How did progressive reforms make U.S. voting procedures more democratic?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the things that the Progressives wanted to do with their reforms was to make America more democratic.  They wanted to reduce the power of political party bosses and they wanted to reduce the power of the big businesses that could “buy” political leaders.  They managed to do this in a number of ways.

By introducing things like the initiative and the referendum, the Progressives created more direct democracy in the United States.  These innovations allowed citizens to have a direct vote on proposed laws.  If you allow the people to vote on more issues, you are making the system more democratic.

Another way in which the Progressives let people vote on more things was by introducing primary elections.  As primary elections became more common, party bosses lost power over nominations.  Now, the people got to decide who would run in general elections from each party, thus making America more democratic.

The Progressives also increased democracy by allowing the people to vote directly for US Senators.  The Constitution had set up a system where state legislatures elected US Senators.  The Progressives pushed through a constitutional amendment allowing direct election of senators.  Once again, they increased democracy by allowing people to vote on more issues.

Finally, Progressives changed the system by introducing the secret ballot.  This made America more democratic by allowing people to keep their votes secret.  That way, political machine operatives in cities could not coerce people into voting a certain way.  This helped increase the extent to which people were able to decide how to vote on their own.

In these ways, the Progressives increased democracy in the US by letting people vote for more offices and issues and by allowing them more control over their voting decisions.

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