Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are elected by their constituents to represent their districts in Congress. Representatives, the title given to Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, are elected to serve a two year term. There is no limit to the number of terms a Representative can serve.
There are 435 Members in the U.S. House of Representatives. They are apportioned, or divided proportionally, among the 50 states. The number of Representatives each state has is based on its population—the more citizens, the more Representatives. Each state is then divided into districts, one district for each Representative apportioned to the state. Representatives are reapportioned every 10 years. If a state’s population has changed, it may lose or gain Representatives because there can only be 435 Members in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Some states have too few citizens to be apportioned more than one Representative. Those states are represented by a Member-at-Large—a Member who represents and entire state. There are currently seven states represented by a Member-at-Large: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. With 53 Representatives in Congress, California has the largest Representation.
Becoming a Representative
Elections for Representatives are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of even-numbered years. There are three requirements to run for election to the U.S. House of Representatives outlined in the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution says that candidates must be at least 25 years old, have lived in the United States for at least seven years, and live in the state they would represent. There is, however, more to being elected Representative than meeting these requirements.
In order to become a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, candidates must make themselves well known in their communities. Many Representatives begin their political careers in their city or state governments. This helps them get to know their constituents and learn about the needs of their community. In addition to participating in local politics, the early careers of some Representatives includes military service, practicing law, practicing medicine, or owning their own businesses. To learn more about Representatives and their past careers, visit the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present.
Responsibilities of a Representative
Since the first Congress in 1789, Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have been sent to the United States Capitol to represent their constituents in Congress. However, the responsibilities of Representatives are not outlined in the Constitution of the United States. Over time, their specific responsibilities have grown to include duties both in Washington, D.C. and home.
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives spend their weeks in Washington, D.C., acting as ambassadors for local industries and advocates on behalf of the economic needs and political interests of the residents and communities within their districts. While in Washington, they debate and vote on legislation, oversee government agency spending, and serve on committees. They return home on weekends and during district work periods to work more closely with their constituents.
Representatives serve their districts by studying legislation under consideration and understanding how it will affect their districts. Researching how the legislation will affect their district helps Representatives decide whether or not to support a bill. In addition to their time spent on legislation, Representatives assist their constituents in getting federal benefits and grants or locating funding for local programs and projects, such as after school programs.
In addition to their legislative duties and constituent services, Representatives are responsible for managing their offices in their districts and in Washington, D.C. This includes overseeing the office’s budget and managing the office staff. Their office staff includes experts in areas of public policy, office managers and assistants, and college-aged interns.