Article I, Section 5, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution states: “Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns, and Qualifications of its own Members. . . .” With this simple statement, each chamber of Congress is granted complete authority over how its membership will be comprised. Thus, when a given election is contested, that is, when there is a dispute over who is the rightful occupant of a given seat after the ballots have been collected and tallied, each chamber acts as the sole arbiter without external constraint. This constitutional guarantee was an artifact of English and colonial rule, as fear of executive authority led the House of Commons and nearly every colonial legislature to adopt similar protections.
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