13th Amendment

the amendment to the U.S. Constitution that abolished slavery.

14th Amendment

Section 1 of the 14th Amendment says “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. 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.”

17th Amendment

ratified in 1913, this amendment allows voters to directly elect their senators. Prior to this amendment senators had been elected by state legislatures.

19th Amendment

the amendment to the U.S. Constitution that grants women the right to vote

23rd Amendment

the amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees voters in the District of Columbia the right to participate in presidential elections by granting DC three electoral votes.

24th Amendment

the amendment to the Constitution that prohibits poll taxes in federal elections.

26th Amendment

the amendment to the Constitution that extended the right to vote in state and federal elections to those 18 or older.

absentee ballot

a ballot completed by the voter and mailed or dropped off before election day. States have different rules for absentee ballots.


authority to self-govern.


involving the agreement or cooperation of two political parties that usually oppose each other.

block grants

federal funding given to states to achieve an outcome but with few strings attached about how the money must be spent.


the buying and selling of goods.

Commerce Clause

the part of the Constitution that says Congress has the power to pass laws about the buying and selling of goods and services between the states.


a loose union of sovereign states.

cooperative federalism

era of federalism (1901-1960) in which the federal government and state governments coordinated efforts.

Citizenship Clause (14th Amendment)

a part of the 14th Amendment that says that anyone born or naturalized in the U.S. is a citizen.

de facto

segregation (setting apart by race) not based in law, but in fact or circumstance.

de jure

segregation (setting apart by race) set by law.


the process of returning authority and duties to states from the federal government causing decentralization.

Devolution Revolution

era of federalism (1970-present) during which some powers once expanded to the federal government were returned to state and local governments.

direct election (to directly elect)

a system of choosing office holders where voters cast ballots directly for the person or political party they want to see elected.

discrimination (to discriminate)

when someone is treated differently just because of certain characteristics, like their race or gender.


when an unfair distinction is made between different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, national origin, sex, or age.

disenfranchise (to disenfranchise)

to prevent or deprive a person or group of people from having a legal right, particularly the right to vote.

dual federalism

era of federalism (1789-1901) in which the federal government and state governments exercised almost exclusive authority over their areas of jurisdiction.

Due Process Clause (14th Amendment)

the part of the 14th Amendment that says the states cannot take away someone’s life, liberty, or property without due process of law. “Due process of law” means that the government must follow certain procedures, like a trial. These procedures are different depending on what the government is trying to take away.

Elastic Clause

the part of the Constitution that grants Congress the power to pass laws that are needed to carry out the powers specifically given to them in the Constitution (also known as the Necessary and Proper Clause)

Electoral College

a group of people representing the states of the United States who cast the formal votes for the election of the president and vice president.


era in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe sometimes called the "Age of Enlightenment." It also refers to the philosphical movement that took place that emphasized individualism and reason instead of religion.

enumerated powers

the powers of Congress specifically listed in Article 1, Section 8, Clauses 1–17 of the Constitution.

Equal Protection Clause (14th Amendment)

the part of the 14th Amendment that guarantees that individuals are treated equally regardless of their race, gender, religion, nationality, or other characteristics.

exclusionary rule

rule that prohibits the use by the government of illegally obtained evidence in a criminal trial.

executive order

orders from the president to agencies of the executive branch that have the force of law but do not need Congressional approval.

federal government

the level of government that controls the United States as a whole rather than just a single state.

federalism/federal system of government

a system of government that divides power between the state governments and the national government.


criminals who have been convicted of serious crimes.

fiscal federalism

the federal (national) government uses grant money to influence state policies.

franchise (the)

sometimes called suffrage or political franchise this word means the right to vote in public political elections.

Full Faith and Credit Clause

found in Article 4 of the Constitution, this clause requires states to recognize some actions of other states: “Full faith and credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State.”

grandfather clause

regulations that waived voting restrictions for descendants of men voting before the Civil War allowing some states to pass restrictions which prevented Black voters from voting but not their white counterparts.

implied powers

powers that are not specifically listed in the Constitution. Instead, they are permitted by the Necessary and Proper Clause and inferred from other expressly stated powers.


not able to be admitted as evidence in a trial.

incorporation/selective incorporation

the extension of most of the rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights to the states through the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause over time through Supreme Court decisions.

intrastate commerce

buying and selling of goods within state borders.

interstate commerce

the buying and selling of goods between states.

judicial review

the power of the courts to decide whether a law or decision by the government conflicts with the Constitution

literacy test

a test that determines a person’s ability to read and write.


when a person from another country becomes a citizen of a new country.


a child; a person under the legal age of adulthood, usually 18 or 21.

Miranda warning

warnings that law enforcement officers are required to give to suspects who are in custody and being interrogated. These include the right to counsel, the right to remain silent, and the warning that anything they say may be used against them in court.


when a person from another country becomes a citizen of a new country.

Necessary and Proper Clause

the part of the Constitution that grants Congress the power to pass laws that are needed to carry out the powers specifically given to them in the Constitution (also known as the Elastic Clause).

peremptory challenges

part of the pretrial jury selection. Attorneys on opposing sides may dismiss a certain number of possible jurors without giving any reason. There is one exception: peremptory challenges cannot be used to discriminate on the basis of race.

poll tax

a tax of a fixed amount of money that people must pay in order to vote.

polling place

a buiding where voting takes place during an election.


the smallest unit into which voters are grouped for the purpose of voting and/or party organizaing.

Privileges and Immunities Clause (14th Amendment)

a part of the 14th Amendment that prevents a state from treating citizens of other states unfairly.

probable cause

facts that allow a reasonable person to believe evidence of a crime will be found in that location.


a person who works for the government who starts and carries out legal criminal proceedings.


a member of one of the major divisions of the Christian church; Methodists, Baptists, and Lutherans are all Protestants.

ratification (to ratify)

formal confirmation of an official document giving it full legal effect. For amendments to the U.S. Consititution, ratification requires approval of 3/4 of state legislatures or 3/4 of conventions called in each state.


(1865 – 1877) was a turbulent era following the Civil War during which Congress passed laws to bring the southern states back into the Union.

representative government

a system where people vote to elect leaders to represent their interests and concerns.


a state in which the power is held by the people through their elected representatives.


saying or doing something that shows oneself might be guilty of a crime.

"slave" patrols

government sponsored force given authority to detain enslaved people who had run away from their enslavers and to control other acts of resistance by enslaved people, often violently.


the right to vote in political elections.

Supremacy Clause

the part of the Constitution that says that the Constitution and federal law are the supreme law of the land and superior to state law.

tribal affiliation

an association with federally recognized Indian tribes or bands.


not allowed by or contained in the Constitution. If a law is unconstitutional, it will be struck down, meaning it is no longer a law

voir dire

from the French phrase meaning "to speak the truth." It is the screening process in which opposing laywers question prospective jurors to ensure as favorable or as fair a jury as possible.


a court order issued by a judge or magistrate, giving the police the power to search a person or a place for items related to a crime.


a written order issued by a court, commanding a person to perform or stop performing a specific act.