United States Constitution

PREAMBLE : We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution



Article 1, Section 4

Text of Article 1, Section 4:
The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.
The 'Travis Translation' of Article 1, Section 4:
Clause 1: The State Legislatures will pick the times and places for elections, but Congress can make laws to change the times and places for Senators and Representatives. [Originally, Congress could not change rules about where Senators were chosen, but the 17th Amendment made that out-of-date.]Clause 2: The Congress will meet at least once every year, at a regular time [originally, they were to meet on the first Monday in December, but Section 2 of the 20th Amendment changed that to noon on January 3, unless they make a law to move it to another day.]
The fourth section of Article I establishes some basic guidelines for congressional elections and for Congress’ meetings.

The first clause describes the delegation of power between the federal government (Congress) and state governments regarding elections to Congress. According to this clause, states are permitted to set different laws for their respective elections. But Congress may also make such laws and override essentially any state laws to the contrary.

This second clause, today, is mostly moot. It requires Congress to meet at least once a year. The limits of communication and travel in the 18th century were so burdensome that a constitutional requirement that Congress gather one time in a year was necessary. But today, being a Senator or Representative is a full-time job in Washington, D.C. and Congress meets regularly throughout the year. Additionally, the last piece of this clause – that if Congress were to only meet once a year, that day should be the first Monday in December – was superseded by the 20th Amendment. Now, Congress must meet, at least, on January 3rd.