One of the less known and more controversial moments in the history of the Constitution of the United States was the 17th amendment of 1913. It birthed what some claimed was a more fair and accountable political system, and what others called Unconstitutional, tyrannical, and the removal of the voice of the States at the seat of government.
Out of the 17th amendment’s ratification came a movement to repeal the seventeenth amendment and return to original Constitutional law, and of course, a movement that supported a federal plan for electing Senators.
The original words of the the Constitution that are changed by the Seventeenth Amendment are in Article 1 Section 3, and read:
“The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote”
The Seventeenth Amendment ratification eliminated the Constitutional mandate for Senators to the Congress of the United States to be chosen by the respective State Legislatures, who are elected by vote by the people within the respective state districts.
In other words, the 17th amendment of 1913 made it so Senators to the Congress of the United States are no longer chosen by State Legislatures and instead by popular vote of citizens, direct election, as in the house of representatives.
The argument to repeal the seventeenth amendment of the Constitution centers around the problem with directly electing Senators-a powerful and important political office- which is that it is the removal of another barrier or filter within government, and the removal of a motivator for active individuals in state government.
The direct election of Senators, which is what occurs now, is carried out in only one step, whereas if the movement to repeal the seventeenth amendment was successful, Senators would once again be chosen by State Legislators, who are first chosen by the people. The people are given incentive to put importance in the election of state legislators, because of their duty in the selection of Senators.
By first delegating the power of Congressional Senator election to a State Senator, an urgency in State Legislature elections is created. This drives more voters to research and participate in State Elections, especially the office of a State Senator. Once State Senators are elected, the election of Congressional Senators then must go through another check and balance with those elected by the politically motivated people of the respective State. Once the Congressional Senators are chosen, they then give the respective State they are from a seat at the table of legislation, instead of simply mimicking the house of representatives and adding to federal power.
State Legislatures selecting Senators owned a purpose, which was to make sure there was a seat at the table for the States in the creation of legislation. As Judge Napolitano, author of the recent It’s Dangerous to Be Right When the Government is Wrong” explains:
[Judge Napolitano at 2:20 on the argument to Repeal the Seventeenth Amendment]
“There would be the nation as a nation, there would be the people, and there would be the states. The nation as a nation is the president, the people is the House of Representatives, and the states is the Senate, because states sent senators”
[Judge Napolitano's infamous Theodore & Woodrow, an enlightening read]
Judge Napolitano makes an important and intelligent point, if the States were to select Senators, wouldn’t that create a voice for the individual States? Wasn’t the entire point of the Senate an equalizer between States so that smaller states contained the same legislative power as a large state in at-least one house?
It’s interesting to ponder what would be different if the Seventeenth Amendment ratification of 1913 did not occur. Of course, it was the states themselves who with a 3/4 majority, ratified the amendment. But I wonder what the intentions of those officials in power was at that time, and if they truly held the intention to ensure freedom of their fellow citizens . I also wonder whether those who did have good intentions would ratify again and whether they knew what they were truly getting into.
If two of the three legislative arms are chosen by popular vote and by the same group of voters, where is the resistance or balance? If the same members of society directly choose the Senate and the House, why would the results differ in philosophy or intention? But if the people have incentive to pay attention to State government and elect legislature, and Legislature chooses the Senate, the Senate calls upon the more active members of differing political philosophies to participate. By asking for more effort, only those who have discovered their interest in one side or one opinion and researched it are encouraged to act.
This lack of State voice at the table of legislation is behind the movement to repeal the seventeenth amendment and likely behind the widespread increase in use of Nullification by the individuals within the United States, which is not a bad thing, but a sign that the individuals within the respective States are tired of federal tyranny, across the board, and that it is time for individuals to once again own their lives, for states to protect that sacred Liberty, and for the federal government to get out of the way.