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First Amendment

amendment protects freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.

Second Amendment

amendment that protects the citizen's right to bear arms.

Third Amendment

amendment that forbids the quartering of soldiers and the direct public support of armed forces.

Fourth Amendment

amendment to protect an individual's "person, house, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures."

Fifth Amendment

amendment designed to protect the rights of persons accused of crimes, including protection against double jeopardy, self-incrimination, and punishment without the process of law.

Sixth Amendment

amendment that allows persons of a crime to be prosecuted by an impartial jury in a "speedy" public trial.

Seventh Amendment

amendment that allows for trial by jury in common-law cases

Eighth Amendment

amendment that prohibits excessive bail in federal cases. Includes "cruel and unusual punishment" clause.

Ninth Amendment

amendment that reaffirms the principles of a limited federal government. The rights not specifically mentioned in the Constitution are still protected.

Tenth Amendment

Amendment that states, "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

Eleventh Amendment

amendment that provides that states may not be sued in federal court by citizens of another state or country without the consent of the states being sued.

Twelfth Amendment

amendment that ensured that electors would now have to cast separate votes for the president and vice president

Thirteenth Amendment

amendment that forbade slavery and involuntary servitude.

Fourteenth Amendment

constitutional amendment that states, "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Fifteenth Amendment

amendment that granted voting rights to males of all races

Sixteenth Amendment

amendment that allows the Congress to levy an income tax without apportioning it among the states or basing it on census results

Seventeenth Amendment

amendment that provided for the direct election of United States senators

Eighteenth Amendment

amendment that prohibited the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol in or out of the United States

Nineteenth Amendment

amendment that granted women the right to vote.

Twentieth Amendment

amendment that clearly defined the procedures regarding the specifics of presidential and legislative terms, and shortened the amount of time b/w presidential election and inauguration

Twenty-First Amendment

amendment that recognized the failure of prohibition, and repealed it, allowing for the legalization of the sale of alcohol

Twenty-Second Amendment

amendment that limited the president to two terms in office

Twenty-Third Amendment

amendment that allowed for the residents of Washington D.C. to vote in presidential elections

Twenty-Fourth Amendment

constitutional amendment that was passed in 1962, and declared poll taxes void in federal elections.

Twenty-Fifth Amendment

amendment that formally permitted the vice president to assume the presidency temporarily in the event of a presidential disability

Twenty-Sixth Amendment

amendment that lowered the voting age from 21 to 18

Twenty-Seventh Amendment

amendment that said that if Congress votes itself a pay increase, that increase cannot take effect until after the next election

527 Group

group that is a type of tax-exempt organization that is named after "Section 527" of the U.S. International

Affirmative Action

a policy designed to give special attention to or compensatory treatment for members of some previously disadvantaged group.

American Values

the principles of freedom, equality, individualism, liberty, egalitarianism, Laissez-faire, and populism.


oppose the creation of a stronger national government, arguing that a Constitution would threaten citizens' personal liberties and effectively make the president a king

Americans with Disabilities Act (1990)

a law that prohibits discrimination based on disability. It also requires employers and public facilities to make "reasonable accommodations" for people with disabilities.

Appropriations Bill

an act of congress that actually funds programs within limits established by authorization bills.

Articles of Confederation

the predecessor to the Constitution; it had many weaknesses including the inability of Congress to collect taxes, and a weak central government

Authorization Bill

an act of congress that establishes, continues, or changes a discretionary government program or an entitlement.

Bandwagon effect

a political phrase that refers to the effect that occurs when some people vote for those candidates or parties who are likely to succeed (or are proclaimed as such by the media, polls, etc).


are specific locations from which news frequently emanates, such as Congress or the White House.

Bill of Rights

the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which defines the basic liberties like freedom of religion, free speech and press, and the guarantee of defendant's rights.

Blanket primary

a system used for selecting political party candidates in a primary election; voters may pick one candidate for each office without regard to party lines. The candidates with the highest votes by party for each office advance to the general election, as the respective party's nominee.

