A U.S. STATE is a constituent political entity of the United States
of America . There are currently 50 states, which are bound together
in a union with each other. Each state holds governmental jurisdiction
over a defined geographic territory, and shares its sovereignty with
United Statesfederal government . Due to the shared sovereignty
between each state and the federal government,
of both the federal republic and of the state in which they reside .
State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government
approval is required to move between states , except for persons
covered by certain types of court orders (e.g., paroled convicts and
children of divorced spouses who are sharing custody ).
States range in population from just under 600,000 (Wyoming) to over
39 million (California), and in area from 1,214 square miles (3,140
km2) (Rhode Island) to 663,268 square miles (1,717,860 km2) (Alaska).
Four states use the term _commonwealth _ rather than _state_ in their
full official names.
States are divided into counties or county-equivalents, which may be
assigned some local governmental authority but are not sovereign.
County or county-equivalent structure varies widely by state. State
governments are allocated power by the people (of each respective
state) through their individual constitutions . All are grounded in
republican principles , and each provides for a government, consisting
of three branches: executive , legislative , and judicial .
States possess a number of powers and rights under the United States
Constitution ; among them ratifying constitutional amendments .
Historically, the tasks of local law enforcement , public education ,
public health , regulating intrastate commerce, and local
transportation and infrastructure have generally been considered
primarily state responsibilities, although all of these now have
significant federal funding and regulation as well. Over time, the
U.S. Constitution has been amended, and the interpretation and
application of its provisions have changed. The general tendency has
been toward centralization and incorporation , with the federal
government playing a much larger role than it once did. There is a
continuing debate over states\' rights , which concerns the extent and
nature of the states' powers and sovereignty in relation to the
federal government and the rights of individuals.
States and their residents are represented in the federal Congress ,
a bicameral legislature consisting of the Senate and the House of
Representatives . Each state is represented in the Senate by two
senators, and is guaranteed at least one Representative in the House.
Representatives are elected from single-member districts ; seats in
the House are distributed among the states in proportion to the most
recent constitutionally mandated decennial census . Each state is
also entitled to select a number of electors to vote in the Electoral
College , the body that elects the President of the
equal to the total of representatives and senators from that state.
The Constitution grants to Congress the authority to admit new
states into the Union. Since the establishment of the
1776, the number of states has expanded from the original 13 to 50.
Hawaiiare the most recent states admitted, both in 1959.
The Constitution is silent on the question of whether states have the
power to secede (withdraw) from the Union. Shortly after the Civil War
, the U.S. Supreme Court , in _
Texas v. White_, held that a state
cannot unilaterally do so.
* 1 States of the
* 2 Governments
* 2.1 Constitutions
* 2.1.1 Executive
* 2.1.2 Legislative
* 2.1.3 Judicial
* 2.2 States as unitary systems
* 3 Relationships
* 3.1 Among states
* 3.2 With the federal government
* 4 Admission into the Union
* 5 Possible new states
* 5.3 Others
Secessionfrom the Union
* 7 Commonwealths
* 8 Origins of states\' names
* 9 Geography
* 9.1 Borders
* 9.2 Regional grouping
* 10 See also
* 11 References
* 12 Further reading
* 13 External links
STATES OF THE UNITED STATES
For more details on each U.S. state, see List of states and
territories of the
United States. See also: List of U.S. state
The 50 U.S. states, in alphabetical order, along with each state's
* New York
A map of the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., the nation's
Main articles: State governments of the
United Statesand Comparison
As sovereign entities, each of the 50 states reserves the right to
organize its individual government in any way (within the broad
parameters set by the U.S. Constitution) deemed appropriate by its
people. As a result, while the governments of the various states share
many similar features, they often vary greatly with regard to form and
substance. No two state governments are identical.
The government of each state is structured in accordance with its
individual constitution . Many of these documents are more detailed
and more elaborate than their federal counterpart. The Constitution of
Alabama, for example, contains 310,296 words – more than 40 times
as many as the U.S. Constitution. In practice, each state has adopted
a three-branch system of government , modeled after the federal
government, and consisting of three branches (although the
three-branch structure is not required): executive , legislative , and
In each state, the chief executive is called the governor, who serves
as both head of state and head of government . The governor may
approve or veto bills passed by the state legislature, as well as push
for the passage of bills supported by the party of the Governor. In 43
states, governors have line item veto power.
Most states have a "plural executive" in which two or more members of
the executive branch are elected directly by the people. Such
additional elected officials serve as members of the executive branch,
but are not beholden to the governor and the governor cannot dismiss
them. For example, the attorney general is elected, rather than
appointed, in 43 of the 50 U.S. states.
