Monday, January 12, 2009

Constitutional Issue III

A third Constitutional issue has been brought to my attention by a reader.

The subject of the Seventeenth Amendment, ratified with Connecticut's vote on April 8, 1913, is Senators Elected by Popular Vote. In relevant part, it provides as follows; I supplied the emphasis:

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 modifies the first paragraph of Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution by providing that senators shall not be "chosen by the Legislature thereof" but shall be "elected by the people thereof." If there is a vacancy, it allows each state's Governor, if authorized by that state's legislature, to appoint a temporary person who serves until there is a special election set in motion by a writ.

The process couldn’t be more clear but, as pointed out in a NYT Op-Ed piece by Thomas Geoghegan entitled, “A Job Too Big for One Man to Fill,” “Colorado, Delaware, hapless Illinois and star-struck New York will have senators ‘elected’ by a single voter, the governors who appoint them.”

I wonder what has happened to our Republic. I agree with Geoghegan that, “The 17th Amendment was supposed to stop backroom deals and the courts should let it do so.”

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