Block Grants

federal grants given more or less automatically to states or communities to support broad programs in areas such as community development and social services.

Broadcast media

term that covers a wide spectrum of different communication methods such as television, radio, newspapers, magazines and any other materials supplied by the media and press.

Brown vs. Board of Education

a 1954 Supreme Court decision that held that school segregation was inherently unconstitutional because it violated the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection. The case was famous because it marked the end of legal segregation.


A policy document allocating burdens (taxes) and benefits (expenditure). It can also be defined as a proposed law or legislation that must be passed in either the House of Representatives or the Senate.


A large, complex organization composed of appointed officials.

California Board of Regents vs. Bakke

Supreme court case decision that forbid rigid racial quotas for medical school admissions. It did not forbid the practice of considering race as a factor when deciding admissions.

Categorical Grants

federal grants that can be used only for specific purposes, or "categories," of state and local spending. They come with strings attached, such as nondiscrimination provisions.


a meeting of all state party leaders for selecting delegates to the national party convention.


a requirement by the US Constitution, saying that the government must take an actual enumeration of the population every 10 years.


newspapers published by massive media conglomerates that account for over four-fifths of the nation's daily paper circulation.

Charles Beard

historian that sees the Constitutional Convention as an elitist conspiracy to protect the wealth of the rich

Charles de Montesquieu

French philosopher who greatly influenced the founders. Advocated for the separation of power into three branches of government.

Civil disobedience

form of political participation that reflects a conscious decision to break a law believed to be immoral and to suffer the consequences.

Civil liberties

The legal constitutional protections against government.

Civil rights

policies that are meant to protect people against arbitrary or discriminatory treatment by governmental officials or individuals.

Civil Rights Act of 1964

legislation that made discrimination against any group in hotels, motels, and restaurants illegal. It also forbade many forms of job discrimination.

Class Action Suits

Lawsuits that permit a small number of people to sue on behalf of all other people similarly situated.

Closed primary

election in which voters choose from candidates only from the party in which they are registered.


an agreement for cooperation between different political parties on common political agenda.


the tendency of lesser-known or weaker candidates to profit in an election by the presence on the ticket of a more popular candidate

Comparable worth

refers to the issue raised when women who hold traditionally female jobs are paid less than male workers who are working at jobs requiring comparable skill.

Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act

act designed to reform the congressional budgetary process. Its supporters hoped that it would also make congress less dependent on the president's budget and better able to set and meet its own budgetary goals.

Connecticut Compromise

Compromise compromise reached at Constitutional Convention that established two houses of Congress - House of Representatives, and the Senate

Conservative ideology

ideology that supports a less active scope of government that gives freer reign to the private sector, the belief in maintaining peace through strength (when it comes to military spending), want to keep taxes low, and oppose affirmative action.

Cooperative Federalism

a system of government in which powers and policy assignments are shared between states and the national government.

Cruel and unusual punishment

court sentences prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. Ex. Death penalty

De facto segregation

racial separation that occurs "as a matter of fact."

De jure segregation

racial separation that is required by law.

Declaration of Independence

The document approved by representatives of the American colonies in 1776, which stated their grievances against the British monarch and declared their independence.


the amount by which a government's expenditures exceed its tax revenues.

Deficit spending

the amount by which a government, private company, or individual's spending exceeds income over a particular period of time.

Delegated Powers

Constitutional powers dedicated solely to the federal government


a means of selecting policymakers and of organizing government so that policy reflects citizens' preferences.


the science of population changes; the study of human population and their statistics.


the movement of political power away from the central government to lower order regional assemblies.

Direct Mail

a high-tech method of raising money for a political cause or candidate. It involves sending information and requests for money to people whose names appear on lists of those who have supported similar views or candidates in the past.

Dred Scott vs. Sandford

1857 Supreme Court decision that ruled that a slave who had escaped to a free state received no rights as a citizen and that Congress had no authority to ban slaves in the territories.

