In the US House of Representatives, when a member rises to be recognized the Speaker (or whoever is presiding at the time) always addresses the member as the gentleman/woman from (a particular state). How do they know from which state the member is from?

Do they memorize everyone's face? How do they identify them if they are wearing masks?

  • Has the representative previously in some way announced his/her intent to address the house ? Jan 13, 2021 at 8:39
  • They just walk up to a microphone. You can see many examples of this at around 5:18:18 and beyond in this video: youtube.com/watch?v=u57MFTInmgI&t=5h18m18s
    – ErikR
    Jan 13, 2021 at 12:01
  • They've got a fairly visible name placard where they sit, right? Presumably they could also just read that as someone gets up to proceed to speak. Jan 14, 2021 at 0:23
  • I don't see any placards, for instance, in this pic: imgur.com/a/BfvjbYt or in the video of my comment above.
    – ErikR
    Jan 14, 2021 at 20:15

1 Answer 1


Yes, they recognise them. It is not so hard. A teacher in a large school might have several hundred students, and know each one by face and name and target grade. A CEO of a medium sized company might pride themselves on knowing by name all of their several hundred employees.

The Speaker of the House knows by name and state all 435 members. It's harder to recognise someone in a mask but not impossible. And although the Representative do not have assigned seats, however Democrats tend to sit on the right of the centre aisle (as viewed from the presiding officer's chair) while Republicans sit on the left.

One of the purposes of not having the speaker herself preside over most debates, but allowing a junior representative to take this role is to allow new House members to learn everyone's name and face.

  • 1
    Relevant: In 2020 there were about 70 new members elected. If the Speaker remembers the previous faces, he only needs to learn the new ones.
    – Peter
    Jan 13, 2021 at 13:41
  • The difficult part becomes in knowing them on a more personal level, as research tentatively pegs the typical human at a limit of 200-ish such sustained connections. Knowing things like name, face, and party affiliation aren't so personal and you can store a lot more of those, but when you start wanting to track the gamut of their political stances and goals, their voting history in-chamber, how their family is doing, how they've been feeling the last week or so, etc., all of which can be valuable in trying to control a party and gain votes, that's when you start hitting this limit. Jan 14, 2021 at 0:26

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