Article 1 §2.2

Recent events have alerted me to the importance of civic engagement. To better understand this political system we have inherited, I’m making a careful study of the Constitution. I’m sharing my process here, in case others similarly engaged might want to discuss it. At the very least, making my study public holds me accountable to stick with it. After all, in a functioning democracy we should all be Constitutional scholars.

For anyone just tuning in, here is how this project got started. So far, I’ve covered the Preamble and started Article 1, with posts on Section 1 (I found out “Section” is written as §, so I’ll start using that from here on) and §2.1. So today I’m looking at §2.2:

2: No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Yay! After last week I was starting to think understanding the Constitution was going to be Talmudic exercise. But this is pretty straightforward. After establishing who can vote for Representatives, the Framers decided who could be a Representative. The answer is anyone who is 25 or older, has been a citizen of the U.S. for at least seven years, and lives in the state that elects them.

Confession: The first time I read this, the double negative in this super-long sentence confused me and I thought they said Representatives couldn’t live in the state they represent. Even in a simple document, it’s easy to get hung up when the language is a couple hundred years archaic. I guess it’s a good reminder how important careful reading really is. Scanning headlines – or Constitutional clauses – can lead to pretty seriously misunderstanding the facts.

Until next week, then…

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