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117 important and challenging terms covered on the AP Government test including major supreme court cases

Bill of Rights

aspect of Constitution that reflects popular, majoritarian democracy

Federalist papers

these papers, written by James Madison, discussed factions and their inevitability

Federalist #10

this document argued that factions were inevitable and harmless in a republic since a republic has checks and balances

Shenk vs. US

this supreme court case established the "clear and present danger" test and stated that freedom of speech could be limited if the act of speech was an immediate threat to the U.S. government (such as burning a draft card)

Gideon v. Wainwright

supreme court case; the selective incorporation of the 6th amendment (right to an attorney)

Marbury v. Madison

supreme court case that gave Supreme court power of judicial review (the Court can declare laws unconstitutional)

McCulloch v. Maryland

supreme court case that ruled that states can't tax the national government; significance: states that national law will always be supreme over state law; ties with elastic clause

due process

rights to life, liberty, and property as stated in the 14th amendment

Miranda v. Arizona

supreme court decision; Miranda rights must be read to subjects before interrogation

Roe v. Wade

supreme court decision; under the 9th amendment, states could not ban abortion in the first trimester

Griswold v. Connecticut

supreme court case that interpreted the 9th amendment as the 'right to privacy', incorporated the 9th amendment to the states and said that states could not ban the sale of contraception

Title 9

part of the Education Amendment Act; banned sex discrimination in public schools (sports, clubs, etc)

Baker v. Carr

supreme court decision that established principle of "one man, one vote"; Congressional redistricting may NOT exclude minorities and district must be contiguous and equal in population, not area (note: this only applies within one state; one district in Kansas doesn't have to have the same population as a district in California)

Brown v. Board of Education

supreme court decision that desegregated schools and overturned Plessy v. Ferguson

Mapp v. Ohio

supreme court decision; selective incorporation of 4th amendment

selective incorporation

parts of the Constitution are applied to the states (thus weakening state power) by the 14th amendment

bill of attainder

declares one guilty of a crime without a trial; illegal under the Constitution

habeas corpus

the right to have a trial/ to present a case in court; also states that a person cannot be held in prison without being accused of a crime

establishment clause

clause of the 1st amendment that creates the separation between church and state

free exercise

part of 1st amendment that states that one can exercise any religion freely

necessary and proper clause

clause that states that Congress can make all laws necessary to run the government efficiently; gives implied powers to Congress, also called the Elastic Clause

fiscal federalism

all levels of government work together to complete a project funded by the federal government

categorical grant

grant that is given to states for a specific purpose

block grant

grant that is given to states with fewer restrictions than a categorical grant

unfunded mandate

when the government orders a state to do something and does not give it funds to do it (state must use own funds)

elite theory

A theory of government and politics contending that societies are divided along class lines and that an upper-class elite will rule, regardless of the formal niceties of governmental organization. (single minority dominates politics)

pluralist theory

theory of government that many minorities and social classes are involved in politics

split-ticket voting

voting for two parties on one ballot; causes divided government, shows weakening of political party affiliation


voting on in-state issues

political efficacy

citizens' trust and faith in government and their belief that they can influence it

political socialization

how political values are passed to the next generation


raises campaign funds for favored candidates, branches off from SIG (abbreviation)

public monies

money from federal government used to match presidential campaigning

Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act

set limits on hard money and banned unregulated/soft money in campaign process

front loading

states move primaries and caucuses earlier so that votes will count; ex: Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary

open primary

type of primary where registered voters can participate in either party's primary

closed primary

type of primary where only registered party members can vote

party machine

local party organization that uses patronage to create party loyalty (ex: Boss Tweed, Tammany Hall)

critical election

election in which groups of voters permanently shift traditional patterns of party loyalty

judicial activism

Philosophy proposing that judges should interpret the Constitution to reflect current conditions and values; loose constructionism, belief in "living Constitution"

judicial restraint

philosophy that supreme court judges should interpret the Constitution based on the original intent of the framers; strict constructionism

