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6/4/2014 House OKs ceremonial ratification of 17th Amendment
 STATE HOUSE – The House today approved a resolution sponsored by Rep. Cale P. Keable to ceremonially ratify the 17th Amendment, which allowed direct election of U.S. senators.

Rhode Island was one of 11 states that did not ratify the amendment after it was passed by Congress in 1912, but since the necessary three-quarters of states did, the amendment took effect without Rhode Island’s approval.

While the resolution (2014-H 7151) will not change the effect of the amendment, it will send a message that Rhode Island values democracy, said Representative Keable.

“The right to choose one’s own elected representatives is held very dear by Americans. As a matter of affirming the democracy upon which this nation is based, we should finally add our state’s name to the list of those that support the direct election of U.S. senators,” said Representative Keable (D-Dist. 47, Burrillville, Glocester), who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “This is a chance to rectify our inaction on this matter a century ago.”

Representative Keable introduced the legislation at the urging of Samuel Ackerman, the 17-year-old son of fellow Rep. Mia A. Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) and Cumberland High School’s 2014 valedictorian, who had advocated for the bill for the last two years after learning about Rhode Island’s failure to ratify the amendment. Representative Ackerman cosponsored the bill.

Before the 17th amendment, U.S. senators were selected by state legislatures, and that method had led to numerous instances of fraud, favoritism and bribery. In 1912, Rhode Island’s General Assembly was dominated by Republicans, but the Democrats were gaining ground in growing urban communities. Rhode Island’s General Assembly was reluctant to cede that power, and neither chamber ever brought ratification of the amendment to a vote.

Delaware similarly belatedly approved the amendment in 2010. Maryland did so in 2012.
The joint resolution will now be forwarded to the Senate. It is cosponsored by Representative Ackerman, Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) and House Speaker Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston).

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923