Monday, April 8, 2013

100th Anniversary of the Seventeenth Amendment

Amendment XVII in the National Archives
Amendment XVII in the National Archives
Prior to the passage of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, US Senators were selected by state legislatures, not by popular vote. Direct elections to the Senate were held only after April 8, 1913 when the amendment had been ratified by three-fourths of the states. Some states never actually ever ratified the amendment, with one (Utah) expressly rejecting it. A few states only ratified it in the 21st century, notably, Alabama, Delaware, and Maryland. Ironically, although Maryland was the last state to ratify it on April 1, 2012, it was actually the state in which the first direct elections to the Senate were held! Direct elections enabled more democratic outcomes of Senate elections, where before, rural votes often carried more weight than urban votes, sometimes in excess of 200 to 1. Needless to say, this amendment has not been popular with all constituents (particularly business and rural interests), but it was intended to, rightfully, prevent the Senate from becoming an American 'House of Lords.'

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