A Glossary of Election Terms


Abstención, abstencionismo electoral : abstention (abstention is registered voters minus number of ballots/votes cast)

Alcalde : mayor, head of town council

Alcalde auxiliar : assistant to municipal authorities usually charged with administering a rural “cantón” or “aldea” ( Guatemala)

Alcaldesa : female mayor

Aldea : hamlet, located within municipal jurisdiction

Alianzas electorales : party alliances in elections

Arrastre : literally “hauling” or pull, where congressional and municipal candidates in general elections are largely elected as a result of the votes for the party of the presidential candidate, even though there are separate ballots for each race ( Dominican Republic)

Asamblea constituyente: constituent assembly

Asamblea electoral : all citizens with right to vote ( Dominican Republic)

Asamblea nacional : congress; house of representatives and senate combined ( Dominican Republic)

Asamblea primaria : citizens convened to elect representatives to an electoral college ( Dominican Republic)

Auto-golpe : coup against one’s own government ( Guatemala, Peru)

Ayuntamiento : municipal government, governing body for a “municipio,” usually includes the “alcalde,” “síndicos,” “regidores,” and other public officials

Barrera electoral : guidelines that determine which candidates or parties can participate in specific elections

Barrio : neighborhood in a municipality

Bipartidismo : two-party system

Blancos : blank ballots

Bolataje : election where no candidate receives the minimum number of votes needed to win the election ( Dominican Republic)

Boleta anulada : voided ballot ( Dominican Republic)

Boleta de arrastre : traditional straight ticket ballot ( Dominican Republic)

Boleta de voto : ballot (Dominican Republic)

Boleta de votación : ballot

Boleta electoral : ballot (Dominican Republic)

Boleta nula : null ballot ( Dominican Republic)

Boleta protestada : contested ballot ( Dominican Republic)

Boleta rechazada : ballot which will not be counted for whatever reason ( Dominican Republic)

Boleta sobrante : unused ballot ( Nicaragua)

Boleta única : separate ballot for each type of election (presidential, congressional, mayoral): even though held the same day, they are deposited in different boxes

Boletín de voto : ballot (Paraguay)

Cabecera municipal : largest municipality in each parish (El Salvador); town center of a “municipio” (Guatemala)

Cabildo : city council, usually associated with indigenous communities (Guatemala)

Cabildo abierto : open municipal council (Venezuela); town meeting (El Salvador)

Cabina : voting booth

Cabina de voto : voting booth

Cámara alta : senate (Dominican Republic)

Cámara baja : house of representatives (Dominican Republic)

Cámara de diputados : house of representatives (Dominican Republic)

Cámara secreta : voting booth

Campaña electoral : electoral campaign

Candidato : candidate

Cantón : basic unit of local government ( Costa Rica); rural neighborhood within a municipal jurisdiction ( Guatemala); electoral precinct ( Nicaragua)

Carnet electoral : identification card required for voting ( El Salvador, Peru)

Carro completo : clean sweep of an election ( Mexico)

Caserio : hamlet, part of a municipality smaller than an “aldea” ( Guatemala)

Casillas electorales : voting booths

Casillas electorales especiales : voting locations for voters in transit, also voting places set up at the border between the United States and Mexico so Mexicans living in the United States can vote

Catálogos electorales : lists of registered voters prepared for specific elections as opposed to a permanent list ( Nicaragua)

Caucos : caucus

Caudillismo : leadership by a single strong figure

Cédula : national citizen identification document required to vote ( Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua)

Cédula de identidad : national citizen identification document required to vote (Nicaragua)

Cédula de identidad y electoral : document required to vote (Dominican Republic)

Cedulación : citizen identification program

Censo de votantes : electoral register

Censo electoral : list of registered voters ( Dominican Republic)

Centro electoral : poll, voting location

Centro nacional de cómputos : electoral body that prepares the final vote count ( Nicaragua)

Circunscripción electoral : precinct, electoral district

Ciudad : city; a formal status bestowed upon certain urban areas within Guatemala’s national political system

Coalición partidista : coalition of parties

Cociente de unidad : quotient; result of dividing the total national vote among the available congressional seats

Cociente electoral : number of votes necessary to win a seat under proportional representation

Colegio cerrado : closed polling station, voters must register within a certain time at the polling station, and are later called in to vote ( Dominican Republic)

Colegio de votantes : electoral college

Colegio electoral : polling station, precinct; electoral college; electoral district

Comicios : elections, polls

Comites cívicos : local grassroots parties; civic committees that are allowed to run slates ( Guatemala)

Comportamiento electoral : electoral process

Cómputo : summary of election results

Comuna : municipality ( Chile)

Con licencia : leave of absence for elected officials ( Mexico)

Concejal, concejales : municipal councillors

Concejal suplente : elected backup to elected official

Consejo deliberante : municipal council ( Argentina)

Consejo electoral departamental : departmental electoral council ( Nicaragua)

Consejo electoral municipal : local board governing municipal elections ( Nicaragua)

