In the first part of this exercise, you learnt the vocabulary used in English to talk about before people vote in an election. In this second part, you will learn (by first reading a text and doing a quiz/test) the vocabulary used both to describe when people vote and what happens after this. You will also learn the names of the different electoral systems used in elections to decide who wins.

If you haven't already done the first part of this exercise, I would recommend that you do that part before you start this second part. It will make doing this second part a lot easier for you.


Exercise:

Read the following conversation where Peter continues to explain to his Spanish friend Juan the meaning of important vocabulary used to talk about political elections in English.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Juan:'So what do people do on the day of the election here? Where do they vote?'

Peter:'To vote here, you have to go to a polling station.'

Juan:'It's called that! I thought a poll was a prediction of who people would vote for.'

Peter:'It is, but for some reason they call the place where people vote a polling station. Normally, the polling station will be in a school hall or in a church.'

Juan:'So, they go there and vote?'

Peter:'Yeah. When they are in the polling station, they are given a ballot. Which is a piece of paper where they mark which political candidate they want to vote for. After they have done this, they then put this ballot into a ballot box. When they've done that, they've voted and they leave.'

Juan:'How do they know how many people who could vote, have voted?'

Peter:'The turnout for the election is calculated by the polling stations counting how many people they have given ballots to. In some elections the turnout could be low (e.g. 35% of all people who have the right to vote, actually vote). Whereas in other elections, voter turnout can be a lot higher (e.g. around 70%).'

Juan:'So, after they've closed the polling stations and finished counting the votes/ballots. How do they decide how many seats in parliament to give to the different political parties? Is the number of seats calculated on the percentage of votes each political party gets. So if the Conservative Party gets 40% of all the votes in the election, they get 40% of the seats in parliament?'

Peter:'That type of electoral system (where seats are given to a political party based on the percentage of all votes they received) is called proportional representation, but it isn't used in most elections in Britain (apart from elections for the European Parliament and some elections in Scotland and Wales).

For elections in the British Parliament, we use a electoral system called first-past-the-post. Each seat in parliament is for a specific part of the country (e.g. there's a seat for a town or for a part of a big city). The candidate who gets the most votes in that specific part, wins the seat in parliament for there.'

Juan:'So a political party could get 15% of all the votes in the country, but if none of its candidates get as many votes as those from other political parties in the places where each seat in parliament comes from, it would mean that they would have no seats in parliament?'

Peter:'In an electoral system which is first-past-the-post, that could happen.'

Juan:'So, I suppose the political party that wins the most seats in parliament becomes the government of the country?'

Peter:'That's right. If one political party has more seats in parliaments than all the other political parties put together, they become what is called a majority government.'

Juan:'And if one political party doesn't have more seats than all the other political parties combined?'

Peter:'Then two or more political parties have to agree to run the government together. When this happens, it is called a coalition government.'



Quiz:

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.


1. The piece of paper which people use to vote on in an election, is called a
         

Ballot:
(noun) Also called a 'ballot paper' or a 'voting slip'. This is the piece of paper which people use when they vote in an election. Each voter in an election is given a 'ballot' to complete when they go to cast their vote in a polling station (the name for the place where people vote). They then mark/cross which candidate or political party they want to vote for on the 'ballot' and then put it into a 'ballot box'.

When the 'polling stations' close, all the 'ballots' are then counted and this decides who wins the election.

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Ballot:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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2. The electoral system where the number of seats/positions a political party gets in a parliament is the same as the percentage of votes they receive, is called
         

Proportional representation:
(noun) Also known as 'PR'. This is a type of electoral system where political parties are given seats in a parliament or a council depending on the overall percentage of votes they received in an election. If a political party gets 30% of the total votes in an election, they will get 30% of the seats in the parliament or council.

This type of electoral system benefits smaller political parties. These political parties normally get a lot more seats in a parliament or a council with this type of electoral system than they would with the other main type of electoral system, which is called 'first-past-the-post'.

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Proportional representation:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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3. The place where people vote in an election, is called a
         

Polling station:
(noun) Also called a 'polling place'. This is a place where people vote in political elections (to choose the national, regional or local government) or referendums. Normally during an election or referendum, schools, churches or sports halls act as 'polling stations'.

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Polling station:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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4. When one political party has more seats/positions in the main national parliament than all the other parties combined, they become the
         

Majority government:
(noun) This is when one political party wins the majority of seats (but necessarily votes) in parliament to govern a country. To form a 'majority government', one political has to win more seats in an election than all the other political parties combined.

This type of government is common in countries which use a 'first-past-the-post' electoral system (e.g. Britain, the US etc...).

It is not common for people to say 'majority government' in normal conversation, instead most people would say that a political party 'won the election'.

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Majority government:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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5. The place in a polling station where people leave their vote, is called a
         

Ballot box:
(noun) This is the name for the 'box' which people put their ballots/voting slips in when they vote in an election in a polling station. See an example of a 'ballot box' in the below image:



'ballot boxes' are always locked and monitored in polling stations. They are only opened when counting begins of the votes.

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Ballot box:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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6. The electoral system where the number of seats/positions a political party gets in a parliament is not the same as the percentage of votes they received, is called
         

First-past-the-post:
(noun) Also called 'winner-takes-all'. This is a type of electoral system where the candidate who wins the most votes takes a seat/position in parliament (or in congress in the US), regional council or becomes the president of a country.

In countries which use 'first-past-the-post' in elections, candidates from different political parties directly compete against each other to win a seat for a specific part of the country (e.g. a part of a city, state etc...).

This type of electoral system benefits large political parties (like the Labour and Conservatives parties in Britain). They usually get a higher percentage of seats in parliament than they do in votes in the country. For smaller political parties, this system means the opposite.

The main other type of electoral system is called 'proportional representation'.

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First-past-the-post:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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7. When two or more political parties agree to run/govern a country together, they form/create a
         

Coalition government:
(noun) Also known as a 'coalition'. This is when more than one political party is part of the government running a country. The reason why 'coalition governments' are formed is because no one political party in an election has won the majority of seats in a country's parliament. As a result, different political parties have to agree to work together to form a government.

This type of government is common in countries which use the 'proportional representation' electoral system (e.g. Germany, Spain etc...).

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Coalition government:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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8. The percentage of people who went and voted in an election, is called the
         

Turnout:
(noun) In political elections, the 'turnout' is the amount of people who were eligible to vote (i.e. citizens of the country who are over 18 and who are sent a permission to vote document) who actually voted. Normally, 'turnout' is represented as a percentage of the total number of people who are eligible to vote.

In most countries, voter 'turnout' is calculated by either counting the number of voters who took a 'ballot paper' in a polling station or by counting the number of 'ballot papers' which are in all the 'ballot boxes'.

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Turnout:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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Practice

Now that you understand the new political vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences with the words/phrases you have learnt.

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