The Requirements to Be a Congressman or Congresswoman


WASHINGTON D.C. — The requirements to be a congressman or congresswoman per the Constitution are rather simple. However, there are many other important factors that determine whether one will be elected into office and become a successful member of Congress.

To start with the basics, Senators must be at least 30 years old while Representatives must be 25 or older. Congress members must also live in the state or district they represent. Lastly, candidates must be citizens of the United States. Senators must gain citizenship at least nine years before taking office, and Representatives must be U.S. citizens no less than seven years prior.

These small requirements allow a variety of U.S. citizens to campaign for office. This is necessary to protect the U.S. from being controlled explicitly by the elite, reinforcing U.S. democracy.

Campaigning for office also has prerequisites. The campaign requirements to be a congressman or congresswoman includes meeting a $5000 quota in either expenses or donations and filing with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The candidate must also maintain an itemized record of campaign donations and expenses as well as his or her personal financial records.

After filing, each candidate must identify his or her primary campaign committee via a Statement of Candidacy. Any other committees that are authorized to manage campaign funds must also be reported to the FEC.

However, before one begins campaigning, the congressional candidate should weigh their odds of winning the election by conducting polls and visiting with the residents of their state. Since congressional elections are determined largely by the opinion of constituents, additional requirements to be a congressman or congresswoman are set by the expectations of the public.

According to a study the Washington Post conducted, most American voters want leaders who are reliable, intelligent and optimistic. A study by Pew Research Center also shows most Americans believe intelligence is a key trait in political leaders. Honesty and decisiveness are very important in the voter’s eye as well.

Candidates must be intelligent in order to understand complex policies and issues. They must be reliable to take care of their constituents. And they must be open and honest with the public about their past experiences—good and bad—while clearly communicating the goals they plan to achieve along with the actions they will take to do so in a positive manner.

Needless to say, these characteristics must be honed over time, and one must consider his or her personality traits before campaigning.

Running for office is a decision that should come after self-evaluation and objective judgment of the support the potential candidate has within his or her state. To be a member of Congress is an important decision to make. It is a profession that should be honored and celebrated by constituents and Congress members alike.

Emma Tennyson

Photo: Flickr



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