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History of the United States
US Government
Elections and Voting

What were the Political and economic reforms the populists party proposed?


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December 14, 2008 8:51PM

What impressed people most about the Populist Party was the zeal with which they addressed the needed reforms of the day, almost like an evangelical fervor. Many of the ideas and goals of the Populists would become laws later on in American history. They called for the election of US senators by popular vote, rather than by state legislatures (17th Amendment). They demanded the universal use of the secret (Australian) ballot, to prevent employers from forcing workers to vote a certain way. They introduced the ideas of the initiative, referendum and recall which were added to many state constitutions. They called for the abolition of national banks and for the government ownership of railroads and the telegraph (socialistic ideas). They advocated a postal savings system so that ordinary people might avoid depositing their money in privately owned banks, and for a graduated income tax. They felt the wealthy should pay a higher percentage in taxes than the middle class or poor. They also called for an increase in the amount of money in circulation through the unlimited coinage of silver.