“The happy Union of these States is a wonder; their Constitution a miracle; their example the hope of Liberty throughout the world.” -James Madison
I hope you’re enjoying studying through our Constitution! We enjoy so many things in America, so let us continue to understand and defend our Constitution, which truly is a miracle.
Last time in our study of the Constitution, Sabrina covered Article 1, Section 3, which gives some of the guidelines for electing our members of Congress. Today, we will look at Article 1, Section 4, which explains a few more rules for elections.
Article 1, Section 4
“The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Chusing Senators.
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall (be on the first Monday in December), (The preceding words in parentheses were superseded by the 20th Amendment, Section 2) unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.”
Breaking It Down
The first clause explains that each state is the one who determines the “how-to” of electing their state representatives and senators. However, the clause provides Congress the authority to set up rules regarding the congressional election. For example, in 1842, each state had different ways of electing their U.S. representatives, and, as a result, some states had only one representative in the House. In order to ensure fair representation, an “apportionment act” was passed, which required all states to elect their representatives using a “single-member district” method. This is the pattern we follow today for electing our U.S. representatives, and in many states, our local legislators as well.
The second clause tells us that Congress must assemble at least once a year, and the day on which they much assemble, but the day on which they would convene was changed by Section 2 of the Twentieth Amendment, which was ratified in January of 1933.
Section 2: “The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such meeting shall begin at noon on the 3rd day of January, unless they shall by law appoint a different day.”
This section of the amendment helped avoid what is called a “lame-duck session.” Wikipedia explains “lame-duck session” as the time “whenever one Congress meets after its successor is elected, but before the successor’s term begins.” Before the Twentieth Amendment, there was a longer “lame-duck session,” because Congress had convened in December, but the President’s term didn’t begin until March 4th. The Twentieth Amendment changed it so that Congress now convenes January 3rd, and the President’s term begins just a couple weeks later, on January 20th.
Again, I hope you have learned more about the Constitution, and will fight for the blessings of liberty we enjoy!