questions for the material


When grading the essays, I will look for…

1.)  Your ability to show you comprehend the material and provide a logical (reasonable use of 

supporting evidence) & consistent (position is maintained throughout the essay) argument.

2.)  Your ability to acknowledging and critique opposing arguments in a logical way (i.e., a 

thoughtful discussion about the differences between the majority and any concurring or 

dissenting opinions in a case).

3.)  The ABSENCE of outlines or bullet points that are essentially copy-and-pasted directly from 

my presentation slides (please do not do this).  You have a full week to prepare well-written 

essays, so you will lose points if you use an outline format in the exam.

4.)  I will not grade for grammar or spelling errors (that’s just mean).  Do your best and make 

sure I can read your handwriting.  If I cannot read it, unfortunately I’ll assume it is wrong.


1.)  Explain the United States of America’s federal system and how it is different from a centralized or confederal system of governance.  In what ways are the several states’ sovereignty protected and restricted under a federal system?  In your opinion, are there more benefits or harm to the idea that states should be viewed as “laboratories of democracy”?  Why? 

2.)  Discuss the different ways state legislators can represent their constituents.  Be sure to include in your discussion the different types of constituencies, legislator responsiveness, and professionalization.  To what extent does district magnitude and the redistricting of legislative boundaries impact constituent representation?

3.)  Discuss some of the broad formal/institutional powers of a state Governor and how those can determine her/his relationship with the state legislature and judiciary.  In what ways can a Governor’s personal/informal powers influence her/his ability to execute their formal powers?

4.)  Explain the four formal methods the states use to select their judges.  In your opinion, which selection method is best suited for the normative goal of preserving an independent judiciary and why?  Which selection method is best suited for ensuring judicial accountability and why?


5.)  Explain the direct initiative process and the argument that economic interest groups, rather than individual citizens, dominate this process.  In your opinion, does the initiative process give economic interest groups too much power to directly impact state governance policies?  Why or why not?

6.)  In what ways does a state’s governor and legislature share and compete for oversight authority over state bureaucratic agencies?  How can the direct election of state agency heads make impact the governor’s and/or legislature’s ability to fulfill a policy agenda? 

NOTE:  Each essay question contains several sub-questions that I expect you to clearly address when constructing the larger narrative in your essay.  

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