House of Representatives
According to Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution, a member of the House must be at least twenty-five years of age and a U.S. citizen for seven years before his or her election. In addition, representatives must reside in the state that they represent. Members of the House are generally called congressmen, congresswomen, or representatives.
During the First Congress (1789–91), the House had sixty-five members, each representing approximately 30,000 people. Until 1929 the law required the number of members in the House to increase in proportion to the national population. That year Congress passed the Permanent Apportionment Act (46 Stat. 21, 26, 27), which limited the size of the House to 435 representatives. During the 1990s each House member represented an average of 572,000 people.
Reapportionment or redistribution of House seats—a process whereby some states lose House representatives while others gain them—occurs after census figures have been collected. The Constitution requires that a census be conducted every ten years (art. 1, § 2). Each state must have at least one representative.
Puerto Rico elects a nonvoting resident commissioner to the House for a four-year term. Nonvoting delegates from American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands are elected to a two-year term. These special representatives are allowed to participate in debates and vote in committees.
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