Founders / Framers Minute 13:
Article 1, Section 4, Clause 1
“The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of Chusing Senators.”
by Cornel Rasor
The main concern revolved around the idea that if the states were in charge of the federal election process, disgruntled states might withhold or massively alter an election in order to hamstring congress. Opponents were concerned about several things.
First, congress, having what seems to be the final say, might occasion laws that kept favored members in office. Second, congress might make such onerous regulations as to make it very difficult to vote. In anti-federalist #4, Brutus alleged that this clause transferred the right of election itself from the people to their “rulers”.
In Federalist 59, Alexander Hamilton acknowledges that giving the state legislatures such power might be a problem but it is better in the long run in framing a federalist relationship:
“So far as that construction may expose the Union to the possibility of injury from the State legislatures, it is an evil; but it is an evil which could not have been avoided without excluding the States, in their political capacities, wholly from a place in the organization of the national government. If this had been done, it would doubtless have been interpreted into an entire dereliction of the federal principle; and would certainly have deprived the State governments of that absolute safeguard which they will enjoy under this provision.”
Further, in the same paper, with the Senate chosen by state legislatures, Hamilton averred that this would also be a protection against a state acting contrary to federal interests:
“I shall not deny, that there is a degree of weight in the observation, that the interests of each State, to be represented in the federal councils, will be a security against the abuse of a power over its elections in the hands of the State legislatures.”
Unfortunately the 17th amendment, which ended the state legislatures appointing their Senators and gave the choice to the popular vote, vexed this system and moved the country closer to a democracy, a form of government the founders hated.
Still concerned about the possibility of the Congress interfering in elections, an amendment was introduced in August, 1789. Debate was lively but the measure failed 23 ayes to 28 noes. The wording of the amendment would have given the states much more influence in this area of elections:
“Congress shall not alter, modify, or interfere in the times, places, or manner of holding elections of Senators, or Representatives, except when any State shall refuse or neglect, or be unable, by invasion or rebellion, to make such election.”
Upon the failure of the amendment the wording of the clause was finalized as we have it today.
Founders / Framers Minute 1: Article I, Section 1 Congressional Powers
Founders / Framers Minute 2: Article I, Section 2, Clause 1-2 Composing the House of Representatives
Founders / Framers Minute 3: Article I, Section 2, Clause 3a Representation vs. Taxation
Founders / Framers Minute 4: Article I, Section 2, Clause 3b Representation a Function of Population
Founders / Framers Minute 5: Article I, Section 2, Clause 4 Filling Vacancies
Founders / Framers Minute 6: Article I, Section 2, Clause 5 Power of Impeachment
Founders / Framers Minute 7: Article I, Section 3, Clause 1 Composing the Senate
Founders / Framers Minute 8: Article I, Section 3, Clause 2 Senate Terms
Founders / Framers Minute 9: Article 1, Section 3, Clause 3 Age of Senators
Founders / Framers Minute 10: Article 1, Section 3, Clause 4 President of the Senate
Founders / Framers Minute 11: Article 1, Section 3, Clause 5 Senate Officers
Founders / Framers Minute 12: Article 1, Section 3, Clause 6-7 Impeachment
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