amicus curae

briefs submitted to the Supreme Court by SIGs to lobby/convince the court hearing a case to pass a certain decision

rule of four

rule that states that 4 justices must grant certiorari to hear a case in the Supreme Court

national supremacy clause

clause of Constitution that states that state laws cannot compete with national law- national laws will always overpower state laws

executive order

president's power to change government policy without Congress approval (though Congress must still grant funds for this policy)

executive agreement

president's power to make an agreement with another head of state without Congressional supervision/agreement

line item veto

vetoing only a part of a bill; illegal because it violates doctrine of separation of powers; used today by many state governors

fiscal policy

government's power to tax and spend

Federal Reserve Board

an independent regulatory agency; sets monetary policy by controlling money supply; adjusts interest rate

entitlement spending

mandatory spending; ex: social security


part of the president's executive office; recommends the federal budget to the president (abbreviation)

independent regulatory agencies

agencies in bureaucracy freer from presidential control because their members serve a fixed term

US v. Nixon

supreme court decision that stated that the president's power to executive privilege is not absolute

Freedom of Information Act

this act gave citizens access to information about the executive branch

War Powers Act

this act states that the president must withdraw troops within 90 days if Congress orders him to

Rules Committee

this House committee schedules hearings and sets the agenda


redistricting to benefit a political party

franking privilege

incumbent congressmen can send free mail to constituents


SIGs/organizations try to influence legislation or Court decisions by providing technical information or favors


studies details of proposed legislation

conference committee

resolves differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill at the end of the legislative process if a bill passes through the House and senate in different forms; mostly tends to favor the Senate version of a bill

cloture rule

ends a filibuster in the senate; debate can end after 100 hours; 60 senators must vote for cloture to occur


a tactic for delaying or obstructing legislation by making long speeches

pocket veto

letting a bill expire at the end of a Congressional term

divided government

when one party has the majority in Congress and the president is of the other political party; causes legislation to pass slower


lobbying the courts; used when there is a lack of broad public support for a cause (easier to convince 5 justices rather than hundreds of representatives in Congress); ex: Brown v Board of Education, Roe v. Wade

attorney general

the person in charge of the justice department in the cabinet

political ideology

a consistent set of beliefs about who should rule and how


individual limit on contributions per candidate per election

incumbency status

this factor has the most influence on the outcome of a congressional election

executive privilege

The right of the president to withhold info from Congress/ refuse to testify; limited by U.S. v. Nixon


an organization of members of Congress who share similiar ideas and agendas (not always within the same political party)


when many interest groups try to get control, resulting in a government that is tied up in gridlock


during the Constitutional Convention, this group was led by Thomas Jefferson and was characterized as the party of the "common man". believed in a more limited role of central government.


during the Constitutional Convention, this group was headed by Alexander Hamilton, was made up of the country's upper class, and supported a strong national government

ex post facto laws

punishing someone for something that is now illegal but was legal when it was committed . Congress is prohibited from enacting this type of legislation. (ex: if Bob picked flowers from a forest preserve two months ago but the forest preserve only announced that picking flowers was illegal a month ago, Bob cannot be persectued for his 'crime')

full faith and credit clause

this Constitutional clause states that states and the national government must respect each other's laws, public records, and judicial decisions; aka "privileges and immunities clause"


one who is conservative economically and socially liberal; tends to be young, college-educated, white, and non-religious; basically, believes that gov. should stay out of both economics and moral issues

10th amendment

this amendment gives states reserved powers not delegated to the national government

supremacy clause

this Constitutional clause states that "the Constitution, and the laws of the United States...shall be the supreme law of the land"

double jeopardy

legal concept where once a verdict is handed down, you cannot be tried again for the same crime