Consejo electoral regional : board governing elections in each of the Regiones Autónomas ( Nicaragua)

Consejo municipal : municipal council, city council

Consejo provincial metropolitano : city council ( Peru)

Consejo supremo electoral : national board governing elections ( Nicaragua)

Constancia : voting document given the day before the election to citizens who had applied to register to vote but had not received either the “cédula” or the “documento supletorio” (Nicaragua)

Consulta directa a las bases : primary election (Mexico)

Contencioso electoral : procedure for protesting electoral irregularities (Dominican Republic)

Contéo rápido : exit poll

Continuismo : practice of continuing power through candidacies of relatives of a sitting president

Control vecinal : personal knowledge of local voters by neighborhood electoral officers that limits fraudulent voting on election day (Nicaragua)

Corporación municipal : municipal council (Guatemala, Honduras)

Corregidor : political administrator of colonial or conservative republican “corregimiento,” as contrasted with liberal “jefe político” (Guatemala)

Corregimiento : administrative unit under colonial and conservative republican regimes, roughly equivalent to a department (Guatemala)

Cotejo : election verification process ( Dominican Republic)

Credencial electoral : voter identification for specific election

Cubículo : voting booth

Cuota de etnia : quota for candidates from ethnic minorities, usually Indian (Bolivia, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia)

Cuota de género : quota for candidates by gender

Curules : seats in congress

Dedazo : “fingering” of candidate by president or party leaders ( Mexico)

Delegado : delegate

Delegado político : representative of a party at a precinct or voting location ( Dominican Republic)

Departamento : equivalent to a U.S. state ( Ecuador, El Salvador)

Desconocimiento : expulsion from elected office ( Mexico)

Diputado : deputy, lower chamber representative

Diputado de mayoría relativa : representative elected by majority vote

Diputado de representación proporcional : representative elected by proportional representation

Diputado federal : representative to congress ( Mexico)

Diputado local : representative to state legislature ( Mexico)

Directorio : electoral tribunal selected by municipal authorities ( El Salvador)

Distrito electoral : precinct, electoral district

Distrito único : single district: all senators are elected at the national level ( Paraguay)

Doble voto simultaneo : double simultaneous vote; allows factions of the same party to run rival lists of candidates in the same election ( Uruguay)

Documentos supletorios de votación : supplemental document distributed to citizens who applied for the “cédula” but did not receive it before the election; temporary voters’ cards ( Nicaragua)

Dupla : president and vice-president are on one ticket and are not elected separately ( Paraguay)

Elección : election

Elecciones generales : elections held throughout the country for a variety of offices; elections held every five years to elect deputies to the National Assembly ( Cuba)

Elecciones obligatorias : elections where eligible voters are required by law to vote

Elecciones ordinarias : elections determined and scheduled by a country’s constitution

Elecciones parciales : held every two and one-half years to elect deputies to the municipal assemblies ( Cuba); elections held between general elections to fill vacant offices ( Dominican Republic)

Elector : person eligible to vote based on that country’s requirements, or person elected to an electoral college or to a group responsible for secondary elections

Electorado : the electorate

Empadronados : registered voters

Empadronar : to register voters

Empadronarse : to register oneself to vote

Emparentamiento : candidates from more than one party running on the same list ( Dominican Republic)

Empate : tie

Encuesta de salida de casilla : exit poll

Escaño : seat in congress

Escrutar : to review and count ballots

Escrutinio de votos : review and counting of ballots

Evasión electoral : abstention

Fiscales : poll watchers (Dominican Republic, Nicaragua)

Gobernador : governor of a state or department; indigenous political official nominated by “corregidor” (Guatemala)

Impugnados : contested ballots

Impugnar : to challenge (an election result)

Inhibiciones : the critera for disqualifying candidates or the disqualification of candidacies (Nicaragua)

Inscritos : registered voters

Intendente : mayor (Argentina, Paraguay); provincial governor (Chile); departmental administrative officer (Uruguay)

Jefe de gobierno : chief of government (Argentina)

Jefe político/jefatura política : departmental administrator/office associated with liberal administrations, in contrast with the “corregidor” associated with colonial or conservative administrations (Guatemala)

Jornada electoral : period during which the polls are open during an election

Juez de paz : justice of the peace, elected town official ( El Salvador)

Junta central electoral : board that oversees elections at the national level ( Dominican Republic)

Junta cívica : board that organizes and supervises elections ( Paraguay)

Junta de notables : a meeting of the leading members of a political network to select the next president ( El Salvador)

Junta departamental : departmental legislature ( Uruguay)

Junta electoral departamental : temporary autonomous body responsible for supervising the electoral process in each department ( Guatemala)

Junta electoral municipal : temporary body responsible for conduct of the election in a municipality ( Guatemala)

Junta municipal : municipal council (Paraguay)

Junta municipal electoral : board that oversees elections at the municipal level ( Dominican Republic)

Junta provincial electoral : board that oversees elections at the provincial level ( Dominican Republic)

