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Indirect Elections

When the framers of the Constitution convened in Philadelphia in 1787, they struggled over the question of who should elect United States senators. They considered several options, including selection by the House of Representatives and direct election by the people. Ultimately the framers decided on a method of election that had been utilized in selecting delegates to attend the Convention itself—election by state legislatures.

The framers believed that having state legislatures elect senators would strengthen the states' ties to the national government and increase the chances for ratification of the Constitution. They hoped the arrangement would give state political leaders a sense of participation, calming their fears about a strong central government. They also wanted to provide a filter between the Senate and the passions and pressures of the populace. As the authors of the Federalist Papers explained, election by state legislatures "is recommended by the double advantage of favoring a select appointment, and of giving to the State governments such an agency in the formation of the federal government as must secure the authority of the former, and may form a convenient link between the two systems" (Federalist No. 62).