AP Government Chapter 10

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A characterization of elections by political scientists meaning that they are almost universally accepted as a fair and free method of selecting political leaders.


A state-level method of direct legislation that gives voters a chance to approve or disapprove proposed legislation or a proposed constitutional amendment.

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 a referendum.


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.

Political Efficacy

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

Civic Duty

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

Voter Registration

A system adopted by the states that requires voters to register well in advance of election. A few states permit election day registration.

Motor Voter 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 their driver’s license.

Mandate Theory of Election

The idea that the winning candidate has a mandate from the people to carry out his or her platforms and politics. Politicians like the theory better than political scientists do.

Policy Voting

Electoral choices that are made on basis of the voters’ policy preferences and on the basis of where the candidates stand on policy issues.

Electoral College

A unique American institution, created by the Constitution, providing for the selection of the president by electors chosen by the state parties. Although its vote usually reflects a popular majority, the winner-take-all rules give clout to big states.

Retrospective Voting

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

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