Civics 101 Why does the U.S. have an Electoral College? How do congressional investigations work? What does the minority whip actually do? Civics 101 is the podcast refresher course on the basics of how our democracy works.
Civics 101

Civics 101

From New Hampshire Public Radio

Why does the U.S. have an Electoral College? How do congressional investigations work? What does the minority whip actually do? Civics 101 is the podcast refresher course on the basics of how our democracy works.

Most Recent Episodes

What happens to campaign funds after the election is over?

It doesn't always happen (and probably shouldn't) but occasionally there are funds leftover at the end of the long campaign road. Of course, that money was supposed to help that candidate win — and nothing else. There are some restrictions on what they're allowed to do with it once all is said and done. Deborah D'Souza lays down the facts about those funds. While you're here... do you subscribe to the Civics 101 newsletter? No? Well, it's free and it's one of our favorite things and it's where we put all the good stuff that doesn't make it into the episodes. Go on, now, get it!

How do we add states? What is the difference between a state and a commonwealth?

Today's listener question is, "What is the difference between a state and a commonwealth? Will Puerto Rico become a state or a commonwealth?" We go through that difference, the reason Puerto Rico might become a state, and how adding states has benefited the parties. Our guest for today is Robinson Woodward-Burns, a professor of political science at Howard University. Support Civics 101 with a small donation today!

How do we add states? What is the difference between a state and a commonwealth?

What is an Executive Order?

Sometimes it's easier for a president to circumvent our complex legislative process and just do something. Today we answer a listener question about executive orders: what they are, how they differ from laws passed in Congress, and how they're checked by other branches and future administrations. This episode features Professor Casey Dominguez from San Diego University. Civics 101 is free to listen to but not to make, support the show today with a donation.

How do judicial appointments and elections work?

Article III Justices — that is, most justices at the federal level, are appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and then serve for as long as they please with very few exceptions. This is done, in part, to ensure that they are independent of the political process. At the state level, however, things often work differently. Judicial elections can be held to ensure accountability to the people. What does that mean for these different judiciaries? Amy Steigerwalt of Georgia State University shows us the way.

The Declaration of Independence

We're asking teachers to tell us their favorite Civics 101 episodes from the past, and today 8th grade Social Studies educator extrordinaire Andrew Swan introduces the Declaration of Independence. A breakup letter, a radical document, an ordinance of secession, a masterclass in political philosophy, whatever you think of it, it is how our nation started. This episode features many scholars with differing opinions on the Declaration: Danielle Allen, Byron Williams, Cheryl Cook-Kallio, Woody Holton, and Emma Bray. If you're a teacher and want to introduce an episode, just give a holler at civics101@nhpr.org and we'll get right back to you. Support our show today with a donation! We can't do it without you.

What Is The Difference Between Constructionist, Originalist and Liberal Justices?

How do Supreme Court justices decide that something in line with the Constitution? In violation or opposed to it? That all depends on what you think the Constitution is actually saying. And the Justices don't always agree! An originalist justice is going to have a very different approach than a liberal justice will. Amy Steigerwalt, professor of political science at Georgia State University, breaks it down for us. Civics 101 is free to listen to, but it isn't free to make. Consider making a gift to support civic education today!

What Is The Difference Between Constructionist, Originalist and Liberal Justices?

How do elections rise to the Supreme Court?

Today we answer this listener question: "It has happened before that in very close elections, the Supreme Court chose the winner. How does that happen?" Our guest is Dan Cassino, Professor of Government and Politics at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He walks us through the two times the Supreme Court or its justices were directly involved with choosing a winner of the presidency. Click here to support our ongoing production of Civics 101.

How do recounts work?

A recount may be undertaken if there are concerns about human error or fraud... and in some states, there are laws about close elections automatically triggering recounts. Recounts can happen in local, state, federal, and even presidential elections. How do they work? And how often does a recount change the outcome of an election? Get more Civics 101 in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter. Donate to support our show!

Will we ever get rid of the Electoral College system?

The Electoral College is a system. It's a buffer between we, the people who vote, and the actual election of a president. The way this system works results in what some consider an unfair advantage for certain states and voters. But would we ever actually get rid of the Electoral College? What would that take? What are alternatives to the system? Rebecca Deen, professor of Political Science at the University of Texas at Arlington, walks us through the what-ifs.

What is "court packing?"

What determines how many justices are on the Supreme Court? What is the process for adding or removing seats on the bench? And what is "constitutional hardball?" Today we speak with Robinson Woodward-Burns, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Howard University, and author of the forthcoming book, Hidden Laws: How the State Constitutions Stabilize American Politics. Support Civics 101 with a donation today!

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