Ch11_OUTLINE - CHAPTER 11 Choosing the Congress OVERVIEW...

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CHAPTER 11 - Choosing the Congress OVERVIEW Members of the House of Representatives are typically reelected at a rate of 90 percent or higher. Citizens reelect the incumbent because they are so responsive to their constituents’ demands. The rate of reelection for Senators is somewhat lower due to the more diverse constituency they represent, their greater media coverage exposure, and the stronger competition they have to face. Why do Americans keep reelecting Congressmen if they are so critical of Congress? The answer has to do with the different standards by which Americans judge Congress and its members. The single-member district simple plurality (SMSP) electoral system dilutes the impact of minorities in House elections. Attempts to draw district lines so as to correct for this have been struck down by the Supreme Court. OUTLINE I. The Electoral Evolution of the Congress - As outlined in Article I of the U.S. Constitution, voters elected representatives and state legislators elected senators. The Seventeenth Amendment allowed the voters to directly elect senators. Clearly, representatives were to be more responsive to the voters. - Turnover levels were as high as 50 percent in the House until the Civil War. This was due to factors other than defeat in elections: the office and location were not attractive and some states used rotation. - Today, members of Congress serve for so many terms that Congress is described as a professional legislature. In fact, this trend explains why some people advocate term limits, but it is because members of Congress are so sensitive to voters that they serve numerous terms. II. Reapportionment and Redistricting - The Constitution mandates a census every 10 years, after which seats in the House are apportioned and states, if necessary, redistricted (redraw district lines). Lines may be drawn to favor a candidate or party (gerrymandering). Racial gerrymandering has been ruled unconstitutional by the courts. - The Supreme Court has also ruled that districts must be equal in population (as close as possible). Recent population shifts have favored Republicans in the House.
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  • Fall '15
  • Carey Lamanna
  • United States Congress, United States Senate, United States House of Representatives

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