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U.S. Politics

U.S. Congress chamber: The House of Representatives - Political System USA

When the Constitution was being drafted, a debate broke out between states with large populations and those with smaller populations. Each had a different opinion about how the states should be represented in the new government. To be fair to each group, a compromise was reached.

By dividing Congress into two houses, the House of Representatives would favor states with larger populations, while the Senate would favor those states with smaller populations.

There are a total of 435 members in the House of Representatives.
Each member represents an area of a state, known as a congressional district.
The number of representatives is based on the number of districts in a state.
Each state is guaranteed one seat.
Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau counts the population of the states to determine the number of districts in each state.

Representatives, elected for two-year terms, must be 25 years old, a citizen for at least seven years, and a resident of the state from which they are elected. Five additional members—from Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia—represent their constituencies in the House. While they may participate in the debates, they cannot vote.

The House has special jobs that only it can perform. It can:
  • Start laws that make people pay taxes
  • Decide if a government official should be put on trial before the Senate if s/he commits a crime against the country


The decennial U.S. Census determines how many members in the House of Representatives represent each state

The fundamental reason for conducting the decennial census of the United States is to apportion the members of the House of Representatives among the 50 states.
A state's resident population consists of those persons "usually resident" in that state (where they live and sleep most of the time).
A state's apportionment population is the sum of its resident population and a count of overseas U.S. military and federal civilian employees (and their dependents living with them) allocated to the state, as reported by the employing federal agencies.

"Apportionment" is the process of dividing the 435 memberships, or seats, in the House of Representatives among the 50 states. The U.S. Census Bureau conducts the census at 10-year intervals and, at the conclusion of each census, it uses the results for calculating the number of House memberships each state is entitled to have. The latter process is the initial use of the basic results of each census.
Information on the apportionment population and number of representatives for each state can be found on the Census 2000 Congressional Apportionment page (see link below to the Article "Congressional Apportionment" including official Web Link to the Census Bureau)

U.S. Congress Graphic: The House



Document Information
Source: US Census Bureau; Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office; magazineUSA.com
Last modified: 20070820
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