Americans were becoming more and more concerned about corruption within the political process in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These concerns contributed to the growth of Progressivism, a major reform movement of this era. One reform instituted by Progressives in many states was the referendum. Progressives believed that politicians were often afraid to introduce some types of legislation because it could be unpopular and prevent their reelection. Referendum would allow politicians to put legislation on the ballot so that the voters, rather than the politicians, were responsible for its passage. Tax issues were one type of legislation that might go through the referendum process. If a tax issue passed, the voters themselves, rather than the politicians, were responsible for their increased taxes. Progressives argued that the referendum made the American political system more democratic.
Wisconsin was one of the first states to implement the referendum, but other states soon followed its example. In Ohio, the Reverend Herbert Bigelow of Cincinnati was instrumental in gaining passage of the referendum. Bigelow and his supporters founded the Direct Legislation League, which lobbied the state legislature for passage of the referendum and another Progressive reform, the initiative. Ultimately these issues were addressed in Ohio's Constitutional Convention in 1912. The convention's delegates wrote the referendum into a constitutional amendment, which Ohio voters then approved later in the year.