How Is Membership in the House of Representatives Determined?

Membership in the House of Representatives is determined by congressional elections, which take place every 2 years. Congressional elections typically start with primary elections, which occur within political parties to select their nominees for Congress. After party nominees have been selected, they are submitted for general, or public, election against independent candidates.

Special elections may also be held to replace members who have resigned, died or contracted an illness between scheduled elections. In some states, however, the governor will simply choose somebody to serve as a temporary substitute.

Once elected, members of the House of Representatives are responsible for addressing the needs of citizens within their particular district. Their powers include the introduction of bills and resolutions, as well as the proposition of amendments.

In order to stand in congressional elections, candidates for the House of Representatives must fulfill the following criteria:

  • They must be 25 years of age or older
  • They must have been a United States citizen for 7 years or longer
  • They must be resident in the state they seek to represent in Congress

Although anybody is permitted to stand for congressional election, providing they fulfill these criteria, mounting a successful campaign is often extremely expensive, averaging at around $750,000.

Newcomers must also contend with the inherent advantage of incumbent members of the House who, aside from having a recognizable name and proven track record, are allowed to mail their constituents for free. These benefits have resulted in a 90 percent rate of reelection.