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Free Response Questions
AP Test Prep
2011 FRQ #1
• Judicial review: the power of the court to
declare laws unconstitutional
• It’s their chief weapon in the system of checks
and balances
– Able to declare laws of Congress/acts of the
executive void and unenforceable if conflict with
the Constitution
– Can be more empowering depending on if strictconstructionalist or activist approach
• 4 Justices have to agree to hear the case and
then it is issued a writ
– Only reviews 1-2% of appeals court cases
– Law clerks can play large role in decision
– Court tries to reserve time for significant
federal/constitutional questions
• 2+ federal circuit courts of appeals decide in different
• Highest state court upholds fed/state law despite
violation with Constitution
• Stare decisis
– Allowing prior rulings to control the current case;
principle of precedent
• Law can’t continually change meaning and judges can’t
be unpredictable: chaos
– Equal justice – similar cases in similar manner
– Judicial Activism
• Correct injustices when other branches refused to do
• Activist courts – increased, as it got easier to get into
courts number of cases heard increased (civil rights,
social security, etc.)
2011 - #2
• Large random sample
• Fairly worded questions
• Elected official know public is paying attention to voting
• Funding of campaigns
• Tailor message to what voters want to hear
• Officials may vote for a variety of reasons
– Representative – constituency
– Organization – party influence
– Attitudinal – conscience, ideological
• Critics of voting record – flip-flop
• Positions in committees – plum jobs
– Control caucus
– Issue expertise
– Reelection
Government 2011 FRQ #3
• Define each of the following methods used by states to choose
delegates to party conventions:
– Open Primary: Any registered voter, regardless of party, may vote in this
– Caucus: A meeting of party members to select delegates or other primary
• Republican Party rules permit winner-take-all primaries. Describe one
consequence of this rule for the Republican nomination process.
– In the 2000 primary election, with George W. Bush and John McCain would
have had a much greater turnout in the later states voting. The turnout for the
earlier primary votes was as high as 13.6 percent, but as Bush gained a
dominant lead, later state primaries were around 4 or 5 percent.
Government 2011 FRQ #3
• The Democratic party has used superdelegates in the presidential
nominating process since 1984. Explain why the use of
superdelegates increases the influence of party leaders in the
democratic nominating process.
– Superdelegates don’t need to be selected by caucuses or party primaries and
can as a result vote which ever way they want in the primaries. This allows for
high ranking democratic party members to maintain some control over the
• Explain why a candidate’s strategy to win the nomination is often
different from the strategy developed to win the general election.
– Primary – Candidates must most often appeal to more extreme (left or right)
voters to win the primary
– General Election – Candidate must appeal to a broader voting population and
must appear less liberal/conservative than they did in the primary
2011 - #4
A.) President Powers Affecting Congress
Veto Power: President can directly affect law making, which
forces compromise. Prevents Congress from passing majority
decisions unchecked.
Executive Orders: The president is given this discretionary
power to rule government agencies, which in turn takes
Congress' power away, and forces it to compromise with
presidential orders.
Commander in Chief: Congress must act in accordance with
the president's authority; they can only fund, jointly declare,
and oversee wartime activities. (Not all is left up to them.)
Congressional Powers Affecting the President
Legislative Oversight: Since Congress oversees presidential
activity, it limits and moderates his actions so that the
president will have Congressional support. (They must work
Senate Advice/Consent: The president takes into account the
opinion of Senators (usually of his party) on policy and often
judicial appointments. This ties both institutions together via
appointments and executive agreements, and limits
ideological actions taken.
