Thursday, December 11, 2008
Century-Old Illinois Scandal Changed The Way We Elect Senators
A century ago our U.S. Constitution provided for the election of senators by state legislatures. An Illinois scandal, however, helped pave the way for the adoption of the 17th Amendment providing for the direct election of senators by the people. In 1909, Illinois state lawmakers chose William Lorimer, also known as the "blond boss" of Chicago, to represent the state in the U.S. Senate. A year later, scandal erupted when the Chicago Tribune reported on Lorimer's vote-buying efforts to win the seat, leading to his removal from the Senate in 1912. "The Lorimer case was the poster child for what was wrong with the old system," Donald Ritchie, a Senate historian, said Tuesday. "The senators were bombarded with newspaper editorials, and the feeling at the time was the best solution was to turn this over to the people." The 17th Amendment was officially ratified in 1913. The more things change, the more they remain the same.