Direct Elections

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Whenever there has been dissatisfaction with the performance of appointing officials, whether party, legislative, or electoral college, there has been a demand for direct elections. The Progressive era (1890–1920) marked a heyday for such demands, producing direct election of senators (seventeenth amendment), direct nomination of state party candidates (through primary elections), and, in many cities and states, direct legislation through initiative and referendum, and direct recall of candidates. After most close presidential elections, there has also been talk of direct election of the President in place of the electoral college.

Direct election of the President and direct party primaries have been criticized on policy (but not constitutional) grounds for weakening the two-party system. Initiative and referendum, besides being criticized as "plebiscitary," have been challenged as violative of the guarantee clause, but such challenges have uniformly been found nonjusticiable. The leading case is Pacific States Telephone Company v. Oregon (1912).

Ward E. Y. Elliott


Bonfield, Arthur E. 1962 The Guarantee Clause of Article IV, Section 4: A Study in Constitutional Desuetude. Minnesota Law Review 46:513–572.