House of Representatives Term and Election
Size and Terms
The exact size of the House of Representatives- today, 435 members-is not fixed by the Constitution. Rather, it is set by Congress. The Constitution provides that the total number of seats in the House of Representatives shall be apportioned (distributed) among the States on the basis of their respective populations.
Each State is guaranteed at least one seat in the House, no matter what its population. Today, seven States-Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming-have only one representative apiece.
Article I, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution provides that "Representatives shall be ... chosen every second Year"-that is, for two-year terms. This rather short term means that, for House members, the next election is always just around the corner. That fact tends to make them pay close attention to "the folks back home."
There is no constitutional limit on the number of terms any member of Congress may serve. In the 1990s, people tried to persuade Congress to offer a constitutional amendment to limit congressional terms. Most versions of such an amendment would put a three- or four-term limit (six or eight years) on service in the House and a two-term limit (twelve years) for the Senate.
According to the Constitution, any person whom a State allows to vote for members of "the most numerous Branch" of its own legislature is qualified to vote in congressional elections-
Congressional elections are held on the
same day in every State. Since 1872 Congress has required that those elections
be held on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November of each
even-numbered -year. Congress
has made an exception for
In that same 1872 law, Congress directed that representatives be chosen by written or printed ballots. The use of voting machines was approved in 1899. Today, well over half of all the votes cast in congressional elections are cast on some type of voting machine.