Seventeenth Amendment

Author:Dennis J. Mahoney

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Proposed by Congress on May 16, 1912, the Seventeenth Amendment went into effect on May 31, 1913. The amendment provided for DIRECT ELECTION of United

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States senators by the people of the states. Previously, under the first clause of Article I, section 3, senators had been chosen by the state legislatures.

Selection of United States senators by state legislatures had been an object of criticism for many years. Direct election of senators was first proposed in 1826; and after 1893 a constitutional amendment to establish direct election was proposed in Congress every year. Even without a constitutional amendment, popular choice of senators was becoming the rule. By 1912, twenty-nine of the forty-eight states had provided either for nomination by party primaries, with the individual legislators bound to vote for their party's nominee, or for a statewide general election, the result of which was binding on the legislature.

The objectives of direct election included reducing corruption in selection of senators, elimination of national-party domination of state legislatures, and immediate representation of the people in the SENATE. But there was actually little change in the characteristics of persons elected to the Senate or in the proceedings and activities either of the Senate or of the...

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