US election 2020: Key political terms in the lingo of the presidential race

WION Web Team
Washington, United StatesUpdated: Nov 03, 2020, 07:23 AM IST


Story highlights

From naked ballots to a red mirage, it is essential for the American voters to be acquainted with technical jargon being used for the US election 2020

Every presidential race has its own lingo, used in the days leading up to the November 3 election pitting Republican candidate Donald Trump against his Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

From naked ballots to a red mirage, it is essential for the American voters to be acquainted with technical jargon being used for the US election 2020.

Here are the key political terms and their meanings:


Sixteen states, including Pennsylvania, require voters to return mail ballots in a special "secrecy" envelope. Ballots that don't arrive in the envelope will be considered "naked" and might be disqualified. Celebrities including Naomi Campbell, Chris Rock, and Sarah Silverman disrobed in a video to promote proper voting procedures, "the least sexy thing a completely naked person can say," according to actor Josh Gad, who also stripped for the video by activist group Represent.Us. The group, which has promoted anti-corruption resolutions in US cities, says it does not endorse either candidate.


Fearing crowded polling places amid the coronavirus pandemic, a record number of Americans, particularly Democrats, cast mail-in ballots this year, and counting them could take days. As a result, initial results on Election Day may show Republicans, indicated by red on election maps, holding large leads in battleground states such as Pennsylvania, which counts mail-in ballots received three days after November 3. As ballots are tallied in the ensuing days, that "red mirage" could fade, giving way to a "blue shift." Experts see a possible "blue mirage" and "redshift" in Florida and North Carolina, which process mailed-in ballots before Election Day.


Ballots that are improperly marked can be rejected as spoiled. Trump said in an Oct. 27 Twitter post that the phrase "can I change my vote" was trending on Google and urged Americans to submit a new ballot for him. Some states allow voters to request a new absentee ballot but first, they have to request their original ballot be marked as spoiled. Following Trump's tweet, Google data showed a spike in searches for "spoiled ballots."


A candidate becomes president by securing the most "electoral" votes rather than a majority of the national popular vote. The Electoral College system allows electors to the 50 states largely based on their population, and the candidate who wins the popular vote in a state generally gets its electors. But legal experts say Trump could try to convince Republican lawmakers in closely contested states to approve the Republican slate of electors based on early vote tallies. As more ballots are counted, Biden might eventually be certified as the winner of the same state. The result: Dueling electors and an outcome that could be determined by Congress.


Republicans confirmed Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court justice on Oct. 26 to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a hero to many for her advocacy for women's issues. Democrats had argued Ginsburg's seat should be filled after the election and in response to Barrett's confirmation, some have suggested that a Biden Administration could expand the court beyond its traditional nine justices. The idea surfaced briefly in the late 1930s and was criticized as "court-packing." Biden has said he will establish a bipartisan commission to consider changes to the court system, which he said is "getting out of whack."


The Republican National Committee is mobilizing thousands of supporters to monitor early voting sites and ballot drop boxes, looking for irregularities such as people dropping off multiple ballots in states where that generally is not allowed. This marks the first presidential election in nearly four decades in which the Republicans can engage in "ballot security" activities without prior review and approval from the Department of Justice. Some voting rights advocates worry that gun-toting groups might show up outside polling places and intimidate voters.


It’s the idea of canceling or basically running a person, idea, or belief out of public discourse by people who hold opposing views. It’s a kind of shaming in the public square — or on social media — that has made some afraid to speak up.

Some believe that the practice of what amounts to shouting down in public certain people or beliefs has restricted free speech in America. Others say the discourse, especially on social media, has expanded free expression — and that it’s not about free speech but about the right to take issue with offensive or outdated ideas.


It’s a right-wing, pro-Trump conspiracy theory born in a dark corner of the internet that has crept into mainstream politics. The theory, promoted by extremists, is based on cryptic postings by the anonymous “Q,” who purported to be a government insider with access to classified information. The first Q posting appeared in October 2017.

In May 2019, an FBI bulletin mentioning QAnon warned that conspiracy theory-driven extremists had become a domestic terrorism threat and were likely to commit violent crimes inspired by their fringe beliefs. Yet, Trump praised QAnon supporters during a White House press briefing in August.

“I heard that these are people that love our country,” he said in his first public comments on the subject. Trump insisted that he hadn’t heard much about the movement, “other than I understand they like me very much” and “it is gaining in popularity.”