Explain how a constitutional democracy provides majority rule with equal protection for the rights of individuals, including those in the minority, through limited government and the rule of law.

The original cartoon of "The Gerry-Mander."
The original cartoon of "The Gerry-Mander."

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 1.11.21 PM.pngSee AP American Government and Politics: Theories of Democratic Government


  • State legislatures divide their state into voting districts
    • Political parties seek to dilute the voting power of the other party by redrawing districts to ensure that their party holds a majority in each district.

  • Historically, political leaders have tried to create districts that favor one party or another, a process known as Gerrymandering after Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry (who has also the nation's 5th Vice-President).
    • The district depicted in the cartoon was created by Massachusetts legislature to favor the incumbent Democratic-Republican party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry over the Federalists in 1812.

Elbridge Gerry
Elbridge Gerry

Multimedia.pngRedistricting the Nation offers an overview of how political districts are re-drawn using Census data and how citizens might go about creating their own districts to more fairly represent their interests.

Top 10 Most Gerrymander States, 2017


Link here to learn more about redistricting and its role in politics by playing the ReDistricing Game from the University of South Carolina


LInk here to learn about how politicians have exploited redistricting to influence the outcome of elections (gerrymandering). This process often divides districts along racial and ethnic lines.

podcast icon.pngClick here to listen to a podcast regarding another instance of racial gerrymandering in Alabama.

Constitutional Democracy

A constitutional democracy is predicated on four basic principles.
  • Majority rule or popular sovereignty. The people either elect officials to create law or the people will vote on laws with the majority ruling.
  • The constitution is the supreme law of the land. The laws will continually evolve and change, but the laws will always be limited in power and scope by the constitution.
  • The constitution is designed to leave power within the individual thus limiting the potential power of a tyrannical majority. There is a fear that this majority could infringe on the rights of the individual including those in the minority. Concern for the rights of individuals is evident in the constitutions.
  • Checks and balances. A branch of the constitutional democracy would need to interpret the laws to determine their constitutionality. The United States is a constitutional democracy, and the Supreme Court is an example of this.

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill


Click here to learn about the idea of a tyranny of the majority from influential philosopher John Stuart Mill and his essay "On Liberty."

Read about how the Constitution protects citizens against a "tyranny of the majority" through the checks and balances between the branches of government and the checks and balances within each branch.


Watch this video to learn about the difference between a democracy and a constitutional republic and which definition best suits the United States.


Click here for lesson plans on the question of representation in the US government from EdSitement.

Checks and Balances

rotating gif.gifChecks and Balances, Individual rights, and protecting minority rights