Grades K-2 Grades 3-5 Grades 6-8 Grades 9-12 Parents and Teachers Home

Election of Senators

Representation in the Senate consists of 2 members per state, regardless of a state's population. Its members serve for 6-year terms and then are up for re-election. Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution divides the Senate into three groups. Every 2 years, one of the three groups (one-third of the Senate) is up for reelection. Let's take an example:

Senators elected in the year 2006, will be up for re-election in 2012. Senators elected in 2008 will be up for reelection in 2014. Meanwhile, senators elected in 2010 will be up for reelection in 2016.

In order to be elected to the Senate, there are some requirements a candidate must meet. These qualifications are established in Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution. A candidate must be:

  • At least 30 years old (by the time s/he takes the oath of office).
  • A citizen of the U.S. for at least 9 years.
  • A resident of the state from which s/he is elected.

Many states hold elections to decide which candidates will be on the ballot in the November general election. There can be three types of candidates on a ballot:

  • Major political party candidates are automatically placed on their state's primary ballot.
  • Minor party candidates are chosen by their party's unique guidelines.
  • Independent candidates nominate themselves.

If a candidate is not opposed then there is no need for a primary and his/her name is automatically placed on the November ballot. The candidate who receives the most votes wins the election.

Before 1913, senators were chosen by their state legislatures, not the people. The 17th Amendment to the Constitution states that senators are to be elected by the people they represent.

To learn more, choose from the following:

Related links

A service of the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office.