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“Boss Lorimer and the Illinois Bribery Scandal,” New York Times, May 8, 1910

Hundreds of resolutions for popular election of U.S. senators failed in Congress until a scandal surrounding the selection of Senator William Lorimer of Illinois became national news. In 1911 more than two-thirds of the Senate approved a resolution for a direct-election amendment (with Lorimer voting “nay”). It passed the House in 1912 and was ratified as the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913.

The New York Times

“Boss Lorimer and the Illinois Bribery Scandal,” New York Times, May 8, 1910

The Seventeenth Amendment: Senate Elections

The Constitution’s framers chose to have U.S. senators elected by state legislatures rather than by direct popular vote. They wanted to ensure senatorial independence, but the system had unintended consequences, including bribery of state lawmakers and Senate vacancies due to party deadlocks. The call for election reform began in 1826, but it was not until 1912––after a corruption scandal drew national attention to the issue––that Congress approved a resolution for direct election of senators. The states ratified it as the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913.