Friday, August 8, 2008

United States Senate

Other elections coming up this November have been overshadowed by the presidential election. But there will be 35 elections for the U.S. Senate, including special elections in Mississippi and Wyoming. I will write about at least some of those races, between now and November but, first, some background.

The federal Constitution mandates that there be two Senate seats for each state, regardless of population. That document also provides that senators are elected to six-year terms, that are staggered so that one-third of the seats come up for election every two years.

The delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention agreed to states' equal representation in the Senate as part of what was known as the Connecticut Compromise. Delegates from that state facilitated the negotiations over the compromise.

The Congress was made bicameral, with seats in the lower house apportioned by population. In exchange for that, the larger states agreed that each state would get two seats in the upper house.

That compromise was one of the most important events in American political history. Without it, the Constitution might never have been adopted, and it's possible that the United States would not exist today in anything like its current form.

After the First Congress convened, in 1789, the Senate randomly assigned seats to three classes. Those seats classified as Class II are up for election this year.

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