Chapter Two: The Living Constitution

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natural law

God's or nature's law that defines right from wrong and is higher than human law.

separation of powers

constitutional division of powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, with the legislative branch making law, the executive applying and enforcing the law, and the judiciary interpreting the law.

checks and balances

constitutional grant of powers that enables each of the three branches of government to check some acts of the others and therefore ensure that no branch can dominate.

divided government

governance divided between the parties, especially when one holds the presidency and the other controls one or both houses of Congress.

direct primary

election in which voters choose party nominees.

initiative

procedure whereby a certain number of voters may, by petition, propose a law or constitutional amendment and have it submitted to the voters.

referendum

procedure for submitting to popular vote measures passed by the legislature or proposed amendments to a state constitution.

recall

procedure for submitting to popular vote the removal of officials from office before the end of their term.

judicial review

the power of a court to refuse to enforce a law or government regulation that in the opinion of the judges conflicts with the U.S. Constitution or, in a state court, the state constitution.

writ of mandamus

court order directing an official to perform an official duty; Marbury vs Madison.

impeachment

formal accusation against a public official, the first step in removal from office; Andrew Jackson and Bill Clinton (Richard Nixon resigned).

executive order

directive issued by a president or governor that has the force of law.

executive privilege

the power to keep executive communications confidential, especially if they relate to national security.

impoundment

presidential refusal to allow an agency to spend funds authorized and appropriated by Congress.

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