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U.S. Senate Vacancy Elections

The authority of our government is grounded in the power of the people to choose their representatives. No Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, "The People's House," has ever taken office without an election. The U.S. Senate is now also a house of the people. Though the 17th Amendment to the Constitution requires election of all senators, it also gives states the option to fill vacancies by gubernatorial appointment, and no federal mechanism exists to guarantee that all U.S. Senators--just as is the case for all U.S. House Members--serve via democratic processes. Since the passage of the 17th amendment, almost a quarter of all U.S. Senators who have ever served were originally appointed, and today about a quarter of the U.S. population is represented by at least one senator that no one voted for.

FairVote believes that all Members of Congress, in both houses, should be solely accountable to the voters of their states and districts, not to a sole individual with his or her own personal and political agenda. Instead of filling vacancies through shady backroom deals, seats in the U.S. Senate should be filled, in all circumstances, by direct election.

FairVote Resources on Elections for Senate Vacancies

FairVote op-eds and commentary

Media coverage citing FairVote research

Press releases

Other resources

  • Text of SJ 7, Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relative to the election of Senators.
  • FairVote analyst David Segal's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of SJ 7

See more maps like this in FairVote's Mapping American Democracy series.