Budgetary Power: Since Congress controls funding, the
president must take into account what is important to
Congressional support, and provides policy in accordance. It
forces the president to compromise, or completely lose his
2010 - #1
• A – free religion, speech, press, assembly,
petition = rallies, marches, information, POV
• B – Tea Party, MADD, NAACP, political parties
– convert to POV, issue/candidate ads, referendums
– Provide information to policy-makers, donate
– Class action lawsuits, precedent-setting cases
• C – Campaign finance reform (‘74, ‘93)
– Spending limits
– Disclosure rules
– Tax status (PACs, Superpacs)
– Registration (court rulings)
2010 AP Government FRQ #2
A) Hiring or promotion based on merit, experience, or qualifications
• Hiring based on testing
B) Structure of the bureaucracy
Specialized units or specialized expertise
Tenure protections, hard to fire
Based on merit
Independent agencies, independent regulatory commissions
• Complexity of public policy problems
Specialized units or specialized expertise
Delegated authority — Congress and the president delegate authority to the
Discretionary authority — when legislation lacks details, the bureaucracy fills in
the gaps
2010 FRQ #2 continued
C) Congress
Appropriations — can reward or punish agency
Legislation — can pass legislation affecting the bureaucracy
Rejection of presidential appointments to the bureaucracy
Impeachment of executive officials
• Courts
Court rulings that limit bureaucratic practices
Judicial review — can declare bureaucratic actions unconstitutional
Injunctions against federal agencies
• Interest groups
Injunction: A judicial order that
restrains a person from effecting
legal action, or orders redress to
Media usage
an injured party.
Litigation – using the courts
2010 - #3
House seats from southern states steadily
decreased 1940 – 2000 and varied in presidential
elections = JFK/LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Reagan/Bush
Incumbency – currently holds seat, name
recognition, money advantage, staff, franking
Gerrymandering – safer seats in the House recently,
more ideological
State and national parties – “all elections are local,”
agenda items different (jobs, services vs.
sociotropic, international)
2010 - #3 cont.
Catholic vote traditionally Democrat, but since Roe
more conservative ideology, vote Republican
Labor Unions vote democrat, but southern states
not as strong in labor as north (“right to work”)
Women more independent since the 1960s, make
up more labor force, more vote (strong vote for
Dems and Obama)
Social conservatives vote mostly Rep, silent
majority of the 1970s, religious right of the 1980s,
strong protestant in south, white (Tea Party)
2010 - #4
Explain how each of the following limits the powers of the national executive.
• Federalism- by dividing power between the national and state government,
the authority of the national government is limited.
• Checks and Balances- the legislative branch has the ability to override a
veto from the executive with a majority vote, passing legislation regardless
of the wishes of the executive. The executive can also be impeached and
the legislative branch can block certain presidential appointments.
Explain how each of the following two provisions in the Bill of Rights limits the
powers of the national government.
• Establishment clause- made clear that no law regarding the establishment
of religion would be enacted. The framers had seen the dangers of religion
and government being intertwined so they decided government would stay
out of religion. It also prevented government from acting in a way that
showed preference for one religion over another.
• Guarantee of a public trial- the government is less capable of violating the
rights of citizens if the trial is public.
Choose one of the following and explain how it limits the power of state
• Citizenship clause of the 14th amendment- all people born or naturalized in
the United States were citizens and guaranteed protection under the
national law. States cannot take away the rights of citizens. This was
especially significant after the Civil war; former slaves now had to be
treated equally under the law. Court case example- Brown v. Board of
• Selective incorporation- part of the due process clause; states cannot deny
rights of citizens as mentioned in the Bill of Rights like freedom of speech,
right to a fair trial, and freedom of religion.
AP 2009 #1
A. The House of Representatives was originally the closest to the citizens
because these representatives were the only directly elected ones, and
they also represented a smaller proportion of the population each.
B. The Constitution limited majority rule by giving the judicial branch lifetime
terms and making them unelected people. This branch was designed to
be independent of an oppressive majority rule.
The Senate is the other house in Congress, and were originally elected by
state legislatures. With longer terms, they were more removed from the
people than the House of Representatives, and served as a check on
majority rule.
Primary Elections - Elections to choose candidates for office. This
weakens the power of political parties, gives it to voters.
17th Amendment - Senators shall be elected by the people. This
amendment moved the Senate closer to the people, increasing the
people's influence on government making the system more democratic.
Expansions of Suffrage - Increased the the number of people who could
vote, and expanded the voting population to include a wide variety of
minorities. This shifted elections to be more democratic, being affected
by a larger group of people.
