How much do you know about your government? A July 4 civics quiz 


Learning how our great country really works — and registering to vote — may be the most patriotic things to do on the Fourth of July.

Here is a short, simple quiz to test your knowledge, and to share with family and friends; it is especially pertinent today, as we’ve begun the long process of deciding who will be our next president. Answers are at the end.

Part 1: Voting

  1. On November 3, 2020 we will elect:
    a) A president
    b) 34 of our 100 senators
    c) All 435 members of the House of Representatives
    d) Indirectly, the next Supreme Court justices and every federal judge for the next 4 years
    e) Hundreds of state legislators and 11 state governors
    f) All of the above
  2. Young people, ages 18-29, vote far less than older Americans do. Which voter turnout statistics are true from the 2016 presidential election?
    a)  Among 18-29 year olds, 55.8 percent voted, vs. 65 and over at 63.5 percent
    b) 18-29, 51.2 percent; 65 and over, 59.3 percent
    c) 18-29, 46.1 percent; 65 and over, 70.9 percent
  3. If young people ages 18-29 voted in the same percentages as the oldest Americans, what would happen?
    a) They would instantly become the most powerful political force in the country
    b) They would instantly reshape Congress and every state legislature
    c) The issues they care about would have a significantly increased chance of being fully addressed
    d) They and their issues would dominate the 2020 presidential election
    e) All of the above
  4. Americans have fought for the right to vote over the years. Which of these is true?
    a) Many African Americans were not able to legally vote until 1965
    b) Women were not able to legally vote until 1920
    c) 18, 19 and 20 year olds were not able to legally vote until 1971
    d) Undocumented immigrants were not able to legally vote until 2010
    e) All of the above
    f) a, b and c 

Part 2: Representation to get what we want

  1. To enact climate legislation or “Medicare for All,” or a bill to build a wall on our southern border — to make anything “the law of the land” — requires:
    a) A president
    b) 60 of the 100 senators, to overcome a “filibuster”
    c) 218, or a simple majority, of House members
    d) Potentially five of the nine justices of the Supreme Court
    e) All of the above

Part 3: The Supreme Court

  1. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 86 and Justice Stephen Breyer is almost 81. If they, or any other Supreme Court justice retire or die after the next election, their seat will be filled by:
    a) The president
    b) The Senate
    c) The president and 60 of the 100 senators
    d) The president and 51 of the 100 senators
  2. If a Supreme Court with different justices wanted to reverse the decision to make gay marriage legal, or to overturn Roe v. Wade, Citizens United or any other previous decision of the Court:
    a) They couldn’t; they are bound by it. It’s called “precedent.”
    b) They could but they absolutely wouldn’t.
    c) They can make minor adjustments to the ruling but can’t overturn it.
    d) They can do whatever they want and can absolutely modify or overturn any previous decision, and no one can do anything about it.

Part 4: How to elect the Congress we want

  1. Currently there are 53 Republican senators and 47 Democratic senators. Because Republicans have the majority, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is the Senate Majority Leader and controls virtually everything that goes on in that chamber. What is required for Democrats to take control of the Senate, or for Republicans to keep control of it?
    a) Nothing. Republicans have permanent control of the Senate
    b) To give control to Democrats, elect four more Democratic senators in the 2020 election, or three more plus a Democratic president
    c) For Republicans to keep control, re-elect at least 19 of the 22 Republicans running for re-election in the Senate and re-elect Donald Trump or at least 20 of the 22 if a Democratic president is elected. 
    d. Either b or c
  2. There are 235 Democrats and 197 Republicans in the House of Representatives (with three vacancies). Because Democrats have the majority, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is the Speaker of the House and controls virtually everything that goes on in that chamber. What is required for Republicans to take back control of the House, or for Democrats to keep control of it?
    a) Nothing. Democrats have permanent control of the House of Representatives
    b) Elect 21 new Republicans to the House in the 2020 election for Republicans to take back the House. Re-elect at least 218 of the 235 Democrats for Democrats to keep control.
    c) Re-elect Donald Trump for Republicans to take back the House. Elect a Democratic president for Democrats to keep control of The House. 

Part 5: The electoral college

  1. Each state gets to decide how they award their own electoral votes. Can they divide them up by congressional district or give all of them to whoever gets the most votes across the country?
    a) No. The Constitution says that whoever wins each state gets all of the electoral votes of that state. For example, whoever gets the most votes in Florida receives all of Florida’s 29 electoral votes.
    b) Yes. The Constitution allows each state to award their electoral votes however they wish. They can give all to the winner of their state, or divide them up by congressional district, give a percentage to every candidate based on how many votes he or she gets or even decide to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and give all of their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote, even if he or she doesn’t win that state.

Knowing how our government is actually formed and how it works is essential for any American who wants the federal government to perform better and to serve us all — and since polls consistently show that most Americans don’t trust the government to do what is right most of the time, that’s a lot of us.

There are other important things we can do, of course, such as contacting our elected representatives and letting them know what kind of America we envision and want, or running for office ourselves.

But more important than both of those is registering to vote, so that you are able to help choose our leaders at every level of the government in the next election.

That’s what the Declaration of Independence, the Fourth of July, the American Revolution, the Civil War, women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement and so many other important events in our nation’s history have been about — giving us power over our own lives. It is up to us to use it wisely and to vote.


ANSWERS: 1. F, 2. C, 3. E, 4. F, 5. E, 6. D, 7. D, 8. D, 9. B, 10. B  

Richard Greene is an author, political communications strategist and public speaker. He is a former fellow at the Constitutional Rights Foundation, a former attorney and the founder of 279 for Change, which advocates a new approach to engaging in politics. Viisit him on Facebook at

Tags Donald Trump Government of the United States Legislatures Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi National Popular Vote Interstate Compact Politics of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg Stephen Breyer United States Electoral College

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