Passed by Congress May 13, 1912. Ratified April 8, 1913. The 17th Amendment changed a portion of Article I, Section 3.
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.
Popular Election of Senators: Under Article I, Section 3, two senators from each state were elected by the legislature of each state. Under this scheme senators represented the states to the federal Union, and members of the House represented the local voters in their district.
But a series of scandalous elections and widespread political infighting in state legislatures, led Progressives to call for the election of senators by voters of each state. Ratified by the states in 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment provides that senators be elected by the people directly.
Annenberg Classroom connects an award-winning, comprehensive multimedia curriculum on the Constitution to daily civics news and articles that support in-class and online student discussion. Annenberg Classroom also includes FlackCheck.org, an excellent resource for teaching political literacy skills. Annenberg Classroom is presented by the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.
The governor of a state may make a temporary appointment for senator if the office becomes vacant. Article I does not contain similar provisions for the House of Representatives. As a result of the Cold War and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, some scholars have proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow governors to make emergency appointments of House members if Congress was attacked and representatives were killed or disabled.
Linda R. Monk, J.D., is a constitutional scholar, journalist, and nationally award-winning author. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she twice received the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, its highest honor for law-related media. Her books include The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution, Ordinary Americans: U.S. History Through the Eyes of Everyday People, and The Bill of Rights: A User’s Guide. For more than 25 years, Dr. Monk has written commentary for newspapers nationwide, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, and Huffington Post. In addition, she has appeared on MSNBC, C-SPAN, and NPR.