17th Amendment: Direct Election of Senators

As part of the National Constitution Center’s 27 Amendments (In 27 Days) project, each day we will look at a constitutional amendment. Through partnerships with leading scholars and universities, government agencies, media outlets, and more, the National Constitution Center will profile one amendment each day throughout the month of February.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Full Text of the 17th Amendment

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.

Synopsis:

The original system of having state legislatures elect U.S. senators began to break down with the growth of political parties in the mid-19th century.  Disagreements between and within parties produced deadlocks that delayed state legislative business and left states without their full Senate representation, often for lengthy periods. This amendment provides for senators to be elected the way members of the House are—by direct election of the people. SourceU.S. Senate

Resources:

1. The Library of Congress Constitution Annotated. Contains a detailed history of the amendment, along with past and recent court cases. Here is a link to the section on the 17th Amendment.

2. Cornell Legal Information Institute. Includes information from Wex, a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia sponsored and hosted by the Legal Information Institute at the Cornell Law School. Wex entries are collaboratively created and edited by legal experts.

3. The Senate has a detailed analysis of the process that led to the 17th Amendment at: http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/SeventeenthAmendment.htm .

Learn more about this project at the Constitution Center’s website at: constitutioncenter.org/experience/programs-initiatives/27-amendments-in-27-days/

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