Get Ready for the Election: Learn about the 3 Branches of Government


I came to a sad realization recently: I am so politically ignorant. It’s embarrassing. I’m truly ashamed. I can make excuses and tell y’all it’s because I was never interested in history as a kid. I would zone out in class to conserve all of my energy for English class. Yes, I could keep telling you excuses, but nothing can excuse this type of ignorance.


No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, Democrat or Republican, you might not fully understand the mechanics behind America’s government. In order to get ready for the upcoming election, whether it’s for your governor, senator, or president, we’re going to go through important topics to insure that you’re as politically informed as you can be on the day you enter that voting booth.

First up is the very basics of the structure of our government: the three branches. Sadly, 73% of Americans cannot name all of the three branches according to the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center. This fact is crazy, but kind of not surprising. No need to feel down on ourselves, though. We’re going to dive right in to learning about the structure of our government to become politically literate, which is our civic duty.

The three branches were created to make sure no individual or group held too much power. The Constitution divides the federal government into the Legislative Branch, Executive Branch, and Judicial Branch.


1. The Legislative Branch

The Legislative Branch is popularly known as “Congress“. Congress has two components:

  • The Senate

  • The House of Representatives

This branch is responsible for:

  • making and drafting laws

  • declaring war

  • regulating interstate and foreign business

  • controlling taxing and spending policies 

  • confirming or rejecting presidential nominations for heads of federal agencies, federal judges, and the Supreme Court

We, as American citizens, have the right to vote for who will represent us is in both the Senate and House of Representatives. 

The Senate

  • 2 elected Senators per state (for a total of 100 Senators)

  • Representatives serve 6-year term 

  • No limit to the number of terms an individual can serve   

The House of Representatives

  • Representatives are divided among the 50 states in proportion to the population of each state

    • For example, California has 53 Representatives because it’s the largest state by population, while Wyoming only has 1 Representative because it’s the smallest state by population. Check out how many Representatives you have in your state here.

  • Total of 435 elected Representatives

  • There are also additional non-voting delegates who represent the District of Columbia and its territories 

  • Representatives serves 2-year term

  • No limit to the number of terms an individual can serve


    2. The Executive Branch

The Executive Branch carries out and enforces laws. This branch includes the:

  • President

    • Leads the country as the:

      • Head of State

      • Leader of the federal government

      • Commander and Chief of the United States Armed Forces

    • Serves a 4-year term

    • Cannot be elected more than 2 times

  • Vice President

    • Supports the President

    • If the President is unable to serve, the Vice President becomes the President

    • Can be elected and serve an unlimited amount of 4-years terms, even if it’s under different Presidents

  • Cabinet

    • Cabinet Members serve as advisors to the President

    • Members include:

    • Members are nominated by the President and approved by a simple majority of the Senate (51 votes if all Senators vote)

  • Executive Office of the President (e.g. Council of Economic Advisors, National Security Council, Office of Science and Technology Policy)

  • Executive Departments (e.g. Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, etc.)

  • Independent Agencies (e.g. CIA, EPA, Federal Reserve System, Peace Corps, U.S. Postal Service, etc.)

  • Other Boards, Commissions, and Committees (e.g. Endangered Species Program, Social Security Advisory Board, U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, etc.)

3. The Executive Branch

 The Judicial Branch has these duties:

  • interpret the meaning of laws

  • apply laws to individual cases

  • decide if the laws violate the Constitution

    The branch includes the Supreme Court and Federal Courts and Judicial Agencies. 

  • Supreme Court

    • the highest court in the United States

    • the Justices of the Supreme Court are nominated by the President and must be approved by the Senate

      • the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the nominee and votes on whether or not to forward the nomination to the full Senate

      • If the Senate Judiciary Committee votes to move the nomination forward, the Senate can debate the nomination

      • A Senator will ask for unanimous consent to end the debate, but any Senator can refuse to end the debate

      • If there is not unanimous consent, a simple majority of votes (51 if all Senators vote) to end the debate

      • Once the debate ends, the Senate votes on whether or not to confirm or reject the nomination 

      • A simple majority of votes is needed for confirmation

    • 9 Members make up Supreme Court

      • 1 Chief Justice

      • 8 Associate Justices

    • There must be a minimum of 6 Justices to decided a case

    • If there are an even number of Justices and there is also a tie, the lower court’s decision stands

    • No fixed term — they can serve until death, retirement, or removal in exceptional circumstances 

  • Federal Courts and Judicial Agencies

    • the Constitution gives Congress the authority to establish other federal courts to handle cases that include:

    • federal laws like (e.g. taxes and bankruptcy)

    • lawsuits involving U.S. states or governments or the Constitution 

      I know that was sooo much information. Let it sink in and come back next week to learn more about how our government works. 

      What do you not understand about the American government or political system? Comment below. 




Don’t Miss

Other Blog Posts

Top 7 Money Tips for New College Grads

Top 7 Money Tips for New College Grads

Life after college is kind of scary. You start a job. You might have moved to a new city. You might be looking for new friends. You're just trying to figure it all out. Independence is cool and all, but it does come with an enormous level of responsibility. In the...