2009 FRQ #2
• Age:
– Older people are more likely to vote.
– Turnout is lowest for young people.
– The likelihood of voting declines in the oldest populations.
• Education:
– People with more education are more likely to vote.
– People with less education are less likely to vote.
• Electoral requirements:
– Citizenship
– Age
– Disfranchisement of certain groups (felons, the mentally incompetent)
– Residency
– Registration
– Limited opportunities to vote (midweek, limited hours, single day)
– Need to show identification
– Generally have to vote in person
– Closed primaries
– Process of obtaining absentee ballot
2009 FRQ #2
– The requirement makes a person ineligible to vote.
– The requirement puts up obstacles or makes it harder to vote.
– Media
– Interest groups (PACs)
– Political parties
Explanation: Political Parties
“Ways” that connect:
– Gather information about voters for use by candidates and policymakers
– Provide information to voters about candidates running for office
– Connect voters to elected officials/candidates through campaign activities
“Ways” in which connections are made
– Campaigns/Mailings
– Voter mobilization/Recruiting candidates
– Recruiting activists/Endorsing party platforms
– Funding candidates/Aggregating interests
– Articulating interests/Mobilizing interests
2009 AP Govt. Essay 3
A. Advantages of the majority party in the House of Representatives
• The majority party selects the speaker of the house who decides who gets to speak and
when and controls the agenda. The speaker also assigns committee and sub-committee
• With a large enough majority a party can stop a filibuster.
• The majority party controls the rules committee which means they can set the floor
procedures for the house
B. Differences between the House and the Senate that make it likely that legislation
could pass in one but not the other.
• There are no filibusters or holds in the House
• The House has stricter time limits on debates
• The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration is not as powerful as the House
Committee on Rules because it can not set the terms of debate like the time allowed or
whether a bill can be amended or not.
C. How these differences can lead to the passage of a bill in one chamber but not the
• The minority party could filibuster or hold a bill in the senate even if it passed in the house.
• The Rules Committee in the House could say that a bill can’t be amended at all so that some
members that would pass a bill if it were changed slightly won’t pass it.
• It is easier for members of the Senate to add unrelated content to a bill that members of the
House might find objectionable, while the rules for relevancy in the House are more strict.
2009 #4
A) Define policy agenda
– The issues that the public and those in government believe to be significant
B) Explain how the national news media engage in agenda setting.
– The national news media sets agenda through its news coverage, by turning the public’s (and
lawmakers’) attention to issues, while also providing information about these issues.
C) Explain the primary reason the president tends to have an advantage over Congress in gaining media
– The president is the face and voice of the nation. Everyone in the country has a chance to vote for
him, and everyone –presumably- knows his face. Whereas, members of Congress are (usually) only
well-known in their own states. Therefore, a speech by the president will gain much more national
media attention (and viewers for the news station) than would a speech by a congressman – or even a
meeting of Congress.
D) Consider the table
– A larger percentage of Americans in older age-groups tend to view the nightly news overall.
– The percentage of frequent viewers in every age group decreased from 1974 to 2002, however the
pattern above remained in place. In contrast, the number of viewers who “rarely” watch the nightly
news increased in every age group from 1974 to 2002, with the elderly still holding the largest
E) One implication for presidents in their use of media to promote political and policy objectives to the
American public.
– To influence the largest number of people possible (when on the nightly news), speak about issues
which affect middle aged to older Americans.
– Also, look to media sources other than only the nightly new in order to influence a wider range of
2008 - #1
A.)Define congressional reapportionment and explain one reason
why it is important to the states.
• It is the process by which seats in the house of
representatives are redistributed among the 50 states
following the census, with each state getting seats
according to their population.
• B.)Define congressional redistricting.
• The process of redrawing district boundaries when a
state has more representatives that districts also
occurring with the census. State legislators and
governors re-draw the boundaries of the house
districts with Congress being allowed to modify and
C.) Explain two goals of politicians when they gerrymander during
• Making territory safe for a candidate of a ruling party
• Taking away safe district from opponent party
• Redistrict by race or wealth for advantage.
• D.) Describe two limits that the United States Supreme Court has
placed on congressional redistricting.
Must be equally populated
District lines must be continuous or connected.
Cannot dilute minority strength
Lines cannot be drawn solely on the basis of race.
Must protect interests of the community.
2008 FRQ 2 A
A) The Constitution grants the president certain enumerated powers.
Describe two of these formal powers that enable the president to exert
influence over domestic policy.
– Approve or veto Bills and Resolutions passed by Congress. This allows
the president to decide what policies are to go into effect. If the
president agrees on a bill, he can let it pass and become a law, if not,
the president can prevent the bill from passing.
– Take care that laws be faithfully executed. This allows the president to
determine how strongly a policy is to be enforced. A law that the
president disagrees on could see potentially less enforcement than
one that the president supports.
2008 FRQ 2 B
B) Choose two of the following. Define each term and explain how each
limits the president’s ability to influence domestic policymaking in
– Mandatory Spending- A budgeted amount of money that must be set
aside for certain programs or initiatives. The required amount of
money that must be set aside for certain programs can take away from
other programs that also need money to function.
– Party Polarization- A majority of voting Democrats oppose a majority
of voting Republicans. This split in voting can make it difficult for bills
to be passed, as there isn’t an agreement in the votes.
– Lame-duck period- When a person is still in office after he or she has
lost the bid for reelection. The president is in a position in which he
fills the seat until the next president takes over. This can make it
difficult to get anything passed as the president doesn’t have much
more time.
2008 AP FRQ #3
• Fiscal Policy: Managing the economy by the use of tax and
spending laws.
• One significant way the executive branch influences fiscal policy.
– The president prepares the final budget and can veto legislation that
pertains to taxes, spending, etc.
• One significant way the legislative branch influences fiscal policy.
– Congress passes the budget and brings forth the aforementioned
legislation that pertains to taxes and spending.
• Monetary Policy: Managing the economy by altering the supply of money
and interest rates.
• Two reasons the Federal Reserve Board is given independence in
establishing monetary policy.
– They are efficient at economic policy-making
– They remove politics from the equation when it comes to monetary policy
2008 FRQ #4
• Explain 2 measures to prevent voter turnout by
African Americans
– Poll tax – having to pay a tax at the polls - took
advantage of the fact that most African Americans
were poor and would not be able to afford it like the
whites were able to
– Literacy tests - government practice of testing the
literacy of potential citizens at the federal level, and
potential voters at the state level – many African
Americans were illiterate as there had been no
resources or opportunities to gain an education
2008 FRQ #4
• Alternate forms of participation to bring about changes in civil rights
– Sit ins- Greensboro -February 5, 1960, four black college students sat down at
a "white-only" department store lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina.
When the restaurant refused these students service, they remained seated
until the store closed for the evening. The students returned each morning for
the next five days to occupy the lunch counter, joined by a group of protesters
that grew to the hundreds. Faced by a mob of angry white residents and
management that refused to serve them a cup of coffee, the students
maintained their protest until they forced the store to close its doors.
– Boycotts- Montgomery bus boycott - political and social protest campaign
against the policy of racial segregation on the public transit system
of Montgomery, Alabama. The campaign lasted from December 1, 1955,
when Rosa Parks, was arrested for refusing to surrender her seat to a white
person, to December 20, 1956. People refused to use this public transit system
to prove segregation was wrong
2008 FRQ #4
• Explain why it was effective in changing policy
– Sit ins- In many towns, the sit-ins were successful in achieving
the desegregation of lunch counters and other public places.
Nashville's students attained citywide desegregation in May,
1960. The media picked up this issue and covered it nationwide,
beginning with lunch counters and spreading to other forms of
public accommodation, including transport facilities, art
galleries, beaches, parks, swimming pools, libraries, and even
museums around the South. The Civil Rights Act of 1964
mandated desegregation in public accommodations.
– Montgomery Bus boycott - a federal ruling, Browder v. Gayle,
took effect, and led to a United States Supreme Court decision
that declared the Alabama and Montgomery laws requiring
segregated buses to be unconstitutional.
2007 FRQ #1
a)Describe the winner-take-all feature of the electoral college.
a) Should a candidate win a majority in the state, be it 51% or by a landslide, they win the
entire states electoral votes. This goes for all states but two, Nebraska and Maine.
b) Explain one way in which the winner-take-all feature of the electoral college affects how
presidential candidates from the two major parties run their campaigns.
b) The winner-take-all system lets candidates focus more on “swing states” that they have
a chance of winning, but need to compete for. The democrats rarely campaign much in California
or Maine, as they have the states locked up. Republicans rarely campaign in the southern United
States as they can get easy electoral votes there.
c) Explain one way in which the winner-take-all feature of the electoral college hinders thirdparty candidates.
c) Third party candidates, to win electoral votes in a state must control a majority vote in
that state. This means they need to beat both the Democrats and Republicans, and regardless of
their total votes across the country or state they need to win a majority to gain electoral votes.
This leaves third party candidates with zero electoral votes lately.
d) Explain two reasons why the Electoral college has not been abolished.
d) The electoral college has not been abolished because:
It votes according to the voters, and has rarely, and not recently, acted independently and
against what the votes have voted for, so it is just a middle man that needn’t be abolished.
The electoral college is constitutional, therefore abolishing it would require an amendment
which requires a large amount of work and votes that the public isn’t actively pushing for, so
why bother?
2007 FRQ #2
a) Engle v Vitale-Establishment Clause of the
First Amendment: "Congress shall make no
law respecting an establishment of
b) Decision-government-written prayers were
not to be recited in public schools and were
an unconstitutional violation of the
Establishment Clause; importance of
separation between church and state
2007 FRQ #2
c) Reynolds v United States- free exercise clause:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an
establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof”
d) Decision-The Court believed the First
Amendment forbade Congress from legislating
against opinion, but allowed it to legislate
against action; banned polygamy because it
did not meet the standard of being a religion
2007 FRQ #2
e)Political institutions:
1. Executive branch or state government
can refuse to enforce a Supreme Court
2. congressional/state/local-repass a law
that the courts declared
2007 Question 3
Akshay Rana
• The constitution gives the power to declare
war to congress. However the President is
Commander In Chief, he relies on congress to
officially declare war.
• One provision the War Powers Resolution has
to limiting the presidents power is the fact
that he although he can deploy troops in an
emergency, he does has a time limit, and after
it’s passed he needs a reason to have
deployed troops. Another provision is that
congress can take power over the troops after
the president deploys them.
• One special power given to congress over war
making is the power to fund the war. So the
president can call for a huge attack but
without support from congress get no money
for this attack. Another provision is that
congress can create legislation through a
majority to increase its power and role in the
2007 #4
A. Federalism is a form of government that is characterized by a
division of power between the state and federal levels of
B. Categorical grants: The federal government gives states money that
must be used for a specific purpose. If the states don’t use the
money for what it the federal government meant to be used for the
funding can be taken away.
Federal Mandates: The federal government uses mandates to
increase its relative power by imposing rules or requirements that have
to be met by state or local governments.
C. Block Grants: Money given to states with few rules or stipulations on
how it has to be used.
The 10th Amendment: This amendment states that all powers not
provided in the Constitution for the national government are “reserved”
for the states respectively.
