In two weeks, we’ll* celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution being passed by Congress. This amendment established a direct election for United States Senators. Previous to this, U.S. Senators were elected by state legislatures.
The original Constitutional setup was pretty smart, actually. The bicameral Congress would have a House of Representatives, which would be elected by popular vote, and a Senate, which would be elected by the state. This would allow for dual representation—one house to represent the interests of the people and one house to represent the interests of the state.
Well, the Seventeenth Amendment changed all that; but it apparently wasn’t enough for Utah Republicans. Not only did we want to eliminate the State Representatives’ vote, we’ve gone so far as to eliminate the popular vote as well.
Orrin Hatch, for the first time in 36-years (so, ever) will have to go through a primary election. For some reason, in Utah if any GOP candidate gets at least 60 percent of the delegate vote they automatically get the nomination. Now, technically that Republican nominee will still have to go up against the Democrat nominee and be voted into office by popular vote (as per the Seventeenth Amendment); but Utahns haven’t elected a Democrat Senator since 1970.
So the way the Utah GOP works is, if you get enough delegates to vote for you—”enough” being about 2400 people or, to put it another way, about one tenth of one percent of the Utah voting population—you automatically get the party’s nomination. So with just under 60 percent of the vote this year, Orrin Hatch will actually have to go through a primary.
This fact brought headlines like:
- Orrin Hatch narrowly forced into Utah Senate primary, and
- Hatch is denied easy GOP victory to keep Senate seat, and
- Delegates wanted to leave Senator Orrin Hatch’s fate up to voters
The audacity of some people, forcing a poor old man into a primary and denying him his God-given right to Senate-dom and leaving his reelection up to voters!
So come late June, for the first time in 36 years, the people of Utah will have a chance to nominate a Class 1 Senator.
Thank goodness we amended the Constitution to a popular-vote-based Senate; otherwise, the people’s voices may have never been heard.
*Well, you probably won’t be celebrating since you likely have a life and a significant other. I’ll be spending May 13th the same way I celebrate any major event—playing Dungeons & Dragons with my cats.