AP Style Update: Elections

AP Stylebook

[Editor’s Note: One of the most popular articles on prnewsonline.com is a review and summary of AP style. We took that as a sign and decided to deliver a series of AP style updates for newsworthy topics. Previously, the series looked at terms for writing about cryptocurrency and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), finance, and a review of basic grammar.]

In this installment, we highlight election terms for the upcoming United States 2022 midterm elections. These terms also apply for any political contest.

Below is a sample of election terms in the AP Stylebook’s topical election guide. The AP also offers a special guide, ”The Midterms Explained,” for writers to learn more about issues and tertiary factors surrounding the 2022 midterms.

advance voting, absentee voting, early voting, mail-in voting, mailed ballots:

Electoral systems that allow voters to cast ballots before the day of an election are broadly known as advance voting. Each state has rules for advance voting, which may include voting by mail (mail-in voting), absentee voting or in-person voting, also known as early voting.

Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia offer "no-excuse" absentee voting, which means any voter can request and cast an absentee/mail ballot without providing a reason. Eight states conduct general elections primarily or entirely by mail.

The term advance voting is preferred in states where citizens have several options to vote before Election Day.


New York City began early voting for the Nov. 8 midterm elections Nov. 1.

New York State has a variety of options for advance voting, depending on the county. 

The elderly or sick who cannot get to the polls on Election Day benefit from mail-in voting.

My son, who is in the military, utilizes absentee voting when he is overseas. 

democrat, Democrat, democratic, Democratic, Democratic Party:

For the U.S. political party, capitalize Democrat and Democratic in references to the party or its members. Lowercase in generic uses. Use Democratic, not Democrat, in descriptive usages such as the Democratic-controlled legislature and the Democratic senator.


He champions the values of a democratic society. 

Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, is coming to the end of his term in office.


Election Day, election night:

The first term is capitalized, the second is lowercase for the November national elections in the United States.


School is closed on Election Day, Nov. 6.

Everyone is eager to see the results on election night.


exit poll:

This is a survey of voters the National Election Pool (CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC) conducts using a methodology based on in-person interviews at polling places.


The exit poll shows Sally Brown favored by 95% of voters.


poll monitors, poll watchers, poll monitoring, poll watching:

The terms poll watchers, poll monitors and citizen observers are interchangeable. They can be partisan or nonpartisan.

In most cases, poll watchers are not allowed to interfere with the conduct of an election. However, after the 2020 elections a handful of states passed laws that limit the restrictions local election officials can place on poll watchers. In addition, the laws give poll watchers greater access to ballot counting and processing. In some states, they can challenge individuals' eligibility to vote; in those cases, a voter may need to file a provisional ballot.

Hyphenate as an adjective: poll-monitoring procedures. No hyphen as a noun: They are expanding poll monitoring. Do not use voter protection workers.


Nonpartisan poll watchers are trained to monitor polling places and local elections offices that tally votes, looking for irregularities or ways to improve the system. 

Partisan poll monitors can intimidate voters to favor a particular candidate or party.


representative, Rep.:

Use Rep., Reps. as formal titles of House of Representatives members before one or more names. Spell out and lowercase representative in other uses.


The representative for Hawaii gifted everyone at the fundraiser a pineapple.

Rep. Pete Aguilar serves the 31st district in California.


Republican, Republican Party:

Both terms are capitalized. GOP, for Grand Old Party, may be used on second reference.


The Republican Party seeks to take the U.S. Senate with a majority.



Elections are no longer limited to a single day; this year, by the time Election Day arrives, millions of people will have submitted ballots. Do not use phrases such as voters cast ballots in Tuesday's election ... Instead: Voting concluded Tuesday ...

Nicole Schuman is senior editor for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal