February 23, 2011 – Article I, Section 02, Clause 1-2 of the United States Constitution – Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute

Article I, Section 2, Clause 1-2

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 House of Representatives or the people’s house was created by design to be the most democratic body and the legislative chamber closest to the public.   It is the larger of the two chambers and its elections the most frequent at the federal level.

In his essay on the “Original Contract” philosopher David Hume in 1752 said “The people, if we trace government to its first origin in the woods and deserts, are the source of all power and jurisdiction, and voluntarily, for the sake of peace and order, abandoned their native liberty and received laws from their equal and companion.”  The design and make up of the House reflects this view. 

James Madison mentions in Federalist #52, the design and make up of the House of Representatives is predicated on the notion of a republican form of government.  As Madison points out: “It is a received and well-founded maxim, that where no other circumstances affect the case, the greater the power is, the shorter ought to be its duration.”

“…Members chosen every second year” ensures that House members will be appropriately responsive to the public.  If the elections were more frequent there is the risk that House Members would stay in a perpetual election mode – constantly campaigning and less able to exercise their judgment and wisdom.  On the other hand if the elections were held less frequently there was the risk that the House Members might exercise their personal judgments too and simultaneously the public might find it harder to hold them accountable due to the length of time between elections as passions and memories subside. 

The two year cycle provides a happy medium that ensures accountability while also giving House members some limited ability to juxtapose their own judgment on policy matters. 

The next provision establishes the Constitutional requirements for being a voter in a federal House election.  The founders could have established an independent requirement or it could have authorized Congress to do so.  Instead they took a third way – establishing that whatever voting requirements the states created for their own state assemblies would be used for the Federal House of Representatives election.   The provision specifically requires that federal voters meet the same requirement needed to vote for the larger branch of the state legislature – typically the state House.

Thus, if a state required you to be a resident for 5 years and a property holder in order to vote in state legislative elections, that standard would apply in order to vote in federal House elections.  Conversely if another state required voters merely to pay a fee in order to vote in state legislative races then there could be no additional restrictions for voting in the federal elections.

Instead of states being able to interfere with federal elections or vice-versa, the citizens in each state find that the requirements for voting for state and federal elections are identical. 

The Constitution sets the age for House members at 25 years for a few reasons.  The age of 25 recognizes that younger individuals have a natural right to influence the political process and participate in the decision making while ensuring that all of those serving in government possess the necessary maturity, experience, and competence to perform effectively. 

The citizenship requirement is equally interesting.  The Constitution does not require the individual to be a “natural born citizen” – only a citizen of the U.S. for 7 years.  While Congress has the authority to define the requirements for U.S. Citizenship, the Constitution only requires that a House member meet that standard for at least 7 years. 

At the same time that the individual must be a citizen of the U.S. for 7 years, the requirement to represent a district within a state is not 7 years as a state resident.  Note that the standard for the candidate is that he or she must be “an inhabitant” of the state – i.e. a person who has established his domicile.  Often disputes arise over whether a candidate actually lives in the district that he or she is running in.  But there is no legal recourse at the federal level – the Constitution only requires that he or she live in the state not in the county or district where the federal election is being held.

This section endorses a notion that is replete within all parts of the Constitution – a republican form of government ensures the people’s liberty is maintained.  In this case the liberty of the people is safeguarded through clearly defined rules for holding elections and candidate requirements.

 Horace Cooper is a senior fellow with the Heartland Institute http://www.heartland.org/

Posted in Analyzing the Constitution Essay Archives | 19 Comments »

19 Responses to “February 23, 2011 – Article I, Section 2, Clause 1-2 of the United States Constitution – Guest Essayist: Horace Cooper, Senior Fellow with the Heartland Institute”

  1. Susan says:

February 23, 2011 at 9:06 am

“The greater the power the shorter the term should be”, wow! how true! Best argument I’ve heard for term limits if I ever heard one!

  1. Brad says:

February 23, 2011 at 9:29 am

Janine and Cathy,

Are you going to be writing your daily essays again? I miss your wisdom that you shared with the Fed Papers.

  1. Shannon_Atlanta says:

February 23, 2011 at 10:16 am

I was wondering , since each state can make its own rules on voting, would it be upheld as Constitutional if my state of Georgia decided one must have earned income to vote?

  1. Janine Turner says:

February 23, 2011 at 10:57 am

Mr.Cooper, I thank you for being our guest scholar and dedicating your time
to write this most informative essay. Isn’t this fun?!
I learned so much. I realize that when I read the Constitution there is so much to
absorb and thus I skip over certain parts such as the requirements for the “voter”
are maintained at the state level. I always thought this section dealt with requirements for the representative only, yet, I now know it also deals with the requirements of the voter!
Also interesting that the representative merely has to live in the state
but not the district. Fascinating!
The quotes from Madison and David Hume resonate as do your words in the closing paragraph, “a republican form of government ensures the people’s liberty is maintained.  In this case the liberty of the people is safeguarded through clearly defined rules for holding elections and candidate requirements.” Is the constitution relevant?
Yes!!! Thanks Mr.Cooper

  1. Mary Oprea says:

February 23, 2011 at 11:15 am

It’s interesting that our US Reps can be as young as 25. I wondered how many were actually this young, so I did some research.

According to Wikipedia (“List of current members of the United States House of Representatives by age and generation”), we have 0 reps from the Millennial Generation who would be in that age bracket. The majority of our Reps are Boomers, born from 1943-1960. Only 28% of the Reps are younger than the Boomers (“Generation X”).

It looks like our younger generation are busy getting their education (which usually requires more than 4 years these days) and establishing their homes. However, the cost of running in an election could be an impediment also.
—————

GI Generation:1901 – 1924 (1 rep)
Silent Generation: 1925 – 1942 (58 reps)
Boomer Generation: 1943 – 1960 (254 reps)
Generation X: 1961 – 1981 (120 reps)
Millennial Generation: 1982 – 2003 (0 reps)
Vacant – 2

  1. Ron Meier says:

February 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Question for Mr. Cooper. The idea of a two year term for the “people’s house” is that voters can throw them out if they are not representing the voters. Some of our representatives have spent their entire work life in the House. Many of us believe that service as a member of the House should not be a career choice. In my case, I think one should not spent more than half an estimated 40 year work life as a career politician. Are we barking up the wrong tree with respect to the original intent of the writers of the Constitution when we press for term limits, since the representatives must be representing the voters as the voters wish if they are reelected for more than 20 terms?

  1. Cutler says:

February 23, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Thank you very much, Mr. Cooper for your insightful essay. I must now turn my thanks to Mr. James Madison in his quote: “the greater the power is, the shorter ought to be its duration.” It is completely this attitude that the founding Fathers had when forming this country, not “Just how much government intrusion will the American public tolerate?” Washington (D.C.) has rotated a complete 180 degrees from limiting power originally to seeing how far it can stretch it while still giving lip service to the Constitution.

  1. Shelby Seymore says:

February 23, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I agree with you Cutler. Obama (and his wife!) have overstepped their boundries one to many times for my taste, yet nobody sees this. It seems with this president four years is too long in power. The main problem is that the people are so unaware of these happenings they can’t see straight into the trap they are walking into. I believe the entire system needs to collapse so we start over, it’s not the ideal choice, but it will open people’s eyes.

  1. H Cooper says:

February 23, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Shannon asks an interesting question as to whether the State of Georgia could require a person to have “earned income” in order to vote in the state assembly and thereby require a similar rule for federal elections. While no longer applicable today due to the adoption of the 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, when the Constitution was first created states had broad power to determine what constituted an eligible voter. Today the 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act effectively mean that states have limited ability to restrict voting because the VRA prohibits states from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”

  1. Scott Miller says:

February 23, 2011 at 7:23 pm

It would be nice if there was a printable version of each essay available as well as a version that could be emailed to freinds and family not aware of Constituting America’s study of the U.S. Constitution!

  1. a guy says:

February 23, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Are you actually suggesting that we take voting rights away from legal, law abiding citizens if they are without income? What if they’re disabled or going to school or college on social security survivor benefits?

And personally, though I am anything but a supporter of Obama, the last thing I want to see is for our entire system to “collapse”. Things are bad enough as they are now.

  1. Barb Zakszewski says:

February 23, 2011 at 8:21 pm

thanks to Mr. Cooper for his insightful analysis of this Article and Section and putting it into an historical context. 2 year terms for House of Representative members, 2 years being seen as a happy medium between perpetual campaigning and becoming less responsive to the people they represent. Unfortunately, most House members today are more concerned with keeping their jobs and are in perpetual campaign mode, then in doing anything of substance. I’m wondering if maybe a Constitutional amendment to increase the term of a House of Representative to 3 or 4 years might be in order. Get them to focus on the tasks at hand instead of worrying about re-election, at least for a little while.

  1. ThreeDogs says:

February 24, 2011 at 1:41 am

“the greater the power is, the shorter ought to be its duration.”

Was there general agreement on this among the founders?

If so they must have thought that the most powerful body would be the the House, followed by the Executive branch, followed by the Senate and then the Judicial branch (lifetime appointments)!

Seems to me that the Judicial has over time become the most powerful.

What do you think?

  1. Ralph T. Howarth, Jr. says:

February 24, 2011 at 5:36 am

…and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

I have always taken that clause to be speaking of the Electoral College Electors. There had to be qualifications for the Electors of the Electoral College too such that the qualifications of the Electors must be the same as that of the most numerous branch of the state’s legislature as Electors are those who cast their ballots for the President at the state capitol. From there, the ballots of the Electors collectively from each state are sealed and sent to the Congress to be opened up and read aloud how many votes from that state for a Presidential candidate.

  1. yguy says:

February 24, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Are you actually suggesting that we take voting rights away from legal, law abiding citizens if they are without income? What if they’re disabled or going to school or college on social security survivor benefits?

It needs to be understood that while we are indeed endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, suffrage is not among them; and there is certainly nothing wrong with denying parasites the right to vote themselves even more largesse from the public treasury.

Which is not to say people in such circumstances as you mention are all parasites. I’m just making a more general point.

  1. Shelby Seymore says:

February 25, 2011 at 11:58 am

Agreed ThreeDogs. The Judicial branch used to be the least powerful. In fact, people would leave to state positions to gain more political power.

  1. Robert Saunders says:

February 26, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Please explain the wording, “and who shall not”, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.

  1. Susan says:

February 26, 2011 at 10:33 pm

It is formal 18th century usage for if you haven’t lived you shall not be elected to represent the place.

  1. Janine Turner says:

February 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Brad,
Thanks for asking .. I would love to write daily essays.. I am working toward that goal. For now, I am having fun blogging thanks for joining us!! Isn’t this fun?

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