Gitlow v New York

landmark Supreme Court decision that incorporated the first amendment to the states in 1925

bully pulpit

the ability to use the office of the presidency to promote a particular program and/or to influence Congress to accept legislative proposals


an amendment to a bill that sometimes has nothing to do with the intent of the bill itself and is considered to be pork barrel legislation (when legislators try to favor own home districts through legislation)

original jurisdiction

cases heard by the Supreme Court that do NOT come on appeal from lower courts

Article I

this article of the constitution deals with the legislative branch

Article II

this article of the constitution deals with the executive branch

Article III

this article of the constitution deals with the judiciary branch


type of politician;view themselves as the "mouthpiece" of their voters, and try to represent their constituency the best they can, for their voters wishes.


type of politician;view themselves as being "trusted" by the ppl, who voted them into office, and do as they think is best, for the benefit of their voters.


An agreement by two or more lawmakers to support each other's bills or riders


A strong supporter of a party, cause or a person.


holds the impeachment trial

Freedom of Information Act

passed in 1966, gave citizens access to information about the executive branch

executive privilege

NOT a formal power, but all presidents claim the ability to shield themselves from revealing White House discussions, decision, or documents to legislature and judiciary; not absolute as ruled by US v. Nixon

legislative veto

refusal to adhere to an executive order or a federal agency standard by Congress; ruled unconstitutional, but is still occasionally used

House Appropriations Committee

committee in House of Representatives that reviews the budget for a bureaucratic agency annually; aka House Ways and Means Committee

linkeage institutions

connect people to the government; ex: political parties, special interest groups

527 organization

A tax-exempt group branching off from a PAC formed primarily to influence elections through voter mobilization efforts and issue ads that do not directly endorse or oppose a candidate. Unlike PACs, they are not subject to contribution limits and spending caps. This is a loophole; allows soft money to be legally donated to candidates in a campaign.

exclusionary rule

states that evidence found from an unreasonable search cannot be used in Court; set by Mapp v. Ohio; has some exceptions such as airport searches, objects in plain view, and searches in emergency situations

plea bargain

arrangement in which a suspect pleads guilty to a lesser offense in order to avoid a trial. The manner in which most cases are disposed of; applies to most cases, since most criminal cases do NOT get a trial

de jure

"by law"

interstate commerce clause

states that Congress has the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the states. The courts take a broad view of what constituted interstate commerce; an expressed (formal) power of Congress; has been used by Supreme Court to justify desegregation laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964


the transfer of powers and responsibilities from the federal government to the states; trend since 1994 to reduce power of the federal government and give more to the states (ex: states got right to set speed limits, to regulate welfare reform)

civic duty

a belief that one has an obligation to participate in politics


A senator or representative who helps the party leader stay informed about what party members are thinking

state legislature

in charge of reapportionment and redistricting within a state after a census is taken

progressive tax

a tax for which the percentage of income paid in taxes increases as income increases; wealthier people pay more


reallocation of the number of representatives a state has in the House of Representatives; done every 10 years based on census

congressional committee

where bills start off in Congress; most work on bills, especially in House, occurs here; bills must pass out of these to be shown to the entire House or Senate and most bills die here

select committee

as opposed to a standing commitee, this type of committee is temporarily established for investigations or emergencies (ex: the Katrina hearing commitee after hurricane Katrina)

closed rule

in the House of Reps, sets a strict time limit on debate and forbids the introduction of any amendments from the floor

open rule

permits amendments from the floor in the House of Reps, however amendments must be germane (related to the purpose of the bill) and cannot be riders

grassroots lobbying

type of lobbying used when there is popular support for a cause but a lack of funds (ex: would be used by a special intrest group against animal cruelty)

writ of certiorari

An order by a higher court directing a lower court to send up a case for review


liberal economically, conservative socially; typically religious, poorly educated, low-income, female; believe that government should be involved in both economics and moral issues

Voting Rights act

act passed in 1965, provides criminal penalties for interfering with the right to vote; clarifies 15th amendment to make poll taxes, literary tests, grandfather clauses, etc illegal

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