabulary? Is any of it new to you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!


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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and can’t wait to get out and vote!

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