In our last Constitution post, Julia discussed the first Section of Article I of the Constitution, which sets forth the the basic structure of the revolutionary American Congress, the most powerful branch of the US government. As outlined in the first Section, Congress is divided into two houses, an upper house (the Senate) and a lower house (the House of Representatives). Today, we will begin to discuss the details of the US House of Representatives, as outlined in Section 2 of Article I of the Constitution. We will only be considering the first two paragraphs of this Section. The text of these two paragraphs are as follows:
“The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.”
“No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.”
The first paragraph gives some basic organizational rules for the election of members to the House of Representatives.
-The first rule is fairly straightforward: an election is held every other year for the House.
-The second rule is a bit more complicated.
- The “electors” are the voting citizens.
- “The Qualifications requisite for the Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature” are established by the various states for themselves. The second rule set forth in this paragraph means that the same people that are eligible to vote for candidates for their state’s legislature are also eligible to vote for candidates from their state for the national legislature. James Wilson, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention from Pennsylvania, said, “It would be very hard and disagreeable for the same persons, at the same time, to vote for representatives in the State Legislature and to be excluded from a vote for those in the National Legislature.” In this second rule, known as the “Elector Qualification Clause,” the Framers of the Constitution made another move to decentralize the power of government by delegating the establishment of Elector Qualifications to the States instead of the Federal government.
The second paragraph is also fairly straightforward. In order to qualify to be a Representative in Congress, one must:
-be at least twenty-five years old.
-have been a US citizen for at least seven years.
-be a inhabitant of the state in which he will be chosen when he is elected.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little more about our Nation’s governing document! I would also like to encourage you to do your own research. There is much to be gained from a fuller understanding of the Constitution!