Image of a man placing a ballot marked ‘vote’ in a ballot box

The right to vote is one of the most vital privileges that American citizens possess. Today, American voters can vote for federal, state, and local officials, and also for the passage or repeal of laws. The right to vote allows voters to impact the policies that affect their daily lives.

During the Gilded Age, however, the right to vote freely was challenged by the political machines that ran major cities. In cities, where large populations of Americans lived, corrupt politicians used threats and bribes to influence how people voted.

The U.S. Congress had become an inefficient mechanism of the government. U.S. Senators, in particular, were heavily influenced by big businesses. Many of the political decisions were made to benefit large corporations instead of the American citizens they represented.

In response to these problems, political reformers of the Progressive Era sought to provide voters the opportunity to freely vote for the candidates and proposed legislation that would best serve them. The goal of reformers was to restore power to the voters. The terms listed below reflect some of the key reforms of the Progressive Era.

Vocabulary Activity

In this activity, you will read the given terms and their definitions. After reading the terms and their definitions, play the matching game that follows.

Initiative is the ability of citizens to suggest legislation for consideration by a state legislature.

Referendum is the passage or rejection of a proposed law by the citizens of a state in a statewide vote.

Recall is the ability of citizens to recall a candidate once he or she has been elected if he or she is not fulfilling the promised duties of office.

Interactive exercise. Assistance may be required. In this activity, analyze each cartoon and place the matching definition in the space provided.

In addition to the reforms of Initiative, Referendum, and Recall, reformers pushed for constitutional amendments that would bring significant social, political, and economic change.

Interactive exercise. Assistance may be required. Click on each of the documents below to read about each of the Progressive Era constitutional amendments.

Which of the Progressive Era amendments directly impacted the power of voters?

Interactive popup. Assistance may be required.

Click here to compare your answer.

The 17th and 19th Amendments directly impacted the power of American voters. The 17th Amendment gave voters the power to directly elect U.S. Senators. The 19th Amendment guaranteed women the right to vote.Close Pop Up

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