Representatives represent their constituents, obviously.
Here are some examples of what they do:
vote on legislation ✅
help their constituents to deal with the government
receive complaints about federal services and act on them
sponsor voters who seek scholarships or government contracts 💵
receive the constituents’ suggestions on how to improve the government 🦻
Models of Representation
When a representative acts on the wills and wishes of their constituency it is considered the delegate model 😁. For example, a representative from a rural district will listen to their constituents' problems with the lack of financial resources for a hospital. That representative would go back to Washington to introduce legislation on this issue or support legislation on this topic when acting as a delegate.
Representatives will listen to their constituents, but will use their best judgment when deciding to vote. This is called the trustee model 🤔. An example of this is a representative voting against tax cuts because they feel they won’t do good for the nation, but a sizable portion of their constituents support the tax cuts.
The politico model involves both the trustee model and delegate model 😎. Legislators follow their own judgment until the public becomes vocal about a particular matter, then they follow the wills of their constituents.
Ideological divisions within Congress can lead to gridlock or create the need for negotiation and compromise.
Elections occasionally lead to divided governments. This can lead to partisan votes against presidential initiatives and congressional refusal to confirm appointments of “lame-duck” presidents of the opposite party.
Gerrymandering, redistricting, and unequal representation of constituencies have been partially addressed by the Supreme Court decision in Baker v. Carr (1962), which opened the door to equal protection challenges to redistricting and started the “one person, one vote” doctrine, and the no-racial-gerrymandering decision in Shaw v. Reno (1993).