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How to Become a Representative for Congress
How does one become a representative for Congress? The journey to becoming a Member can be difficult and demanding. However, the privilege to represent one’s country can be very rewarding.

The U.S. Congress is divided into two chambers. The requirements vary by chamber, as do the roles they serve. To become a member of Congress one must first decide whether one wants to serve in the House of Representatives or in the Senate. Once having made this decision, one must meet certain specifications to qualify for office.

How to Become a Representative

  1. Meet the Qualifications
    The U.S. Constitution requires Members of the House be at least 25 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years, and live in the state–though not necessarily the same district–they represent. Article VI, clause 3 requires that all Members take an oath to support the Constitution before they exercise the duties of their office.The Constitution was deliberately written to make becoming a Member of the House more accessible, to making this chamber closest to the people. Founders wanted it to be possible for ordinary citizens to obtain office and for elections to be frequent.To be eligible for the Senate, candidates must be at least 30 years old, have been a U.S. citizen for at least nine years and reside in the state they plan to represent at the time of election.
  2. Identify Key Issues 
    Members of Congress are representatives of their constituents. To become a representative for Congress, potential candidates need to determine and articulate issues that are relevant and important to voters. One must have strong knowledge of current political affairs and one’s stance on current and future policies.
  3. Build a Network
    Connections and relationships are key to running a successful campaign. According to Business Insider, this factor is causing many hopeful millennials to lose congressional races. In a blog post by hopeful House Member Erin Schrode, a 24-year-old activist from Northern California who hoped to be the youngest woman elected to the House, told readers a man told her after voting he would have voted for her instead of the incumbent–had he known who she was. Name recognition is an essential component of a successful campaign.
  4. Fundraise
    Money matters in elections. Funds pay for advertisement, media exposure, branding, letters to potential voters and commercials. While there is no minimum amount required to run for office, more funds equate to better efficiency and exposure.
    Wendy Carillo, a thirty-six-year-old who arrived in America as an undocumented immigrant recently launched a race for Congress. In an interview with Medium, she suggested a candidate should raise at least $100,000 to pay for the “mini enterprise” one creates when running for office.
  5. File Paperwork
    According to BallotPedia, federal law requires all candidates to file a statement of candidacy within 15 days of receiving donations or funding costs for their campaign that exceed $5,000. This is the only part of ballot access that is mandated by federal law. To have one’s name printed on an election ballot, a congressional candidate must do one or both of the following: collect and file petition signatures and/or pay registration fees. Once this is satisfied, requirements vary from state to state.
  6. Campaign
    The final and most crucial task is to campaign. Talk to voters. Learn what matters to them. Appeal to their desires in your language and actions. Congressional candidates can spend up to 18 hours a day campaigning. A successful candidate must know and act on what matters to voters.

Still want to become a representative for Congress after having read up on how to? Stay grounded in the fact that campaigning does not have to be difficult or tiresome. Listening to the needs of constituents and turning them into policies make the work rewarding and gratifying. Our country truly becomes a nation for the people, run by the people when members of Congress remember this principle.

Jeanine Thomas

Photo: Flickr

How Many Senators Are There
How many senators are there? The United States Senate is comprised of 100 Senators, two from each state.

While it may sound simple, developing this representative structure caused a lot of debate at the Constitutional Convention where the U.S. Constitution was drafted. Though only thirteen states existed at this point in 1787, the delegates from these thirteen would form the federal government whose authority would eventually span across fifty states.

These statesmen concluded that a body of elected representatives would be the best way to form laws for a country that was broken up into smaller entities. Delegates from larger states created dissension by arguing for representation based on population. The delegates from smaller states felt cheated and refused to agree to this proposed structure, known as the Virginia Plan.

A delegate from New Jersey, a small state, responded by introducing a plan that proposed equal representation for each state. This suggestion was called the New Jersey Plan and mirrored the structure outlined in the Articles of Confederation, the document acting as a sort of temporary constitution at that time. Both sides of the debate threatened to leave the convention if their plan wasn’t used, and the situation looked grim.

It was Roger Sherman, a delegate from Connecticut, who offered the Great Compromise as a solution. His bicameral (two-bodied) system would satisfy both large and small states: he proposed a House of Representatives that would represent states proportionally by population and a Senate that would represent all states equally. Thus began the representative system seen in the U.S. today.

