U.S. Senators used to be appointed by state legislatures, not elected by popular vote. Why? And why did it change?
Today, voters elect senators, and it has been that way since the 17th Amendment passed in 1913. You may be surprised to know that that’s not what the founders of the U.S. wanted. The original method of electing Senators is outlined in Article 1, Section 3 of the Constitution, in which it says they are to be chosen by state legislatures.
That requirement, it was believed, would appeal to the states and make them more likely to ratify the Constitution. Plus, the Framers thought Senators would be freer to do their jobs without having to worry constantly about losing the approval of the voters.
Eventually, the system gained its share of critics. Infighting within states sometimes left empty seats in the Senate, because legislatures wouldn’t elect any candidates. Corruption also accompanied the election of Senators. There was further frustration in the fact that not all states elected their Senators in the same way, which led for calls to have more uniform rules. Directly electing Senators was first proposed in 1826, but it took some time to gain ground. By the early 20th century, there was quickly growing support to do so. Its supporters argued that leaving the choice to voters would be a better way to reflect the will of the people.