Do states HAVE to have governors?

Is it written in Federal law (constitution, etc.) that every state has to have a governor, a state legislature, etc.? Would it be possible to have, say, an elected triumvirate of executives if the state wished it?

Just seems that, for all that states rights nonsense, all of the states seem pretty darn similar.

There is no provision specifying what kind of government a state must have. Article IV, Section 4 of the US Constitution provides that the United States must guarantee to every state a ‘republican’ form of government. In light of decisional law establishing that the ‘states’ are their people, not their governments, this might be interpreted as meaning that the US will make sure that no non-republican forms of government will be tolerated in any state.

Decisions by the Supreme Court on this clause have for the most part deferred to Congress the issue of whether the federal government will recognize a particular state government. The issue was most potent during the period of Reconstruction, and also touched on briefly as a result of the legal issues arising out of the Civil War and the attempted seccession of the states. A number of cases early in the century refused to address the merits of claims that state governmental reform was unconstitutional; the cases were disposed of by the Supreme Court by saying the issues were non-justiciable, left to the political arena to solve.

Does this mean that, should Califoria decide to enact a non-republican democracy that the federal government would be justified in stepping in with military force and forcing the state to return to a more republican format? Likely, we will never know.


There’s also nothing saying that senators have to be elected. That’s why one can be appointed upon the death of a sitting senator; it’s up to the states how they select them.

Electors don’t have to be elected, but they are. In 1876, Colorado’s electors were just selected by the Republican governor.

Actually, I beg to differ on senators. The 17th ammendment says:

When I looked this up, I found it had been ratified in 1913. I had thought the direct election of senators was specified in the 19th century.

I agree that nothing says states have to have governors. Just things like “executive authority”. A state could be run by a “grand high poohbah” if they wanted.

Yeah, but a grand high poobah is the same as a governor, save in name… unless you elect him differently (parliamentary-style via the legislature? or appointed for life?) or unless there is more than one poobah in the executive seat (a ruling council of poobahs).

Many states, in particular New York, used to elect governors through the legislature in the early years of the Republic (1790s).

Most states only elected governors for one-year terms back then. Eventually most states moved up to two-year terms and no nearly every state has governors that serve four-year terms.

The Constitution doesn’t spell out how presidential electors are selected however. It’s up to each state.

In fact, there is a lot of variance between states as to how their legislatures are structured, what powers the governor has, and so on. A lot of states vest some powers officially in a Liuetenant Governor, who may be of a different party than the governor, or other various elected officials. For instance, in CA, we also directly elect a Secretary of State, and Attorney General (and a few others). “Secretary of State” for a state government always sounds silly to me, conjuring up pictures of CA having diplomatic missions to Rhode Island and so on - in fact, one of the chief duties of this post is to oversee elections, and we’ve all recently learned that Florida has a similar post.

The basic rules, as stated earlier, are some kind of republican form of government, using the term loosely. There seems to be a tacit agreement to call the chief executive a “governor” for the sake of consistency, in spite of the variance in governmental structure from state to state.

The Federal Secretary of State does have some domestic duties. She (speaking of the present one) has custody of the Great Seal of the United States and issues some presidential proclamations.

Also, the Secretary of State had the original jurisdiction over patents. When Thomas Jefferson opened for business in 1789 as SoS, if you wanted a patent, you had to send him the application and he decided whether or not you got one.

The bigger question is why the Federal Government calls the office “The Department of State” and not “The Department of Foreign Affairs”, the name used under the Articles of Confederation.

If I’m not mistaken, don’t British cabinet members all have the title of “Secretary of State for [insert office here]”?

Along these lines, Nebraska is the only state to have a unicameral (one chamber) legislature. In 1937, they voted to get rid of their second legislative chamber, essentially retaining their state senate only. The members are referred to as Senators, although the legislature itself is referred to as the Unicameral. Advantages of the unicameral system include far fewer legislators and legislative overhead (the Unicameral has only 49 members, making it the smallest state legislature in the U.S.), and the elimination of joint committees.

North Carolina has a governor, but he has much less power than any other governor, since he can’t veto any legislation.

BobT says “The bigger question is why the Federal Government calls the office “The Department of State” and not “The Department of Foreign Affairs”, the name used under the Articles of Confederation.”

