Seventeenth Amendment

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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Page 128

The Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

The Seventeenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1913, provided for the direct election of U.S. senators by citizens. Until 1913 state legislatures had elected U.S. senators. Ratification of the amendment followed decades of insistence that the power to elect senators should be placed in the hands of ordinary voters. This successful struggle marked a major victory for progressivism?the early twentieth-century political movement dedicated to pushing government at all levels toward reform. In addition to serving the longer-range goals of the reformers, the campaign on behalf of the amendment sought to end delays and what was widely perceived as corruption in the election of senators by state legislatures.

From 1787 until 1913, the U.S. Constitution specified that state legislatures would elect U.S. senators. Article 1, Section 3, reads:

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.

In giving the elective power to the states, the framers of the Constitution hoped to protect state independence. The framers were suspicious of majority rule and sought to restrain what they regarded as the potentially destructive forces of democracy. Thus, while providing for direct election to the House of Representatives, they countered this expression of the people's will by allowing legislatures to select members of the Senate. At the Constitutional Convention, the proposal for state election of senators aroused no controversy. Only one...

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