Whether a State May Elect Its United States Senators from Single-Member Districts Rather than At-Large: Memorandum Opinion for the Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division [August 20, 1992]   [open pdf - 25KB]

"The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Inc., ('NAACP') has filed suit challenging the method by which Mississippi selects its Senators. The NAACP claims that Mississippi has violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1971-1974e, and the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, by electing its Senators at-large, rather than from two single-member districts. You have asked for our views on the issue of whether a State constitutionally may elect its Senators from single-member districts, rather than at-large. We conclude that it may not. The analysis begins with the text of the Seventeenth Amendment, which provides that '[t]he Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof.' U.S. Const. amend. 17. Because States of the Union are distinct, unitary political entities, in order for a Senator to be from a State he or she must be from the entire State, not some part of it. Similarly, because of the nature of the States, election by 'the people' of the State implies election by the whole people of the State, not some smaller set of citizens. The election of Senators from smaller districts instead of the entire State would result in Senators elected by only a part of the people of a State. Such a plan would be inconsistent with the Constitution's text."

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United States. Department of Justice: http://www.justice.gov/
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