US State Map

Powers, Functions and Representation of the States of the United States

The United States is a huge nation which comprises 50 states and a federal district, Washington D.C., which is the capital of the nation. The area of he states is not uniform. While Alaska is the largest state of the country comprising an area of 665,384 square miles, Rhode Island is the smallest and covers an area of just 1,545 square miles. For a better administration, the all the 50 states are divided into counties or county-equivalents. These counties many have some sort of local government for an effective management of affairs; however, they are not sovereign and are subject to the laws of the state. the structure of the counties or county-equivalents differs from one state to the other.

Through their individual constitution, the government of each state of the United States is allocated power by the people. The government of every state in the country comprises three branches and these are the executive, legislature, and the judiciary.

Powers and functions of the US states

The States have a number of powers that are granted to them under the Constitution of the country. One of the most important powers of the states is the ratifying of the constitutional amendments. Some of the functions that come under the control of the state governments are public education and health, local law enforcement, regulating intrastate commerce, and local transportation, to name a few. However, these now receive funding from the federal government and are regulated as well. During, the past few years, the relations between the federal government and the states in the country have undergone some changes. Today, the federal government is playing a much larger role in state affairs as compared to the earlier times. In a nutshell, it can be said that the general tendency in the country is today more towards centralization.

States’ representation in the Congress and bicameral legislature

Every state of the country is well represented in the federal Congress and the bicameral legislature, which comprises the Senate and the House of Representatives. Two Senators represent a particular state in the Senate, while every state is entitled to at least one representative in the House of Representatives. The representatives are elected from the single-member districts. However, unlike the senate, the allotment of seats to the representatives is not uniform across all states. The seats in the House of Representatives are distributed among all states of the country in proportion to the constitutionally mandated decennial census that has been conducted recently. Thus California, which is the most populous state of the country, has 53 representatives, while Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming have just one representative. Another significant role that states play is the selecting of electors. Every state of the nation is entitled to select a number of electors to the to vote in the Electoral College. This is an important body, which elects the President of the United States. The number of electors elected by each state should be equal to the total of representatives and senators from that particular state.

Admitting new states

The Congress has been granted authority by the Constitution of the nation to admit new states into the Union. This authority has frequently been used and a number of new states have been admitted into the Union over the years. During the establishment of the United States in 1776, there were just 13 states in the country. Over the course of the next two years the number has significantly risen and today the United States comprises 50 states. The recent additions to the Union have been the two stats of Hawaii and Alaska. Both these states were admitted to the Union in 1959.

Meanwhile, the Constitution says nothing about the states’ right to secede from the Union. However, the Supreme Court had passed a judgment in this regard shortly after the end of the Civil War. In the Texas v. White case, which was argued before the Supreme Court in 1869, the highest court of the land held that the states couldn’t secede from the Union.