On Nov. 8, voters and interested onlookers will be glued to their television sets to watch the outcome of what has been one of the nastiest American presidential campaigns in recent memory. It has set new lows in terms of intelligent discourse and in no-holds-barred attacks on opponents.
Rather than descend to those depths ourselves, let’s take a look at election-related words. It’s time to refresh our memories about some of the terms the pundits will use as coverage begins:
- Blue State, Red State – Although it sounds like the title of a Dr. Seuss book, these are standard U.S. election terms, visual cues to voting tendencies and actual outcomes. Blue states are those whose population tends to vote for Democratic candidates and will be coloured blue on the election maps if Hillary Clinton wins them. Red states are those whose population generally votes for Republicans and will be coloured red on the election maps if Donald Trump captures them.
- Electoral College — This process is the toughest for people – outsiders and Americans, too – to comprehend. The U.S. president and vice-president are not elected directly by popular vote. Instead, voters cast their ballot for electors who represent the candidates. In each state and the District of Columbia, political parties propose slates of electors to represent them.
The number of electors allocated to each state is based on population and equals the number of senators plus members of the House of Representatives for the state; the number of U.S. electors equals 538, the total of senators and representatives in Congress. The winner must receive votes from 270 electors, a majority. In all states except Maine and Nebraska, the candidate who receives the majority of popular votes wins all the electors.
Although the election is held in November, the electors do not meet until January to cast their votes, making the election results technically unofficial until that date.
- Lame Duck – an elected official who is still serving out his/her term, even though his/her successor has been elected.
- Popular Vote – The total votes cast by voters in the one-person, one-vote system. In the U.S., a presidential candidate can win a majority of the popular vote, but not be elected president.
- Split- and Straight-Ticket Voting – A split ticket refers to an individual ballot containing a vote for a candidate from one party for president and a candidate from a second party for legislator. A straight ticket refers to a ballot containing votes for one party only.
With these terms in hand, you can confidently enter any election discussion that arises — and there will be many in the coming days!