Study Guide

Constitution - 17th Amendment

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17th Amendment

Passed by Congress: 13 May 1912
Ratified: 8 April 1913

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.

Under the original terms of the Constitution, US Senators were not elected by the people but were, instead, selected by the various state legislatures. By the turn of the 20th century, many of the reform-minded citizens of the Progressive Era believed that this system of "indirect election" led to corruption, as political machines manipulated Senate elections and some ambitious individuals sought to literally buy a seat in the Senate by bribing state legislators. The Seventeenth Amendment ended this system, allowing direct election of US Senators by popular vote.

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