The legislatures of 49 of the 50 states are made up of two chambers:
a lower house (termed the House of Representatives, State Assembly,
General Assembly or House of Delegates) and a smaller upper house,
always termed the Senate. The exception is the unicameral Nebraska
Legislature , which is composed of only a single chamber.
Most states have part-time legislatures, while six of the most
populated states have full-time legislatures. However, several states
with high population have short legislative sessions, including Texas
Baker v. Carr_ (1962) and _
Reynolds v. Sims
Reynolds v. Sims_ (1964), the U.S.
Supreme Court held that all states are required to elect their
legislatures in such a way as to afford each citizen the same degree
of representation (the one person, one vote standard). In practice,
most states choose to elect legislators from single-member districts,
each of which has approximately the same population. Some states, such
Marylandand Vermont, divide the state into single- and
multi-member districts, in which case multi-member districts must have
proportionately larger populations, e.g., a district electing two
representatives must have approximately twice the population of a
district electing just one. If the governor vetoes legislation, all
legislatures may override it, usually, but not always, requiring a
In 2013, there were a total of 7,383 legislators in the 50 state
legislative bodies. They earned from $0 annually (New Mexico) to
$90,526 (California). There were various per diem and mileage
States can also organize their judicial systems differently from the
federal judiciary , as long as they protect the federal constitutional
right of their citizens to procedural due process . Most have a trial
level court, generally called a District Court , Superior Court or
Circuit Court, a first-level appellate court , generally called a
Court of Appeal (or Appeals), and a Supreme Court. However, Oklahoma
Texashave separate highest courts for criminal appeals. In New
York State the trial court is called the Supreme Court; appeals are
then taken to the Supreme Court's Appellate Division, and from there
to the Court of Appeals.
Most states base their legal system on English common law (with
substantial indigenous changes and incorporation of certain civil law
innovations), with the notable exception of Louisiana, a former French
colony , which draws large parts of its legal system from French civil
Only a few states choose to have the judges on the state's courts
serve for life terms. In most of the states the judges, including the
justices of the highest court in the state, are either elected or
appointed for terms of a limited number of years, and are usually
eligible for re-election or reappointment.
STATES AS UNITARY SYSTEMS
All states have unitary governments , local governments are created
under state law, and ultimately, local governments within each state
are subject to the central authority of that particular state. State
governments commonly delegate some authority to local units and
channel policy decisions down to them for implementation. In a few
states, local units of government are permitted a degree of home rule
over various matters. The prevailing legal theory of state preeminence
over local governments, referred to as Dillon\'s Rule , holds that,
A municipal corporation possesses and can exercise the following
powers and no others: First, those granted in express words; second,
those necessarily implied or necessarily incident to the powers
expressly granted; third, those absolutely essential to the declared
objects and purposes of the corporation-not simply convenient but
indispensible; fourth, any fair doubt as to the existence of a power
is resolved by the courts against the corporation-against the
existence of the powers.
Each state defines for itself what powers it will allow local
governments. Generally, four categories of power may be given to local
* Structural – power to choose the form of government, charter and
enact charter revisions,
* Functional – power to exercise local self government in a broad
or limited manner,
* Fiscal – authority to determine revenue sources, set tax rates,
borrow funds and other related financial activities,
* Personnel – authority to set employment rules, remuneration
rates, employment conditions and collective bargaining.
Each state admitted to the Union by Congress since 1789 has entered
it on an equal footing with the original States in all respects. With
the growth of states\' rights advocacy during the antebellum period ,
the Supreme Court asserted, in _Lessee of Pollard v. Hagan_ (1845),
that the Constitution mandated admission of new states on the basis of
equality. With the consent of Congress, states may enter into
interstate compacts , agreements between two or more states. Compacts
are frequently used to manage a shared resource, such as
transportation infrastructure or water rights.
Under Article Four of the
United StatesConstitution , which outlines
the relationship between the states, each state is required to give
full faith and credit to the acts of each other's legislatures and
courts, which is generally held to include the recognition of most
contracts and criminal judgments, and before 1865, slavery status.
Extradition Clause, a state must extradite people located
there who have fled charges of "treason, felony, or other crimes" in
another state if the other state so demands. The principle of hot
pursuit of a presumed felon and arrest by the law officers of one
state in another state are often permitted by a state.
Regardless of the Full Faith and Credit Clause, some legal
arrangements, such as professional licensure and marriages, may be
state-specific, and until recently states have not been found by the
courts to be required to honor such arrangements from other states.
Such legal acts are nevertheless often recognized state-to-state
according to the common practice of comity . States are prohibited
from discriminating against citizens of other states with respect to
their basic rights , under the
Privileges and Immunities Clause.
WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
Further information: Federalism in the
Every state is guaranteed a form of government that is grounded in
republican principles , such as the consent of the governed. This
guarantee has long been at the fore-front of the debate about the
rights of citizens vis-à-vis the government. States are also
guaranteed protection from invasion, and, upon the application of the
state legislature (or executive, if the legislature cannot be
convened), from domestic violence. This provision was discussed during
1967 Detroit riot
1967 Detroit riot, but was not invoked.
As with state elections, elections for the federal government are
generally administered by each state, and some voting rules and
procedures may differ among states. In the federal Congress, each
state is guaranteed two
U.S. Senators, and at least one U.S.
Representative from that state. The number of U.S. Representatives is
limited to 435. These representatives are elected for two-year terms
and are apportioned by relative population among the states every ten
U.S. Electoral Collegeelects the president every four
years and the states select the electors, which for each state's
delegation are equal to its number of senators and representatives.
Since the early 20th century, the Supreme Court has interpreted the
Commerce Clauseof the Constitution of the
United Statesto allow
greatly expanded scope of federal power over time, at the expense of
powers formerly considered purely states' matters. The _Cambridge
Economic History of the United States_ says, "On the whole, especially
after the mid-1880s, the Court construed the
Commerce Clausein favor
of increased federal power." In _
Wickard v. Filburn_ 317 U.S. 111
(1942), the court expanded federal power to regulate the economy by
holding that federal authority under the commerce clause extends to
activities which may appear to be local in nature but in reality
effect the entire national economy and are therefore of national
For example, Congress can regulate railway traffic across state
lines, but it may also regulate rail traffic solely within a state,
based on the reality that intrastate traffic still affects interstate
commerce. In recent years, the Court has tried to place limits on the
Commerce Clausein such cases as _
United Statesv. Lopez _ and _United
States v. Morrison _.
Another example of congressional power is its spending power – the
ability of Congress to impose taxes and distribute the resulting
revenue back to the states (subject to conditions set by Congress).
An example of this is the system of federal aid for highways, which
Interstate Highway System
Interstate Highway System. The system is mandated and
largely funded by the federal government, and also serves the
interests of the states. By threatening to withhold federal highway
funds, Congress has been able to pressure state legislatures to pass a
variety of laws. An example is the nationwide legal drinking age of
21, enacted by each state, brought about by the National Minimum
Drinking Age Act . Although some objected that this infringes on
states' rights, the Supreme Court upheld the practice as a permissible
use of the Constitution's Spending Clause in _
South Dakotav. Dole _
483 U.S. 203 (1987).
ADMISSION INTO THE UNION
Admission to the Union
Admission to the Union U.S. states by date of
statehood. 1776–1790 1791–1799 1800–1819 1820–1839
1840–1859 1860–1879 1880–1899 1900–1912 1959
The order in which the original 13 states ratified the constitution,
then the order in which the others were admitted to the union. (Click
to see animation)
Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution grants to
Congress the authority to admit new states into the Union. Since the
establishment of the
United Statesin 1776, the number of states has
expanded from the original 13 to 50. Each new state has been admitted
on an equal footing with the existing states. It also forbids the
creation of new states from parts of existing states without the
consent of both the affected states and Congress. This caveat was
designed to give Eastern states that still had Western land claims
(including Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia), to have a veto over
whether their western counties could become states, and has served
this same function since, whenever a proposal to partition an existing
state or states in order that a region within might either join
another state or to create a new state has come before Congress.
Most of the states admitted to the Union after the original 13 were
formed from an organized territory established and governed by
Congress in accord with its plenary power under Article IV, Section 3,
Clause 2 . The outline for this process was established by the
Northwest Ordinance(1787), which predates the ratification of the
Constitution. In some cases, an entire territory has become a state;
in others some part of a territory has.
When the people of a territory make their desire for statehood known
to the federal government, Congress may pass an enabling act
authorizing the people of that territory to organize a constitutional
convention to write a state constitution as a step towards admission
to the Union. Each act details the mechanism by which the territory
will be admitted as a state following ratification of their
constitution and election of state officers. Although the use of an
enabling act is a traditional historic practice, a number of
territories have drafted constitutions for submission to Congress
absent an enabling act and were subsequently admitted. Upon acceptance
of that constitution, and upon meeting any additional Congressional
stipulations, Congress has always admitted that territory as a state.