Dual Federalism

a system of government in which both, the states and the national government remain supreme within their own spheres, each responsible for some policies.

Due process clause

clause that guarantees that people cannot be deprived of life, liberty, or property by the United States or state governments without due process of law.


involves equality of opportunity and respect in the absence of a monarchy and aristocracy.

Elastic Clause

clause which authorizes Congress to pass all laws "necessary and proper" to carry out the enumerated powers.

Electoral College

a body of people representing the US states, who formally cast votes for the election of the president and vice president.

Elite and Class Theory

theory that states that our society is divided among different class lines and that an upper-class elite controls the government.

Engel vs Vitale

1962 Supreme Court decision that declared that state officials violated the First Amendment when they wrote a prayer to be recited by New York's schoolchildren.


are expenditures for which the total amount spent is not by congressional appropriation, but rather by rules of eligibility established by Congress.

Enumerated Powers

the powers of the federal government that are specifically addressed in the Constitution.

Equal protection clause

This clause provides for the protection of "life, liberty, and property," for all American citizens regardless of race, gender, or other factors.

Equal Rights Amendment

constitutional amendment which stated that, "equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."

Establishment clause

clause that states that, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

Exclusionary rule

The rule that evidence, no matter how incriminating, cannot be introduced into a trial if it was not constitutionally obtained. The rule prohibits use of evidence obtained through unreasonable search and seizure.

Exit polls

public opinion surveys used by major media pollsters to predict the electoral winners with speed.


a spending by the government sector including both the purchase of final goods and services, or gross domestic product, and transfer payments.

External Efficacy

the belief of the individual that government will respond to his or her personal needs or beliefs


a legal process whereby an alleged criminal offender is surrendered by the officials of one state to officials of the state in which the crime is alleged to have been committed.


Groups acting in pursuit of an interest that often preceded formation of political parties

Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

an independent agency of the US government. It works towards six different goals in regulating the TV/Radio

Federal debt

all the money borrowed by the federal government over the years and still outstanding.

Federal Election Campaign Act

Congress passed this Act in 1974, which had two main goals. These main goals included: tightening reporting requirements for contributions and limiting overall expenditures. The act and its amendments did the following: created the FCC, provided partial public financing for presidential primaries, provided full public financing for major party candidates, and created the presidential campaign fund.

Federal Election Commission

a bipartisan body, six member group that administers the campaign finance laws and enforces compliance with their requirements.

Federal Mandate

an order from the central government that all state and local government must comply with.


A system of shared power between two governments; a way of organizing a nation so that two or more levels of government have formal authority over the same land and people.


in favor of a strong central government, support the constitution, oppose the creation of the bill of rights

Federalist No. 10

article of the federalist papers which advocates for a large republic (and warns of the dangers of democracy)

Federalist Papers

collection of 85 articles written by Hamilton, Jay, and Madison, criticizing the Constitution

Fiscal Federalism

the pattern of spending, taxing, and providing grants in the federal system; it is also the cornerstone of the national government's relations with state and local governments.

Formula Grants

federal categorical grants distributed according to a formula specified in legislation or in administrative regulations.

Free exercise clause

a First Amendment provision that prohibits government from interfering with the practice of religion.


the tendency of states to hold their primaries early in the election year to get media attention.

Full Faith and Credit

a clause requiring each state to recognize the official documents and civil judgments rendered by the courts of other states.

Gender gap

a term that refers to the regular pattern by which women are more likely to support Democratic candidates.

Gibbons vs. Ogden

1824 Supreme Court case that gave Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce, encompassing virtually every form of commercial activity.

Gideon vs Wainright

1963 Supreme Court decision held that anyone accused of a felony where imprisonment may be imposed, however poor he or she may be, has a right to a lawyer.


the institutions that make authoritative decisions for any given society

Graying of America

refers to the rise of political power in the older populations.

