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Civic Duty

The belief that in order to support democratic government, a citizen should always vote.

Electoral College

A unique American institution created by the Constitution that provides for the selection of the president by electors chosen by the state parties. Although the electoral college vote usually reflects a popular majority, the winner-take-all rule gives clout to big states.

Initiative Petition

A process permitted in some states whereby voters may put proposed changes in the state constitution to a vote if sufficient signatures are obtained on petitions calling for such referendum.

Motor Voter Law (Act)

Passed in 1993, this Act went into effect for the 1996 election. It requires states to permit people to register to vote at the same time they apply for a driver's license.

Policy Voting

Electoral choices that are made on the basis of the voters' policy preference and on the basis of where the candidates stand on policy issues

Political Efficacy

The belief that one's political participation really matters - that one's vote can actually make a difference


a state-level method of direct legislation that gives voters a chance to approve or disapprove legislation or a constitutional amendment proposed by the state legislature

Retrospective Voting

A theory of voting in which voters essentially ask this simple question "What have you done for me lately?"


The legal right to vote extended to African Americans by the fifteenth amendment to women by the nineteenth amendment and to people over the age of 18 by the twenty-sixth amendment


Special election initiated by petition to allow citizens to remove an official from office before his or her term expires

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