Junta receptora de votos : board composed of representatives from each party who run a polling station ( Guatemala, Nicaragua)

Lema : political party ( Uruguay)

Libreta cívica : a temporary voter document given at voter registration authorizing the individual to vote in a specific election (Nicaragua)

Lista : ballot (Peru)

Lista bloqueada : closed list ( Dominican Republic)

Lista cerrada : closed list, votes are cast for a list of candidates instead of individuals

Lista nominal : list of registered voters who have also received a credential; the list is present in the precinct and used by local officials on the day of the election

Local : location where a voting table is to be set up

Lugares de votación : precincts, each location can have several voting tables

Mayoría simple : simple majority

Mesa de sufragio : polling station, precinct (Bolivia, Peru)

Mesa de votación : polling station, precinct (Colombia, Panama, Venezuela)

Mesa electoral : polling station, precinct

Mesa directiva de casillas : group that monitors elections at a specific location

Mesa receptora de sufragios : polling station, precinct ( Chile)

Mesa receptora del voto : group that monitors elections at a specific location

Municipio : municipality, town and surrounding rural area; in Mexico equivalent to a U.S. county; in El Salvador a township; in Guatemala a territorial and political division

Municipalidad : municipal council ( Guatemala)

Nulidades : reasons for declaring a ballot null, including moving voting location, voting without being registered, not following correct procedure

Nulos : null, invalid ballots

Padrón electoral : national voter registry

Padrón nacional electoral : group of all registered voters ( Costa Rica)

Padrón registro : list of registered voters (Costa Rica)

Papeleta : ballot (El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama)

Paquete electoral : packet from each polling station containing all materials used and gathered in the election (Nicaragua)

Parlamento : house of representatives (Paraguay)

Parroquia : parish

Partido político : political party

Período electoral : period of time between the announcement of candidates for an election and the publication of final results of the election ( Dominican Republic)

Plancha : slate

Planilla : slate

Plebiscito : plebiscite, direct vote by the people on an issue

Pliego : record of oral votes cast ( El Salvador)

Plurinominal : proportional representation, candidates selected on the basis of their party’s total national or district vote

Población electoral : population eligible to vote (Dominican Republic)

Presidente municipal : mayor (Mexico)

Principal : indigenous political leader (Guatemala)

Provincia : roughly equivalent to a U.S. county (Peru)

Pucherazo : election fraud ( Dominican Republic)

Pueblo : town

Puesto : poll, can house several “mesas” or “juntas”

Recinto : voting booth ( Nicaragua)

Referéndum : referendum, direct vote by the people on an issue

Regidores : aldermen; city or municipal council members; elected council members who supervise administrative affairs and stand in for the “alcalde” in his/her absence ( El Salvador)

Registro electoral : list of all registered voters

Representación proporcional : proportional representation

Restos : number of votes left for each party after seats are assigned through proportional representation

Restos mayores : number of votes left for a particular party after seats are assigned through proportional representation whereby they win an additional seat over other parties

Resultados electorales : election results

Sección electoral : section of list of voters corresponding to each voting location

Segunda vuelta : second round of voting

Senado : senate

Senador : holder of a seat in the senate or “cámara alta”

Síndico : mayor (Dominican Republic); trustee (Mexico); elected member of municipal council who oversees financial affairs (El Salvador)

Síndico suplente : elected backup to the “síndico”

Sistema binominal : closed list with one vote ( Chile)

Sistemas electorales : electoral systems, ways in which election results are interpreted and applied

Sistema mayoritario : results decided by majority vote

Sistema proporcional : results decided by proportional representation

Sub-lemas : factions within a political party ( Uruguay)

Sufragio : suffrage, right to vote

Sufragio restringido : suffrage limited by selected criteria

Sufragio universal : universal suffrage

Sufragios : votes

Sufragistas : voters

Suplente : alternate delegate or second elected at same time as delegate, substitutes in their absence

Tarjeta, tarjetón : ballot (Colombia)

Tiquete de votación : ballot

Trenza : “the braid,” an arrangement whereby males and females alternate on the electoral list to guarantee that women are not all grouped together at the bottom of the ballot (El Salvador)

Trenzado : braiding, alternating of male and female candidates on electoral lists (Nicaragua)

Tribunal supremo electoral : national board governing elections (Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras)

Unidades electorales : constituencies

Urnas electorales : ballot boxes

Votantes : voters

Voto : vote

Voto electoral : electoral vote

Voto en el extranjero : voting that takes place outside the country

Voto obligatorio : mandatory vote

Votos emitidos : total votes (valid votes plus null and blank ballots)

Votos en blancos : blank ballots

Votos impugnados : contested ballots

Votos nulos : null, invalid, void ballots

Votos observados : voters not on registration list but allowed to vote ( Dominican Republic)

Votos validos : valid ballots

Zapato : when every ballot in a ballot box is for one party ( Mexico)

A useful source for terminology is Diccionario electoral (2000. San José: Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos, CAPEL. Two volumes)