Why Are Elections for the House of Representatives Held Every Two Years?
The U.S. Constitution establishes the terms for members of the House of Representatives, in addition to senators and the president. This election cycle is a product of compromises made during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The framers of the federal government intended the House of Representatives to have more frequent elections in order to better serve the immediate needs of citizens.
1 Constitutional Mandate
The simplest explanation for why the members of the House of Representatives are chosen every two years is that it is mandated in the Constitution. The Constitution explicitly states in Article I, Section 2 that representatives be chosen every two years. Unlike the Senate, in which members serve for six years and one-third of senators run for election every two years, the entire House of Representatives is up every two years. The framers of the Constitution felt that frequent elections would cause House members to have more interaction with and be more responsive to their constituents by having them return home to run for election every other year.
Delegates at the 1787 Constitutional Convention argued about the length of terms for members of the House of Representatives. Some felt that the House should follow the example of many state legislatures, with terms of one year. Others felt a longer term of three years was needed given the complexity of the federal government. A compromise set the terms at two years. Delegates also felt that more frequent House elections could offset the six-year terms of senators -- with longer terms the Senate would be a more stable body and immune to the whims of public opinion, while the House would be more responsive to public needs with two-year terms.