Amendment to the United States Constitution is one that determines the manner
or system in which United States Senators are to be appointed. It also provided
for a term length for Senators, as well as procedures to be considered in the
event that a State has a vacancy in the Senate. The 17th Amendment was proposed
in May 13th, 1912, with Connecticut being the last State needed to complete the
ratification process for Constitutional Amendments on April 8th, 1913. From
that date forward, all United States Senators would be appointed through a
direct election by popular vote.
The 17th Amendment proposes that the Senate will
be composed of two Senators from each State. Each Senator is to hold the
position for six years. Each Senator of a State will have one vote. In the case
that a vacancy in the Senate in any State arises, the Governor or executive
authority of that State has the right to fill the vacancy by appointing a
replacement through a popular vote.
Prior to the
17th Amendment, a governor had the authority to appoint a replacement of his
choosing on an immediate basis. The appointed official would have to meet the
requirements for such office and would only serve until the next legislature
would meet. One of the reasons that the 17th Amendment was adopted as one of
the Constitutional Amendments is direct relation to vacancies in the Senate
existing for long periods of time. The election of Senators would often be
deadlocked due to different parties holding control over the different Houses,
and their political interests would be a matter of conflict.
Prior to the
popular vote election system, Senators would be appointed, and thus, several
situations arose where officials would be appointed through the influence of
outside factors, such as industries and financial interests groups and
investigations of bribery and corruption were a concern. Therefore, it became
more apparent that Senators should be elected by the general populace of the State.
Before it became one of the Constitutional Amendments,
the concept of Senator elections through a popular vote was being implemented
by certain states. The “Oregon System” referred to the practice of
states using their primary elections as a way to elect the citizens’ choice for
a Senator position. More and more states would adopt this system as their
choice for the election of Senators.
investigations regarding the election of an Illinois Senator through unlawful
practices made it clear that only Constitutional Amendments would solve this
growing concern. By 1910, almost two-thirds of the United States had
implemented the practice of Senatorial elections through popular vote, which
under Article V of the United States Constitution, allows for creation of a
convention to proposed Amendments, pressuring Congress to propose an Amendment.
Although the 17th Amendment has proven to be one
of the more successful Constitutional Amendments, in recent years it has been
much disputed, with some factions even calling for its total repeal. Some
politicians believe that the 17th Amendment gives too much power and authority
to the United States Congress, allowing for special interests groups to
influence the direct election of Senators.
reason many oppose the 17th Amendment is due to the fact that 46 of the 50
states allow for the Governor to appoint a replacement in the Senate due to a
vacancy. Even though the replacement is subject to be removed because an
election is to be held, some may hold the position until the next general
election is to be held. As of 2009, a Bill was proposed to amend the power of
governors to appoint Senators by repealing the clause entirely.