Grateful American Kids
Constitutional Calendar

April 8: The 17th Amendment

In 1913, the 17th Amendment established the direct election of U.S. Senators by each state’s voters rather than by the state legislatures: “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.” In The Federalist No. 62, James Madison had argued that allowing state legislatures to elect Senators both favored a “select appointment [and gave] the State governments such an agency in the formation of the federal government as must secure the authority of the former.” However, the 17th Amendment responded to the public’s perception of corrupt practices in the elections of Senators. The campaigning for state legislatures by prospective Senators had become commonplace, and citizens demanded a more honest system.

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