Amdt17.2 Historical Background on Popular Election of Senators

Seventeenth 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.

Prior to ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment, many states had adopted arrangements calculated to afford voters more effective control over the selection of Senators. Some states amended their laws to enable voters participating in primary elections to designate their preference for one of several party candidates for a senatorial seat and state legislatures generally elected the winning candidate of the majority. In two states, candidates for legislative seats were required to promise to support, without regard to party ties, the senatorial candidate polling the most votes. As a result of such developments, the year before the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified, at least twenty-nine states were nominating Senators on a popular basis, and, as a consequence, the constitutional discretion of the state legislatures had been reduced to little more than that retained by presidential electors.1

1 G. Haynes, The Senate of the United States 79–117 (1938). back