By proclamation of the Convention (and not by popular vote) the revised Constitution of Virginia went into effect on the tenth day of July, 1902. Before that date, the government of Virginia, with a few amendments, was under the Constitution adopted in Reconstruction days and finally put into operation in 1870. The call for a convention which resulted in the new Constitution of 1902 came chiefly as the result of movements in the South of more than twenty years' duration for the modification of suffrage, Virginia not considering seriously any change until about 1899. When the question of a convention was submitted to the people in 1900, other matters than suffrage were assigned as reasons for a new Constitution, among them being greater economy in the administration of affairs and a better system of taxing corporate enterprises.
The new constitution made a number of changes in the executive departments. Before 1851, only the General Assembly was elected by popular vote, but after that date, the governor, the attorney-general, the lieutenant-governor, and even the judges were elected by the people. By the Underwood Constitution, the members of the general assembly, the governor, the lieutenant-governor and attorney-general were the only State officers elected by popular suffrage. The new constitution not only continued this but also provided for the popular election of such officers as the secretary of the commonwealth, the treasurer, the superintendent of public instruction, and the commissioner of agriculture, but the first and second auditor of public accounts and the register of the land office are still elected by the legislature.