US election vocabulary

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Hello and welcome to Learn English Vocabulary. My name is Jack and I’m making this podcast for you to learn or revise English vocabulary. You can find a transcript of this podcast on There’s a page for this podcast with the transcript, an activity and a task for you to do in the comments section.

The US election

Today, is the US presidential election and to mark it, I am going to explore some election language. 

I will explain some of this language in more detail and some I think you will be able to understand through the context, but the words and phrases I want you to listen for in this podcast are :

An election, a presidential election, election day, to elect, the electorate, electoral colleges, electoral roll,  To vote, popular vote,  voting card, voting booth, registered to vote, a poll, to be ahead in the polls, the polls open and close, a ballot, a ballot box, a candidate, a member of parliament, to form a government and to be in power.


Let’s start with the word election. An election is a special poll in which the people in a country decide which politicians are going to be in power. That is, which politicians will form a government and rule the country. So in the UK, in elections, you vote for your mp, your member of parliament and the party with the most MPs get to form a government. In countries with a president, you can have a presidential election

To elect

The noun election comes from the verb to elect. After the last US presidential election, you may have heard people saying: I can’t believe they’ve elected Trump. 

The people who can vote in an election are called the electorate. In a democracy, ideally, election results represent the will or the combined opinion of the electorate, but in many countries, including the USA, this is not quite the case. 

The popular vote ane electoral colleges

You may have heard that in the last election, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 2 million votes, but still lost the election. This is because the US has a system called electoral colleges. The presidential election is not decided based on who gets the most votes. Each of the individual states in the United States has a different number of electoral votes. California has the most electoral votes. It has 55. Florida has 29. To become president in the US, you need to win the popular vote in enough states that your total sum of electoral votes is 270 or over. California has 55 electoral votes but the population of California is nearly 40 million. Wyoming has 3 electoral votes but only has a population of 532,000. This means that a vote in Wyoming is worth 4 votes in California. It is technically possible due to the electoral college system in America, to win the presidency with just 23% of the national popular vote.

The president-elect

One more phrase you might hear is president-elect. If Joe Biden wins the election today, he won’t be sworn in as president until January. Until he is sworn in, he will not be the president, he will be the president-elect. I don’t know why they take such a long time to move out and hand over power in the US.

How do you take part in an election?

Well, I’ve already used this verb, you vote. If you want to vote in the UK and the USA, you have to register to vote. In the UK, once you have registered to vote, your name will be added to the electoral roll, which is a list of all the voters in a voting district. Before an election, you get a voting card sent to you through the post which will tell you where you can vote on the election day

Polling stations

On election day, you need to go to a polling station to vote. In the UK, polling stations get set up in community centres and even churches. You’ll see freshly printed signs posted up with thick black letters that say polling station. When I moved house last year, my polling station changed and I didn’t read my voting card so I went to the wrong polling station. They couldn’t find me on their list so I had to go to a different polling station. Fortunately for me, I live in a small town and there aren’t that many different polling stations.

Ballots and ballot boxes

Inside the polling station, you have to show some ID and then you are given a ballot. This is the piece of paper with the list of names that you can vote for in an election. There are usually about 6 or 7 names on the ballot in a general election in the UK. You take your ballot to a voting booth where you can mark an x next to the candidate that you want to vote for. A candidate is a person who is competing to get a job. You can have candidates in an election or you can have candidates applying for a job. 

Once you have marked your ballot, you have to fold it and post it into the ballot box. This is a locked box with a thin slit at the top that you put your marked ballot into. If you put a cross next to more than one candidate or you don’t mark your ballot or you draw a smiley face or something then you have spoiled your ballot. People sometimes do this as a protest because they don’t like any of the candidates.

And that’s it. You have voted. 

Polls and polling

The word poll is quite interesting. A Poll is an open question, usually a multiple-choice question. You can create polls about anything, but they are used a lot in politics. Political polls are studies that political parties and newspapers and some universities carry out to try to work out what will happen in an election. Recently, people have been saying that Joe Biden is ahead in the polls. However, the US does not have proportional representation and due to the electoral college, that is no guarantee that he will win the election. 

The polls is another word for the process of voting. So you can’t vote until the polls open. And the winner will not be announced on TV until the last of the polls are closed. This is quite strange because the word polls in this sense is always plural and the places where people can vote, at least in the UK are called polling stations. When the polling stations are all closed, we say the polls are closed. So you could say. The polls open at 8 so I’m going to the polling station to vote before work.

The polls are closed

The first polls are now closing in the US and so the votes will be counted and over the night, we will hear the first results as they come in. I really don’t know what is going to happen, but I dearly hope Trump is voted out by a huge margin and the world starts making sense again. 

