17th Amendment: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

This lesson talks about the 17th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which changed the way United States senators are elected. Find out what this amendment does and why it was necessary.

Voting in the United States

We know that we vote for the president of the United States. We also vote for members of Congress, who make laws and represent people in the states. There are two houses in Congress:

  • The Senate - Two senators are elected every six years from each state.
  • The House of Representatives - Representatives are elected every two years.

The Capitol Building where Congress Meets
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States also have state legislatures, which make state laws.

Voting for elected officials is what makes the United States a democracy, a government where people vote for their leaders. But did you know that we didn't always elect senators to Congress? It's because of the 17th Amendment that we vote for them today.

The 17th Amendment

When the Constitution was first written in 1787, it said that state legislatures should vote for United States senators. This made sense because the states chose the people who worked on the Constitution. They also thought senators would do a better job if they weren't worried about being elected by the people.

Things didn't go as planned. We'll see what happens next, but let's first see what the 17th Amendment did. An amendment is a change to the Constitution.

In 1913, the 17th Amendment gave people the right to vote for their senators instead of the state legislature. This is called direct election, where the people choose who is in office. The amendment also said that if a senate seat is not filled, the governor can pick a new senator.

17th Amendment
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Need for Change

Let's say that your school has a set place for carpool, where kids get dropped off every morning. The system works well for a while, but eventually things start changing that don't allow the carpool lane to run smoothly anymore. For instance, more kids start going to your school, and the carpool lane gets backed up a lot. This leads the principal to change how carpool is done.

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