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Power of Congress respecting.

89. The times, places, and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives must be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing Senators.

90. It is obviously important that Congress should possess the power to regulate elections in the points mentioned, in order to guard against the negligence or wilful omission of a state to make any regulation at all, as well as to secure a uniformity of election in all the states, should the want of such uniformity occasion confusion or inconvenience.

91. Until a very recent period the states were left to regulate all the particulars of elections for Senators and Representatives in their own way, without the interposition of Congress. In several of the states the Representatives were chosen by a general ticket for the whole state; in other states they were chosen singly in districts. But now, in consequence of an Act of Congress passed June 25, 1842, Repre

sentatives are elected by districts, equal in number to the number of Representatives to which the state is entitled, and each of these districts elects one Representative. [See Act of Congress, July 14, 1862, which provides that members of the House of Representatives shall be elected by single districts.]

92. There is still, however, great diversity in the time and mode of elections. In some of the states the candidate must receive a majority of all the votes in order to be elected; in others a plurality is sufficient. In one or two of the states the choice is made viva voce, though generally by ballot. The times of elections, too, are very various. It should be observed that when neither the legislature of a state nor Congress have prescribed the times, places, and manner of holding elections, the executive authority of such state may, in case of a vacancy, in his writ of election, fix the time and place of election.

93. Though Congress cannot alter, or make regulations, as to the place of choosing Senators, they may prescribe the times at which the choice shall be made. The exception as to place was made because the Senators are elected by the state legislatures, whose place of meeting is always at the state capitols or seats of government, unless accidental circumstances should render it necessary for them to convene elsewhere, and of this they are the proper judges.


How often Congress must meet.

94. Congress must assemble, at least, once in every year, and such meeting must be on the first Monday in December, unless they appoint by law a different day.

95. Under the Confederation the delegates were elected annually, and assembled in Congress on the first Monday in November of every year. The state legislatures also assembled annually, and the opinion was well nigh universal among the people that the annual meeting of the legislature was not only convenient, but necessary as a check on the executive department, which, if left too long in control of public affairs without legislative supervision, might come to possess a disproportionate influence, and thus endanger the public liberty. Hence it is, that the Constitution, embodying the prevailing opinion and practice, requires Congress to assemble, at least, once in every year.

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Each House to judge of the Elections, &c.

96. Each House is the judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of its own members, and a majority of each constitutes a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner and under such penalties as each House may provide.

Contested Seats.

97. It frequently happens that there are two claimants, each asserting a right to hold the same seat in the Senate or House, as the case may be. Now it is obvious that some tribunal must be clothed with the power to decide between them, to investigate the facts, and ascertain which one of them is the rightful claimant. This power might have been vested in the Supreme Court; but it was thought best to confide it directly to each house of Congress. The decision of the House is final and conclusive.

98. If the executive of the state should refuse to grant a certificate of election, this, according to one

decision of the House, would not prejudice the right of the person entitled to a seat; nor, on the other hand, would a certificate of election be conclusive

upon the House. In either case it may examine other evidence, and decide according to the weight and nature of the proofs.


99. Neither house can transact business without a majority of the members being present. The Constitution has wisely established this rule, and thus rendered it impossible for laws to be passed by stealth or surprise, and in opposition to the opinions of the majority of the House. But a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the attendance of absent members. By the rules of the House of Representatives, any fifteen members (including the Speaker, if there be one) may compel the attendance of absent members. Thus a dissolution of either house is guarded against, and a quorum at the same time insured.

Rules of Proceeding, &c.

100. Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member.

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