by Walt Garlington

1913-worstInterest in the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution continues to grow as citizens and state and local government officials consider ways to protect their authority from federal intrusion. From Louisiana to New Hampshire to Washington state, 10th Amendment legislation is being crafted and approved to veto federal regulations and orders regarding firearms, medical marijuana, cap and trade, education, the sending of a state’s National Guard to war, health care, and more.

It should be clear from the items on the list above that a federal government of limited powers is not simply a concern peculiar to conservatives; liberals too have reason to resuscitate local governance. And one of the very best ways to help revive decentralization, in addition to nullification, is to repeal the 17th Amendment.

Federalism, the Supreme Court, and the Seventeenth AmendmentUntil 1913, when the 17th Amendment was ratified, the citizens of the states elected U.S. senators indirectly: Voters elected the state legislators, and they in turn selected U.S. senators. From 1913 onward, voters have directly elected U.S. senators in statewide elections.

This change has led to a number of negative results, including

-Vastly increased federal power and vastly decreased state, local, and personal authority due to the state governments losing their representation in the federal government;

-The domination of Senate elections (and legislation) by forces outside of the particular states wherein elections are being held, e.g., out-of-state donations, political party operatives, and campaign consultants; and

-A decline of the influence of individual voters and small, local associations of voters over who is selected to be a senator from their state.

Under the 17th’s statewide electoral system, the individual voter is small and isolated, only one out of thousands or, in many cases now, millions of voters casting ballots. His influence in the election is marginal.

Now, repeal the 17th, and you amplify this individual’s influence many times over. For instead of one voice attempting to be heard over every other voter’s voice in the state, he is now one voice in the much smaller group of voters who reside in the districts of his state legislators, who would select the U.S. senator.

Individuals and small associations matter little to the statewide candidate but are important to the state representative and state senator who actually lives among them, knows them, and is known by them. The state legislator must take them and their views seriously, regarding Senate elections and other legislative matters, for they hold great
electoral power over him. So individuals and small, local groups would grow more influential in U.S. Senate elections if the 17th were repealed, and outside interests less so.

With repeal would come three other benefits. First, a