In addition to the original 13, six subsequent states were never an
organized territory of the federal government, or part of one, before
being admitted to the Union. Three were set off from an already
existing state, two entered the Union after having been sovereign
states , and one was established from unorganized territory :
* California, 1850, from land ceded to the
United Statesby Mexico
in 1848 under the terms of the
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
* Kentucky, 1792, from
Virginia(District of Kentucky: Fayette ,
Jefferson , and Lincoln counties)
* Maine, 1820, from
* Texas, 1845, previously the Republic of
* Vermont, 1791, previously the
VermontRepublic (also known as the
New HampshireGrants and claimed by New York)
* West Virginia, 1863, from
counties) during the Civil War
Congress is under no obligation to admit states, even in those areas
whose population expresses a desire for statehood. Such has been the
case numerous times during the nation's history. In one instance,
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake Citysought to establish the state of
Deseret in 1849. It existed for slightly over two years and was never
approved by the
United StatesCongress . In another, leaders of the
Five Civilized Tribes
Five Civilized Tribes(Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and
Indian Territoryproposed to establish the state of
Sequoyah in 1905, as a means to retain control of their lands. The
proposed constitution ultimately failed in the U.S. Congress. Instead,
the Indian Territory, along with
OklahomaTerritory were both
incorporated into the new state of
Oklahomain 1907. The first
instance occurred while the nation still operated under the Articles
of Confederation. The
State of Franklinexisted for several years, not
long after the end of the American Revolution, but was never
recognized by the Confederation Congress, which ultimately recognized
North Carolina's claim of sovereignty over the area. The territory
comprising Franklin later became part of the Southwest Territory, and
ultimately the state of Tennessee.
Additionally, the entry of several states into the Union was delayed
due to distinctive complicating factors. Among them, Michigan
Territory , which petitioned Congress for statehood in 1835, was not
admitted to the Union until 1837, due to a boundary dispute with the
adjoining state of Ohio. The Republic of
Texasrequested annexation to
United Statesin 1837, but fears about potential conflict with
Mexicodelayed the admission of
Texasfor nine years. Also, statehood
KansasTerritory was held up for several years (1854–61) due to
a series of internal violent conflicts involving anti-slavery and
pro-slavery factions. Further information: Historic regions of the
List of U.S. state partition proposals
POSSIBLE NEW STATES
Political status of Puerto Ricoand Proposed political
Puerto Ricoreferred to itself as the "
Commonwealthof Puerto Rico"
in the English version of its constitution , and as "Estado Libre
Asociado" (literally, Associated Free State) in the Spanish version.
As with any non-state territory of the United States, its residents
do not have voting representation in the federal government. Puerto
Rico has limited representation in the
U.S. Congressin the form of a
Resident Commissioner , a delegate with limited voting rights in the
Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union , and no voting
A non-binding referendum on statehood, independence, or a new option
for an associated territory (different from the current status) was
held on November 6, 2012. Sixty one percent (61%) of voters chose the
statehood option, while one third of the ballots were submitted blank.
On December 11, 2012, the Legislative Assembly of
a concurrent resolution requesting the President and the Congress of
United Statesto respond to the referendum of the people of Puerto
Rico, held on November 6, 2012, to end its current form of territorial
status and to begin the process to admit
Puerto Ricoas a State.
Another status referendum was held on June 11, 2017. Ninety-seven
percent of voters chose statehood. Turnout was low, as only 23% of
voters went to the polls.
District of Columbia statehood movement
District of Columbia statehood movement
The intention of the Founding Fathers was that the United States
capital should be at a neutral site, not giving favor to any existing
state; as a result, the
District of Columbia
District of Columbiawas created in 1800 to
serve as the seat of government . The inhabitants of the District do
not have full representation in Congress or a sovereign elected
government (they were allotted presidential electors by the 23rd
amendment , and have a non-voting delegate in Congress ).
Some residents of the District support statehood of some form for
that jurisdiction – either statehood for the whole district or for
the inhabited part, with the remainder remaining under federal
jurisdiction . In November 2016,
Washington, D.C.residents voted in a
statehood referendum in which 86% of voters supported statehood for
Washington, D.C. For statehood to be achieved, it must be approved by
Congress and signed by the President.
Other possible new states are
Guamand the US Virgin Islands , both
of which are unincorporated organized territories of the United
States. Also, either the
Northern Mariana Islands
Northern Mariana Islandsor
an unorganized, unincorporated territory, could seek statehood.
SECESSION FROM THE UNION
The Constitution is silent on the issue of the secession of a state
from the union. However, its predecessor document, the Articles of
Confederation, stated that the
United States"shall be perpetual." The
question of whether or not individual states held the right to
unilateral secession remained a difficult and divisive one until the
American Civil War
American Civil War. In 1860 and 1861, eleven southern states seceded,
but following their defeat in the
American Civil War
American Civil Warwere brought back
into the Union during the
Reconstruction Era. The federal government
never recognized the secession of any of the rebellious states.