As each new state was added to the union over time, two more senators were added to the Senate. In 1959, the present body of 100 senators was complete, with two senators representing each of the 50 states.

Each senator serves a six-year term with the chance of reelection at the end of this period. In order to be elected as a senator, an individual must be at least 30 years old and have been a U.S. citizen for nine years. Leading this body is the Vice President, who is elected alongside the President every four years.

Senators also belong to smaller bodies within the Senate called “committees” that handle specific tasks. These committees are usually composed of 7 to 15 members, each of whom has extensive power.

Jacob Hess

Sources: FAIR.org, Senate.gov
Photo: Flickr

House of Representatives
A United States congressperson is tasked with the duty of directly representing the people by introducing bills, resolutions and amendments and serving on committees to support the needs of their constituents. Our Founding Fathers wanted members of the House of Representatives to be, above all, close to the people.

House members face the least stringent requirements of any position in office. There are only three requirements, as expressed in the U.S. Constitution:

  1. You must be 25 years of age or older.
  2. You must have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years.
  3. You must live in the state you are to represent.

James Madison articulated the open nature of the position when he wrote, “Under these reasonable limitations, the door of this part of the federal government is open to merit of every description, whether native or adoptive, whether young or old, and without regard to poverty or wealth, or to any particular profession of religious faith.”

The origins of these stipulations lie in aspects of British law.

The minimum age requirement was initially set for the voting age of 21. However, during the Constitutional Convention of 1787, George Mason strongly disagreed with this minimum age, reasoning that it was “absurd that a man today should not be permitted by the law to make a bargain for himself, and tomorrow should be authorized to manage the affairs of a great nation.”

Despite Pennsylvania’s James Wilson’s argument that restricting the minimum age of office to 25 would “damp the efforts of genius, and of laudable ambition,” many at the convention felt that the House of Representatives was not a training ground for neophytes but a vital endeavor to be taken up by an experienced professional. Mason’s movement to change the age to 25 passed seven states to three.

As for citizenship, British law stipulated that Commons members be lifelong citizens of England. However, the Founding Fathers did not want to discourage immigration. Therefore, mandating seven years of citizenship before a congressperson could take office balanced the desire to prevent foreign interests taking priority over domestic politics and the desire to keep the House of Representatives as close to the people as possible, including new immigrants.

House of Commons members were also required to reside in the shires or boroughs they represented. Our Founding Fathers assimilated this rule into the Constitution because they wanted House members to truly represent the people by being genuinely familiar with their needs.

Besides being an accessible position, a congressperson is subject to frequent reelection. Representatives are elected to a two-year term. As decided in 1911, the number of representatives in office is 435, with the number per state proportionate to the population.

Before engaging in the duties of the office, members of the House of Representative must swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

As a representative of the people, a congressperson needs to hear the voices of his or her constituents to adequately address relevant issues. You can contact your representatives to express your needs and the needs of your community.

Mary Furth

Sources: U.S. House of Representatives, Constitution Convention of 1787, Vol. 1,, The Congressional Record
Photo: Flickr

kenyan-girl
The party of Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has called for a cessation of vote counting, accusing the results of being “doctored.” Campaign officials are requesting a fresh count, with oversight on all parts of the tallying process. The final results were supposed to be transmitted electronically, but a server malfunction resulted in a complete failure of the digital voting system. As the results are now being tabulated by hand, citizens nervously await an official result in the Kenyan elections.

In Kenya’s first elections since 2007, Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president, is the front-runner, despite being accused of war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC asserts that in the violent aftermath of the 2007 election, Kenyatta helped to organize attacks against members of different ethnic groups. If elected, his position as Head of State would make the ICC’s case all the more difficult to see through.

Though many politicians are calling for peace, there is no guarantee that peace will last. Violence has flared in recent months, although the overall level of fighting is far below where it has reached in the past. Further reforms, like the new constitution and election procedures instituted after the 2007 violence, are necessary to ensure that all Kenyans can vote freely and peacefully for whomever they feel best represents their interests.

Jake Simon

Source: New York Times