Exploring the 17th Amendment: The Journey to Direct Senate Elections with Senate Historian Katherine Scott, PhD

Watch our recent webinar with Katherine A. Scott, PhD, from the U.S. Senate Historical Office, to learn about the 17th Amendment and how it transformed American democracy and governance.

Ratified on April 8, 1913, the 17th Amendment represented a significant shift from the framers’ original vision of a legislature-selected Senate to one directly elected by the people. The direct election of senators corrected significant flaws in the political system, making the Senate more responsive, representative, and less susceptible to legislative stalemates, corruption, and special interests.

The 17th Amendment not only made the Senate more democratic but also reflects the Constitution’s dynamic nature in adapting to society’s needs and demands. Dr. Scott detailed the Amendment’s journey, its immediate and enduring effects on American electoral politics, and its role in reshaping the dynamics between state and federal powers.


Katherine Scott, Ph.D. is the U.S. Senate Historian. She joined the Senate Historical Office in 2010 after receiving her Ph.D. in American political history from Temple University. Scott conducts research, writes content, and develops customized talks and tours for senators, staff, and special Senate guests. She is currently editing the executive sessions of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee 1969-1975, and conducting oral histories with long-serving Senate staff to document change in the institution over time. She is the author of Reining in the State: Civil Society and Congress in the Vietnam and Watergate Eras (2013), as well as articles, essays, and chapters related to U.S. political history. 

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