Introduction: the South supported slavery because of economic

Introduction: Economics often go hand in hand with politics. In many cases, politics are driven by economic decisions. Before the Civil War, the South supported slavery because of economic profits gained from the agricultural business. The Gilded Age was an era marked by weak presidents, strong Congress, and widespread corruption. Dishonesty was prevalent at every level of the government. As mentioned in the book “Everyday life; Reform in America”, Businessmen bribed members of Congress and state legislatures to obtain rich contracts and laws favorable to their interests. City officials accepted bribes from local contractors and directed tax money into their own bank accounts as well. Even the police and the courts were on the take; a jail release or an acquittal was available to anyone who could pay the price.There are several reasons to why the political arena has sunken into such despair. Many people sought out to change the status quo and it gave rise to an era of reform. One of the major causes of the corruption is political machines. POLITICAL MACHINES: Political machines is a party organization, headed by a single boss or small autocratic group, that commands enough votes to maintain political and administrative control of a city, county, or state. the most notorious of the political bosses was William Marcy Tweed. He headed what came to be called the Tweed Ring, gaining control of Tammany Hall, headquarters of the Democratic Party in New York City. From 1865 to 1871, Tweed and his associates stole an estimated $200 million of city funds. As a state senator, he forced through a new city charter that gave his machine total control over New York’s finances. In the process, he bribed everyone from the governor down to the mayor and minor city officials.One of Tweed’s most infamous deals concerned the construction of a new courthouse. A building that could have been completed for $3 million ended up costing $11 million! In order to tackle such corruption, the government adopted the secret ballot. SECRET BALLOT: The existing voting system was fixed in which politicians would buy or influence voters to maintain political control. This was notable especially with the political machine, Tammany Hall. With a non-private method of voting, Tammany fixers were able to insure voters would cast ballots as promise. Vote riggers would simply give pre-marked ballots to people and watch people deposit them in the voting box.They gave favors to people and businesses who supported them and offered bribes to officials who counted the ballots on election day. Often they “stuffed ballot boxes” with fake votes.How, you might ask, could a political machine get by with “stuffing” a ballot box? The answer is that elections before the latter part of the 19th century were nothing like elections are today. Individual political parties printed their own ballots and then recruited voters to mark them as directed. It was rather easy to have someone vote more than once or to have “deceased voters” cast their ballot. It was also easy to change any ballot that did not meet with the political machine’s approval. There was no such thing as the secret ballot that later came into use.The secret ballot or Australian ballot is a voting method that prevents the possibility of outside influence on the voter. This system of voting provides political privacy for the voter. Prior to this, voting was done through partisan newspapers printing out filled-out ballots which parties distribute on election day. These ballots are used by the voters so they could drop them directly into boxes. These pre printed ballots are typically of different color depending on the candidate that the voter is voting for. This openly displayed the decision of the voter and can be used by other people to sway their opinions. The secret ballot system uses voting booths and blank pieces of paper which each voter would mark their desired candidate. Without revealing to anyone, the voter folds the ballot and drops it into a sealed box. This system was first adopted by few states beginning with Louisville, Kentucky after the 1886 election. All the states would eventually adopt this method by 1890. The new secret ballot system provided people with the liberty to choose whoever they desire as their candidate of choice. People are able to cast their vote anonymously without the influence of others. This gave political liberty to people. 17th AMENDMENT: During the Gilded Age, corrupt state legislatures continued to choose their senators based on the Constitution, denying citizens the right to choose their representatives in the Senate. As a result:The 17th amendment ratified in 1913, is the direct election of senators through citizens votes. Citizens cast their votes to elect senators using a system of popular vote to decide. Prior to this, state legislatures would chose senators. Each state will have two senators, and each senator will receive one vote. This benefitted the government democratically as it provided individuals the liberty to vote for their senator to represent them. It related to individuals, whereas prior it was a federal hierarchy. This amendment showed the progression of the constitution providing a better and closer connection between citizens and federal government. This amendment makes every single vote casted by citizens to matter in the decision of selecting a senator. BALLOT INITIATIVE, REFERENDUM AND RECALL: Corrupt state legislatures were able to cheat the public by passing laws favoring their business interests or deals that would bring economic profits. The public were unable to keep the state legislature in check.The ballot initiative is a means in which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can bring about a public vote on a proposed statute or constitutional amendment. The initiative process enables citizens to bypass their state legislature by placing proposed statutes and sometimes constitutional amendments on the ballot. There are two types of initiatives: direct and indirect. In a situation of a direct, the proposals go directly on the ballot. The indirect process requires the ballot to the submitted to the state legislature, which can be rejected or acted upon by the legislature. Referendum refers to a measure that appears on the ballot. There are two kinds of Referendum: legislative referendum and popular referendum. Legislature are often required to have voter approval for certain changes in legislative referendum. Popular referendum allows voters to approve or repeal an act of the legislature. If the legislature passes a law that voters do not approve of, they can gather signatures to demand a popular vote on that particular law. Recall is a procedure that allows citizens to remove and replace a public official before the end of their term. All of these processes and measures provide citizens with more impact and influence upon the federal government. Ballot initiative, referendum and recall are powers reserved to enable the voters. Voters are now have the power of initiative, the right to directly propose legislation themselves, referendum, allowing people to vote directly for or against laws, and the power to recall corrupt elected officials. (EBSCO) 


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