Choose Your Senator

There was a time when ordinary Americans had no say in who their U.S. Senator was. That’s because the two senators representing each state in Washington were elected by each state’s legislature. That changed 103 years ago this month.

As the U.S. Census Bureau points out, it took the ratification of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to finally give citizens in all 50 states the power to elect senators.

The 17th Amendment was a response to growing public outrage over the elitist way in which Senators were picked.

After all, the voting franchise expanded after the Civil War and into the Progressive Era, with citizens demanding that senators be popularly elected, just like representatives.

With the 17th Amendment, the people got their wish.

But do we appreciate this franchise? Census points out that in the elections of 2014 just 42% of citizens cast their ballots. This was lowest percentage in at least 36 years.

In the 2012 presidential election, just under 62% voted.

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