8 Election Words To Know Before You Vote

Electoral College

As a voter, you’ve got some awesome responsibilities: our democracy depends on your very opinions, after all. You’ve got to research the candidates and issues, for one. You’ve also got to know your voting requirements and your voting machine. (No hanging chads, please.)

But if you’ve got this covered—and we sincerely hope you do—we’d like to throw one more task at you: how well do you know these eight important election words? 

Let’s start with the Electoral College.

The United States Electoral College is a group of electors, chosen by the voters to formally elect the president.

There are 538 electors, based on the number of representatives in the House of Representatives (435) and the 100 senators in the Senate. Though this electoral system has been in place since the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the term Electoral College did not enter the vernacular until it appeared in federal law in 1845.

And … some argue it should disappear from our politics and vernacular soon!

WATCH: How To Talk Politics With Your Family Without Arguing


Derived from the Latin bi meaning “two” and camer meaning “chamber,” a bicameral system of government is a legislative body with two chambers.

In the case of the United States, this refers to the Senate and the House of Representatives. Simple enough meaning for a word that looks so intimidating …


Derived from the Middle French apportionner meaning “to portion,” apportionment is the proportional distribution of seats in a legislative body on the basis of population.

In the United States legislature, the composition of the House of Representatives is determined in this manner. Election officials get this number by comparing the population of each state to the total population of the country. Based on that proportion, they decide how many of the 435 seats in the House a given state is entitled to.

Nineteenth Amendment

Ratified on August 18, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution granted women the right to vote.

Suffragettes Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton drafted the amendment in 1878, though it was not ratified for 42 years. The signing of the Nineteenth Amendment meant victory for the long and arduous movement for women’s suffrage in America.


Also referred to as a voting district, a precinct is one of a fixed number of districts, each containing one polling place, into which a city, town, etc., is divided for voting purposes.

The term is derived from a mixture of two constructions, prae meaning “in front of,” and cingere meaning “to surround or encircle.”


Known in British English as relative majority, plurality can occur when there are three or more candidates running for a single office.

The term refers to the excess amount of votes received by the leading candidate, when they collect the most votes (plurality) but not necessarily more than half the votes (absolute majority). The United States employs a simple-plurality, or winner-take-all, voting system.


The electorate is the body of persons entitled to vote in an election. The root is derived from the Latin elector meaning “chooser,” though the term did not come into common use until the 1870s.

In the United States, most citizens at least 18 years of age have the right to vote. So, register, please … like, seriously.


A constituent is a person who authorizes another to act on their behalf, as a voter in a district represented by an elected office.

The term stems from the Latin constituere meaning “that which makes up or composes.” It was first used as a noun in 1714 when it came to mean “one who appoints or elects a representative.”

Be sure to write to your representative if you have any worries or opinions about how they will vote. It’s worth the effort … and they represent you, right?


You know what happens next, right? After the voting, everyone tunes into the news to find out what all the pundits are saying … but, uh, what’s a pundit, anyway?

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