Electing Senators By Popular Demand

district-of-columbia_us-capitolOn April 8, 1913, the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, establishing direct popular election of senators. Previously, members of the Senate were elected by each state’s legislature. As the voting franchise expanded after the Civil War and into the Progressive Era, growing sentiment held that senators ought to be popularly elected in the same manner as representatives. Because of such developments, at least 29 states by 1913 were nominating senators on a popular basis for the legislatures to approve.

In the elections of 2014, just 42 percent of citizens cast their ballots, with a peak of 61 percent among those ages 65 to 74. In the 2012 presidential election, not quite 62 percent of all registered citizens voted.

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