Now, I have come to the end of this podcast. I will create a language challenge for you to practise using some of these words and phrases related to the election om There will also be a question for you to answer in the comments section.  

If you have enjoyed this podcast, please leave me a comment or a rating or a review. I love to hear from you and any comments or suggestions you have. So please visit and say hello.

Thanks for listening.

Test yourself

Your turn

  1. What was the last thing you voted for?
  2. Are you interested in the results of the US election?
  3. Have you ever been disappointed by the result of an election?
Show CommentsClose Comments


  • Nguyen Thi Bich Thuy
    Posted 04/11/2020 at 2:56 pm

    In my country whether we vote or not it is the same . I do interest in the result of Us election . Yes i have been disappointed in the last US election But then I realized I was wrong

  • Nicky
    Posted 05/11/2020 at 11:56 am

    Thank you a million for this lesson teacher Jack. It has helped me a lot to better understand the elections.

    What was the last thing you voted for?

    To be honest, I have never voted because I am just 16 years old. However, in 3 years will be the presidential elections in Argentina and buy then, I will be able to vote.

    Are you interested in the results of the US election? Yes I am really interested because although its not my country it has some effect on Argentina and other countries who has a relation with the US

    Have you ever been disappointed by the result of an election?
    Yes, I have been disappointed but I know that its part of life. No matter how much we want someone to win the election, its is beyond our control

  • Zin Mg Oo
    Posted 06/11/2020 at 6:47 am

    Hello, I’m Zin Mg from MYANMAR our election is Nov-8 soI am very excited. I really interested US election. Today I got a new vocabulary with the election. Thank a lot for learning vocabulary.

  • Michał
    Posted 06/11/2020 at 6:11 pm

    Now I am preparing to IELTS test so , correct me if you see any gramatical mistake or something is misleading. I will be grateful

    1.What was the last thing you voted for?
    The last thing I voted for was an election of president of my country.I remember everybody discusing who would become our president but honestly speaking I was not interested.I went to the polling station and vote for only beacuse my parents told me that I should .I chose a candidate who my parents pointed.
    2.Are you interested in the results of the US election ?
    I am not interested who become the president of the US . Policy is not my passion ,it seems dull to me, I do not understand people who can for hours discuse who candidates are better or which policy parties should form government.What the most discourage me from the policy is violent demonstration and nasty TV debate.
    3.Have you evere been disappointed by the result of an election ?
    I was disappointed by the election of mayor in our city . He had been re-elected and he has been in power. I do not like him . Previously when he was a mayor he did not pay attention on ecology and air pollution in our city and he decided to build a new city center on the place of old church instead of renovate our local school.

  • Taha
    Posted 07/11/2020 at 7:26 am

    Thanks man .i’m from iran and i have a hunger for english thaks for feeding me😋

  • Andi
    Posted 08/11/2020 at 1:24 pm

    What was the last thing you voted for?
    Président elections !

    Are you interested in the results of the US election?
    Yes, i do

    Have you ever been disappointed by the result of an election?

    I’ve had

  • Jessica Stuque
    Posted 10/11/2020 at 12:28 am

    Last time I voted I got really upset. I voted in a presidential election in my country, Brazil. Guess who won? A person that is even worse than Trump (and who loves him): Bolsonaro. I was really interested in the results of US election. I expected Biden to win (what actuallt happened \o/), ’cause this can represent a decline in conservatism and also Bolsonaro will lose power.

  • lin
    Posted 11/11/2020 at 5:20 am

    1) I voted for my country election on Nov 8, which will decide the majority of mp and the government. I voted because the local administrative committee repetitively announced and forced us daily to do so. I already knew which candidate will win since our people only believe in one leader and whichever party that leader is in, that party will win. I don’t like the way people whose votes only focused on a specific organization rather than the candidate’s professional abilities. For me personally, I read the skills and experience of candidates in my area before going to the poll station and voted the candidate with potential ability to raise and help our local community.
    2) I also interested in US election especially to listen to presidential debates. Their enthusiasism and promises during the debate, and the hilarious fights are fun to watch and I think I improved my vocabulary by listening to them. I wish I can watch my own country’s energetic presidential debates in near future. That would be very interesting to stand for the true leader whom we believe, trust, admire and love.
    3)Indeed, our former prime minister of our region was a major disappointment. Although he worked hard and made new projects to improve our local transport systems & traffic congestion, all he did was a waste of money. He did things without prior research and trials and every project was a failure. I think, to be a leader is not just having a good-will, but to have good research, judgemental mind, and proper educational status as well as to have his own professional assistants who support the leader with their skills and knowledge.
    Thank you for this useful podcast and I really wanted to learn election vocabulary.

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