Profile America -- Monday, April 8th. On this date one century ago, 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. In fact, as a result of such developments, at least 29 states were nominating senators on a popular basis for the legislatures to approve. In the congressional elections of 2010, just under 42 percent of registered voters cast their ballots. This contrasts with the presidential election in 2008, when over 58 percent voted. Profile America is in its 16th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Voting and Registration, Table A7