Following the Civil War, the
United StatesSupreme Court, in _Texas
v. White _, held that states did not have the right to secede and that
any act of secession was legally void. Drawing on the Preamble to the
Constitution , which states that the Constitution was intended to
"form a more perfect union" and speaks of the people of the United
States in effect as a single body politic, as well as the language of
the Articles of Confederation, the Supreme Court maintained that
states did not have a right to secede. However, the court's reference
in the same decision to the possibility of such changes occurring
"through revolution, or through consent of the States," essentially
means that this decision holds that no state has a right to
unilaterally decide to leave the Union.
Commonwealth (U.S. state)
Commonwealth (U.S. state)
Four states – Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia
– adopted constitutions early in their post-colonial existence
identifying themselves as commonwealths , rather than states . These
commonwealths are states, but legally, each is a commonwealth because
the term is contained in its constitution. As a result,
"commonwealth" is used in all public and other state writings, actions
or activities within their bounds.
The term, which refers to _a state in which the supreme power is
vested in the people_, was first used in
Interregnum , the 1649–60 period between the reigns of Charles I and
Charles II during which parliament's
Oliver Cromwellas Lord Protector
established a republican government known as the
Virginiabecame a royal colony again in 1660, and the word
was dropped from the full title. When
Virginiaadopted its first
constitution on June 29, 1776, it was reintroduced. Pennsylvania
followed suit when it drew up a constitution later that year, as did
Massachusetts, in 1780, and Kentucky, in 1792.
The U.S. territories of the Northern Marianas and
also referred to as commonwealths . This designation does have a legal
status different from that of the 50 states. Both of these
commonwealths are unincorporated territories of the United States.
ORIGINS OF STATES\' NAMES
A map showing the source languages of state names. Further
information: List of state name etymologies of the
The 50 states have taken their names from a wide variety of
languages. Twenty-four state names originate from Native American
languages . Of these, eight are from
Algonquian languages, seven are
Siouan languages, three are from
Iroquoian languages, one is
Uto-Aztecan languagesand five others are from other indigenous
Hawaii's name is derived from the Polynesian Hawaiian
Of the remaining names, 22 are from European languages: Seven from
Latin(mainly Latinized forms of English names), the rest are from
English, Spanish and French. Eleven states are named after individual
people , including seven named for royalty and one named after an
American president . The origins of six state names are unknown or
disputed. Several of the states that derive their names from
(corrupted) names used for Native peoples , have retained the plural
ending of "s".
The borders of the 13 original states were largely determined by
colonial charters . Their western boundaries were subsequently
modified as the states ceded their western land claims to the Federal
government during the 1780s and 1790s. Many state borders beyond those
of the original 13 were set by Congress as it created territories,
divided them, and over time, created states within them. Territorial
and new state lines often followed various geographic features (such
as rivers or mountain range peaks), and were influenced by settlement
or transportation patterns. At various times, national borders with
territories formerly controlled by other countries (British North
New Spainincluding Spanish
Russian America) became institutionalized as the borders of U.S.
states. In the West, relatively arbitrary straight lines following
latitude and longitude often prevail, due to the sparseness of
settlement west of the
Once established, most state borders have, with few exceptions, been
generally stable. Only two states,
Platte Purchase) and
Nevada, grew appreciably after statehood. Several of the original
states ceded land , over a several year period, to the Federal
government, which in turn became the Northwest Territory, Southwest
Territory , and
MississippiTerritory . In 1791
ceded land to create the
District of Columbia
District of Columbia(Virginia's portion was
returned in 1847). In 1850,
Texasceded a large swath of land to the
federal government. Additionally,
occasions), have lost land, in each instance to form a new state.
There have been numerous other minor adjustments to state boundaries
over the years due to improved surveys, resolution of ambiguous or
disputed boundary definitions, or minor mutually agreed boundary
adjustments for administrative convenience or other purposes.
United StatesCongress or the
Court have settled state border disputes. One notable example is the
New Jerseyv. New York , in which
New Jerseywon roughly 90% of
Ellis Islandfrom New York in 1998.
Further information: List of regions of the
States may be grouped in regions; there are endless variations and
possible groupings. Many are defined in law or regulations by the
federal government. For example, the
United StatesCensus Bureau
defines four statistical regions, with nine divisions. The Census
Bureau region definition is "widely used … for data collection and
analysis," and is the most commonly used classification system.
Other multi-state regions are unofficial, and defined by geography or
cultural affinity rather than by state lines.
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