Hey, we know the political process can be incredibly confusing. Even we can get a little confused at times, and it’s our full-time job to understand this stuff. But we are here to help you out! Check out our compilation of important political terms to know so you can more easily get involved in politics and make a difference in your community.
Bipartisan – supported by both sides of the political aisle.
Caucus (election) – caucuses were once the most common way of choosing presidential nominees. Today, Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Wyoming and Iowa are the only states to rely on a caucus. A caucus is a system of local gatherings where voters decide which candidate to support and select delegates for nominating conventions.
Caucus (legislative body) – an informal organization of members of the House or the Senate, or both, that exists to discuss issues of mutual concern. There are regional, political or ideological, ethnic, and economic-based caucuses.
Closed Primary – in a closed primary, only voters registered with a given party can vote in that party’s primary. Colorado uses a semi-closed primary system, whereby party members and unaffiliated voters may vote in the party’s primary.
Committee – a sub-group of legislators that meet to review, gather, and evaluate pieces of legislation. Committees exist in the General Assembly, House, and Senate. Check out the complete list of committees in the Colorado State Legislature here.
Committee Hearing – Committees frequently hold hearings to receive testimony from members of the community and/or organizations to learn more about the proposed legislation. Most hearings are open to the public to attend. You can find dates for committee hearings in Colorado here.
Constituency – a body of voters in a specified area who elect a representative to a legislative body (for example, the Senate or the House of Representatives). Politicians work on behalf of the needs, concerns, and interests of their constituents who elected them.
Co-Sponsor – a member that adds their name formally in support of another members bill. In the Colorado Legislature, members only have a certain number of bills they can co-sponsor each session. Co-sponsoring a bill shows a members passion for a topic, and their devotion to this specific bill.
Dark Horse – a long-shot candidate.
Electoral College – this is the 538 people who cast the vote for the President of the United States. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. Each state has a number equal to the number of U.S. Senators and House of Representative members it has in Congress. Every citizen who votes in a presidential election casts a vote to elect a person to represent them at the Electoral College.
Filibuster – a strategy employed in the United States Senate, whereby a minority can delay a vote on proposed legislation by making long speeches or introducing irrelevant issues. A successful filibuster can force the withdrawal of a bill.
General Assembly – the legislative branch of the state government; the Senate and House of Representatives.
Gerrymander – the reorganization of voting districts by the party in power to ensure more votes for their candidates.
GOTV (Get Out The Vote) – a type of political campaign aimed at increasing the voter turnout in an election.
Impeachment – the formal process by which a sitting president of the United States may be accused of wrongdoing. A common misconception is that impeachment is the act of removing a sitting president from office, when in fact, it is just a formal charge of misconduct. In fact, two presidents (Clinton and Jackson) have been impeached, and neither was removed from office.
Incumbent – an official or party that is currently holding office. If someone challenges the Incumbent, they are trying to take away the seat of the existing office-holder.
Lame Duck – a politician who is considered ineffective, either because he or she was recently elected out of office or announced retirement.
Lobby – a group seeking to influence an elected official, or the act of doing so.
Muckraker – a journalist who seeks out the scandalous activities of public officials.
Open Primary – in an open primary, voters of any affiliation may vote in the primary of any party. Colorado has semi-closed primaries.
Presidential Primary – a direct, statewide process of selecting candidates for President. Citizens cast their votes privately on a standardized ballot, which differs from caucuses, where participants vote by raising hands or breaking into groups according to the candidate they support.
Pork Barrel – wasteful and unnecessary projects that politicians secure for their local districts, usually to gain favor with local voters.
Recall – the process by which citizens can remove elected officials from office before their term is completed. This process includes the circulation of petitions by recall organizers, the evaluation of signatures by election officials, and a public vote if the petitions are deemed to have sufficient valid signatures.
Referred Measure – ballot measures that are ordered to appear on a state’s ballot through a vote made in the state’s legislature.
Standing Committees – groups within the legislature which consider bills and recommend measures for consideration before they go to the floor.
State Legislature – the legislative body of any of the 50 U.S. states. Every state in the country except Nebraska has a bicameral legislature, meaning that the legislature consists of two separate legislative chambers. The smaller chamber is called the Senate, and the larger chamber is called the House or the Assembly.
State Senate – the upper house in the individual legislature of each state.
State Assembly – the lower house in the individual legislature of each state.
United States Senate – the upper house of the United States Congress. Two senators are elected from each state, regardless of the state population, guaranteeing each state equal representation. Senators are elected for six-year terms.
United States House of Representatives – the lower house of the United States Congress. Representatives are allotted to states based on their population. Representatives are elected for two-year terms.
Specific Positions in the Legislature
Senate President – the highest ranking position in the Colorado Senate. The Senate President is elected by the state’s senators. The current Senate president is Leroy Garcia.
Senate President Pro Tempore – the second-highest-ranking leadership position in the Senate. The president pro tem presides over the Senate body in the absence of the Senate president. The current Senate President pro Tempore is Lois Court.
Senate Majority Leader – the chief Senate spokespeople for the ruling political party. The current Senate Majority Leader in Colorado is Steve Fenberg.
Senate Minority Leader – the chief Senate spokespeople for the political party not currently in power. The current Senate Minority Leader in Colorado is Chris Holbert.
Assistant Majority Leader – works with the majority leader to develop and implement an agenda for the majority party. The current Senate Assistant Majority Leader is Rhonda Fields.
Assistant Minority Leader – works with the minority leader to develop and implement an agenda for the minority party. The current Senate Assistant Minority Leader is John Cooke.
Majority Whip – enforces party discipline on votes deemed to be crucial by the party leadership and ensuring that members do not vote in a way not approved of by the party. The current Majority Whip is Kerry Donovan.
Minority Whip – enforces party discipline on votes deemed to be crucial by the party leadership and ensuring that members do not vote in a way not approved of by the party. The current Minority Whip is Ray Scott.