The 17th Amendment
There was a popular dissatisfaction with the manner in which senators came into office in the United States. This led to ratification of the amendment of this legislation. The franchise had become exercisable, and people of America came to favor of those senators. It was a must that representatives be elected into office by a popular vote. This is because prior to this amendment, the legislature had the authority to appoint senators which had several negative outcomes.
The legislature was subject to unethical practices such as corruption in the election of senators. For instance, some individuals or interest groups could even buy seats in the legislature in a bid to influence these elections. In addition, sometimes the elections would end up in a tie and leave the senate vacant and by extension people are unrepresented. The legislature also neglected duties at times as a result of contests from these elections.
Even before this ratification, some states had changed their state laws to ensure that the voters participating in primary elections propose a candidate of a given party through a means of expressing preference. Then through an arrangement the candidate polling the most votes was picked by the legislature. Through this means the legislature’s constitutional power had already been curtailed in 29 states before ratification in 1912 (Patterson, 1996).
Creation of the senate (Madison’s notes)
According to Patterson (1996), in 1785 prominent Americans met with a view to discuss issues of a commercial nature relating to Maryland and Virginia. However, on 25th of May, 1787, the discussions commenced and were governed by two principles. One, deliberations of the confederation were to remain secret until the Madison publication of 1840 and two, that no issue would be termed closed as they were to remain open to discussions at any time deemed necessary (Cullen, 1996).
Deliberations happened at the now Independence House in Philadelphia eleven days later than expected due to delegate’s delay. In the deliberations, all states, besides Rhodes Island, which declined were represented. The delegates mainly comprised of lawyers, planters, and merchants who to a large extent represented their interests and regional interests. George Washington was appointed the presiding officer courtesy of his patience and fairness of the fifty five delegates’ meeting. Among these, some had experience in a state and colonial government, some had served in the army and in the courts, 8 were signatories of the declaration of independence while 17 owned slaves.
The main goal of this meeting was the debate on the articles of confederation which was discarded immediately, and focus was given to the formation of a government. Two proposals had been put forward: the New Jersey plan and the Virginia plan.
The Virginia plan supported a representation that was proportional to a state’s population which understandably was supported by large states (Cullen, 1996). New Jersey plan, on the other hand, supported an equal representation of each state regardless of the population supported by smaller states. The argument was for people to be equally represented in number by the Virginia plan. The New Jersey plan was against a scenario where states with more representatives would always carry the day in election situations. However, this deadlock was broken. Connecticut Compromise: the senate (upper house) had an equal representation, while the House of Representatives (lower house) would have proportionate representation.
Thomas Jefferson, who was absent at the convention, followed closely and corresponded with the proceeding and strove to ensure that an independent executive was established to deal with those issues which the congress rendered incapable to accomplish (Patterson,1996). The delegates also deliberated on whether the election legislature should be elected into these houses by people directly or by state legislatures. Madison was of the opinion that at least one of the two had to be directly elected by people. The delegates then settled on the representatives to be directly elected by people and senators by the state legislature.
Another issue was about slavery. It was not suggested at all that the slaves should vote, but it was debated whether they should be counted for representation. Free states were of the opinion that they should not be considered for representation while slave-owning states wanted them considered for representation. The compromise was that representation was to be for free population and just for three fifths of the slave population.
During this convention, the national government was given the mandate to put in place the army and navy. The federal governments were given the mandate to levy taxes, borrow money, issue copyrights, fix measures and weights, build roads and establish post offices. The constitution had issues that were not to the liking of delegates as it was as a result of compromises being made and was signed by the delegates and passed to the delegates who in turned passed it to the states to be ratified.
It is evident that American culture significantly influenced the writing of the constitution, especially regarding the issue of slavery (Patterson, 1996). Discrimination is apparent as not a single delegate suggested that slaves be voted. They argued that slaves should not be represented in the lower house together with other citizens.
Consequences of the 17th amendment
The 17th amendment changed legislation that gave the power to the state legislature to elect senators into the upper house. The amendment changed this and made it possible for the citizens of America to directly elect their senators as the case with representatives. The amendment stated that each state had two senatorial slots and each senator had just one vote and a six-year term. A senator is to be elected by people, and if a position happened to be left vacant the authority is left to the executive of the involved state to issue writs for special election to ensure the vacancy is filled. However, the legislature of such a state is also given the mandate by this amendment to authorize the executive of the state to make an appointment to temporarily fill the vacancy before people elect somebody to fill the position.
This amendment was affirmed in 1913 and came with both some advantages and some disadvantages. By ensuring that senators were elected by people directly into the upper house got rid of ties/deadlocks that saw the senatorial seats go vacant for a substantial amount of time when the legislature used to elect senators (Cullen, 1996). This coupled with corruption and neglecting of duties by the state legislature as a result of election contests was also countered through this amendment.
The founding fathers of the constitution were of the opinion that senators were to be elected by the legislature so that the federal government could have representatives in the states that were not subject to pressure of trying to solicit popular support. Therefore, the seventeenth amendment compromised this opinion of the founding fathers of the constitution.
As a result of this amendment, there was created a power vacuum where the position occupied by the legislature that elected the senators was left undefined. The power vested into the executive hands to appoint temporary people to hold senatorial positions has also evoked controversy.