The department was called the Department of Foreign Affairs for two or three months (July-Sept., 1789) under the Constitution, but the name was changed when domestic duties were added by Congress. Most of these duties have since been shifted to other departments but the name “Department of State” has remained. A partial list of domestic duties the State Department had at one time or another: publishing laws, coining money, issuing patents, taking the census, and declaring new constitutional amendments to be in force. See

As far as I know, the main domestic duty the State Department has (that isn’t directly related to diplomacy) is keeping the great seal of the United States, which is used to emboss important documents, such as treaties and the commissions of Presidential appointees.

GRRR! I forgot vBulletin doesn’t like _s in the links. Try this State Department faqs page instead.

BobT asks:

> If I’m not mistaken, don’t British cabinet members all
> have the title of “Secretary of State for [insert office
> here]”?

No, only a couple (of the twenty or so cabinet members) have that name. The Secretary of State for X handles certain matters internal to the region X.

The Foreign Minister is the British equivalent to our Secretary of State.

According to my count from this page

There are 13 members of the British Cabinet with the title “Secretary of State” as part of it.


My God, you’re right. I lived in the U.K. for 3 years and I didn’t remember the term “Secretary of State for” being used that much. I knew that there were Secretary of States for each of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, but I’d forgotten the others. The members of the cabinet include the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister (sort of the euqivalent of the Vice-President, if you can say that the Prime Minister is the equivalent of the President), the President of the Council (sort of the equivalent of the Speaker of the House), the Parliamentary Secretary (sort of the majority leader in the House of Commons), the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms (sort of the majority leader in the House of Lords), the following cabinet members with titles that include the words “Secretary of State”:

Secretary of State for the Home Department (don’t know what this is equivalent to, but I could have sworn I heard this guy referred to as the Home Minister)
Secretary of State for Education and Employment (equivalent to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Labor)
Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (no obvious equivalent, but may be similar to the heads of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts)
Secretary of State for International Development (possibly the equivalent of the head of the Agency for International Development)
Secretary of State for Social Security (equivalent to the Secretary of Health and Human Services)
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (equivalent to the Secretary of Commerce)
Secretary of State for Health (equivalent to either the Secretary of Health and Human Services or the Surgeon General)
Secretary of State for Scotland (no equivalent)
Secretary of State for Wales (no equivalent)
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (no equivalent)
Secretary of State for Defence (equivalent to the Secretary of Defence)

and the following ones which don’t contain the words “Secretary of State”:

Chancellor of the Exchequer (probably something like being equivalent to the Secretary of the Treasury and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, with maybe a bit of the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors thrown in)
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (the equivalent of the Secretary of State, but I could have sworn this guy was usually referred to as the Foreign Minister)
Lord Chancellor (who knows what this is)
Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster (who knows what this is)
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (the equivalent of the Secretary of Agriculture and the head of the Food and Drug Agency, with a bit of the Secretary of the Interior thrown in)
Minister for Women (no obvious equivalent, but may be similar to something in the Department of Health and Human Services)
Chief Secretary to the Treasury (possibly equivalent to the Secretary of Treasury or the Treasurer of the United States)
Minister for Transport (equivalent to the Secretary of Transportation)

That web page notes that the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms and the Minister for Transport aren’t actually members of the Cabinet, although they attend cabinet meetings.

I thought I remembered the name from watching some miniseries from the BBC where the Cabinet was being introduced one by one. It might have been “First Among Equals”.

Never underestimate the educational possibilities of TV!!

I’ve been trying to recall what I heard on the news back when I lived in the U.K., and I now don’t think that it was “Home Minister” or “Foreign Minister” that was used for those people. I now think that it was “Home Secretary” and “Foreign Secretary”. So the web page is right.

I know the UK also has an Attorney General, but isn’t the Home Secretary equivalent in some respects to the U.S. Attorney General?

I checked the Home Secretary’s web page and that office oversees law enforcement throughout the UK and also handles immigration matters and issues passports.

Geez, I can make some dumb mistakes when I don’t proofread carefully. I wrote:

> Secretary of State for Education and Employment
> (equivalent to the Secretary of Agriculture and the
> Secretary of Labor)

Of course, actually I meant that it’s the equivalent of the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Labor.

Yes, I know this is a zombie, but I found it during a search. Is there anything preventing a US State from having a parliamentry form of Government?