Gregg vs. Georgia

1976 Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of the death penalty against charges that it violated the Fourteenth Amendment because minority defendants were more likely to receive the death penalty than were White defendants.

Hatch Act

a federal law prohibiting government employees from active participation in partisan politics

House Ways and Means Committee

the House of Representatives committee that writes the tax codes, subject to the approval of Congress as a whole. They are responsible for originating all revenue bills.


states that groups are so strong that government is weakened, and as the influence of many groups cripples government's ability to make policy. Also states that many groups are strong enough that government is unable to act.

Implied Powers

powers of the federal government that go beyond those enumerated in the Constitution.

Income tax

the annual charge levied on both earned income (wages, salaries, commission) and unearned income (dividends, interest, rents).

Incorporation doctrine

the legal concept under which the Supreme Court has nationalized the Bill of Rights by making most of its provisions applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment.


The belief that the best predictor of this year's budget is last year's budget, plus a little bit more (an increment). It is also defined as the tendency of government to tinker with policies rather than to question the value of continuing them.


a procedure by which a specified number of voters may propose a statute, constitutional amendment, or ordinance and compel a popular vote on its adoption.

Internal Efficacy

deals with how a person feels that his or her skills, knowledge, and abilities can have an effect on the political system.

Investigative journalism

a form of journalism in which the journalist investigates a single topic of interest or issue.

Iron Triangle

the policy-making relationship among the congressional committees, the bureaucracy, and the interest groups.

Issue Network

A network of people who regularly discuss and advocate public policies.

Jean Jacques Rousseau

Philosopher that argued that the only good government was one that was freely formed with the consent of the people.

Jim Crow Laws

Laws that restricted black rights after the Civil War.

John Locke

One of the most influential philosophers read by the colonists. His writings inspired the American political leaders.

Joint Committee

Congressional committee composed of members of both houses of Congress, usually to investigate and research specific subjects.

Korematsu vs. US

Supreme Court decision that upheld as constitutional the internment of more than 100,000 Americans of Japanese decent in encampments in World War II.

Laissez-Faire Economics

political philosophy that promotes free markets and limited government.

Legislative Oversight

One of Congress's most important tasks. In order to check the power of the executive branch, congressional committees investigate and evaluate the performance of corresponding executive agencies and departments.

Lemon vs Kurtzman

1971 Supreme Court case that established a criteria for church-related schools to receive financial aid.


the publication of false or malicious statements that damage someone's reputation.

Liberal ideology

ideology that supports central government, support policies that aim to promote political equality, spending less money in military spending, taxing the wealthier Americans more than the average middle class or lower class, in favor of affirmative action.


Political ideology which believes in no government except what's necessary to protect life and property

Linkage institution

a structure or format within a society that connects the people to the government or centralized authority.


Filing a lawsuit; used by special interest groups to seek to obtain court decisions favorable to their policy interest


the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government

Mandate Theory of Elections

the idea that the winning candidate has a mandate from the people to carry out his or her platforms and politics. Politicians like the theory better than political scientists do.

Mapp vs Ohio

1969 Supreme Court decision ruling that the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures must be extended to the states as well as to the federal government.

Mass media

a term that refers collectively to all of the media technologies including newspapers, film, the internet, television and radio. The term also refers to the organizations which control these technologies.

Matching Funds

The government will match a presidential candidate's funds, if they raise a certain amount of money in a number of different states

McCain Feingold Act

Act put a ban on soft money 30 days before primary election and 60 days before general election for the purpose of issue ads. Increased spending limits.

McCulloch vs Maryland

1819 Supreme Court decision that held that Congress had certain implied powers in addition to the enumerated powers found in the Constitution.

McGovern-Fraser Commission

a commission formed at the 1968 Democratic convention in response to the demands of reform by minority groups and others who sought better representation.


a national social insurance program, administered by the US government that guarantees access to health insurance for Americans ages 65 and older and younger people with disabilities.

Melting pot

phrase that involves the mixing of cultures, ideas, and peoples that has change the American nation.

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