2007 - #3 additions
B. Selective Incorporation – use of the 14th
Amendment to stretch protections of the Bill
of Rights to state laws, started with Gitlow in
1925. Warren court very active.
C. Welfare Reform Act of 1996 – state
administer welfare, limit 5 years, must start to
work within 2 years, TANF replaced AFDC, part
of “devolution revolution” of Republicans
2006 - #1
A. Influence elected officials on policy,
awareness of their issues, provide technical
information, narrow
B. Get candidates elected, leadership on public
policy, broad
C. Direct mailings, money for campaigns, PAC,
do R/D, foot soldiers, staff
D. Mobilizing support, “friends” in office, access
to legislative process
2006 #2
Entitlement program- a government program guaranteeing certain
benefits once a person meets a certain qualification such as age or
income level
Income taxes
The amount paid in is less than the amount paid out and the reserve
amount is quickly declining
Threats: Baby Boomers reaching retirement age and people are living
Explanation: There are fewer working people for every person receiving
a Social Security check,
If the age requirement was raised there would be more people paying
in, less people receiving the benefits, and the reserve would not decline
as quickly
2006 - #3
A. Agencies have experts on issues, understand
“real world” setting, realistic regulation, time
to do work, money to most important areas,
legislative load
B. EPA – clean air, water, standards, scrubbers,
auto emissions, toxic waste
FCC – ratings systems, obscenity, bandwidth
Fed – money supply, inflation, interest rates,
banking industry
C. oversight, funding, (legislative veto)
AP Government 2006 FRQ #4
A) Discuss two reasons why the framers created a bicameral legislature.
The framers wanted an upper house (Senate) that could equally represent each state,
regardless of population, and a lower house that would represent based on population.
This appeased both the large and small states.
– This is another way to enact checks and balances, preventing the legislature from
obtaining more power than the other branches.
B) Identify one power unique to the House of Representatives and explain
why the framers gave the House that power.
– The House of Representatives has the power to initiate a bill to raise taxes. The House
was given this power because the House was the only part of the legislature originally
elected by the people, and if they raise taxes enough, they will struggle to win
reelection, where the President and Senate are more removed from the power of the
AP Government 2006 FRQ #4
• C) Identify one power unique to the Senate and explain why the
framers gave the Senate that power.
– The Senate is the only branch that can conduct an impeachment trial. The House is
capable of indicting the official, but only the Senate can conduct the trial. More
exclusive and individual than the House, less likely to convict. (Leads to fewer “witch
hunts” throughout the government.
2005 - #1
A. Federal judges have lifetime appointments,
no political party or elections, constitutional
role of interpretation, stare decisis
B. Enforcement by other branches, stare decisis,
live in the present, impeachment possibility,
9 justices with different jurisprudence, flood
of cases
2005 FRQ#2 Noah B.
-The power to tax and spend
-The power of the government to tax and spend has increased gradually
-Initially got revenue from tariffs, excise taxes, and later from sale of federal
-Taxes levied, supreme court declares unconstitutional in 1895.
-16th Amendment (1913) Congress can now levy an income tax
-Number of taxes has gone up, rates also increased
-The "Necessary and proper clause"
-McCulloch v. Maryland - Constitution doesn't provide for national bank, but it
can be created as a means to exercise the power to spend
-federal government can use means not listed in the constitution to carry out
tasks that are constitutionally authorized
-The Civil Rights act of 1964
-Prior to the act states each had laws providing for legalized segregation of schools
and businesses (primarily in the South, though the North still had de facto
-The act superseded state segregation laws, making them invalid, furthermore the
states had to comply with additional federal mandates to end segregation (ie
-One of the first cases to give legitimacy to federal power over civil rights issues,
number of civil rights cases in the ensuing decade
2005 3
1)Selective Incorporation- Court cases that apply Bill of Rights to
2) First Amendment
Texas v. Johnson was one of a series of flag desecration
cases challenging state and federal statutes prohibiting
burning or otherwise damaging a flag, as a violation of First
Amendment protection of freedom of speech and political
3) Criminal Defendants
Miranda v. Arizona dealt with the need for individuals in
police custody to understand their constitutional rights
before being questioned by police. The specific protections
addressed are the Fifth Amendment right not to
incriminate oneself, and the Sixth Amendment right to legal
counsel. The "fundamentals of fairness" standard, derived
from the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause,
demands that the accused be aware of his or her options in
dealing with police so he can make informed decisions and
not unwittingly act against his best interest.
2005 - #4
Eliminating Soft Money
unlimited $ to political parties, close loopholes
for: eliminate interest group influence
against: allow interest groups to be heard
Limiting Independent Expenditures
527 organizations
for: free speech
against: favor the rich
Raising Limits on Individual Contributions
let people give larger amounts
for: free speech, respond to candidates
against: favor rich, lose issues of interest groups