What is the Seventeenth Amendment?
The Constitution, in Article III, Section 3, Clauses 1 and 2, originally provided for election of U.S. Senators by state legislatures.
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.
Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.
The Seventeenth Amendment superseded the parts in bold. It pretty much took those provisions verbatim, except that it replaced references to state legislatures with references to “the people.”
Drawing from the resources available to me on a laptop in a coffeehouse (Justia and Wikipedia), I can say that much of the impetus for the 17th Amendment was “popular dissatisfaction with the operation of the originally established method of electing Senators.” As more and more people got the right to vote, people began to think that they should be able to elect senators directly. The idea had apparently come up multiple times since the 1820’s, but didn’t make it into the Constitution until 1913.
What’s the problem with directly electing Senators? Continue reading