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October 2014 Policy Study, Number 14-6


Should We Restore Bicameralism?


Direct Election Under the 17th Amendment



Despite these benefits, by the early 20th century, many people wanted to institute direct elections.  According to some sources, the amendment was ratified in 1913[10] to address problems with legislative selection that included senate seats going unfilled for years because of state legislature corruption, bribery, and disagreement on candidates.[11] For instance, a conflict in Indiana between southern Democrats and northern Republicans in the mid-1850s left one seat vacant for two years, paving the way for 40 years of bribery.[12] Many people also perceived the body as too elitist and too far removed from concerns about the welfare of the people.[13]  The amendment’s proponents argued that it would unburden state legislatures from the time-consuming process of selecting senators,[14] eliminate corruption from the process,[15] and further the goals of democratic representation.[16]


After the 17th Amendment was ratified, however, the federal government increasingly passed legislation that burdened the states or infringed on powers traditionally reserved to the states.  Such legislation took the form of unfunded mandates,[17] requirements that state governments act pursuant to federal government direction[18] and infringements on the states’ traditional powers.[19] Given these types of legislation, it is understandable why state lawmakers would be interested in holding the federal government more accountable.


State legislatures that wish to hold the federal government more accountable can either directly repeal the 17th Amendment by following the Article V processes or amend their state’s primary election statute to allow state legislative caucuses to select their party’s nominee.




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