Utah lawmaker wants Legislature to hold secret poll for U.S. Senate candidates but measure is rejected

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 31 2012 5:25 p.m. MST

In this 2011 file photo, Casey Anderson (left) is given the Oath of Office as a State Senator by Senate President Michael Waddoups in the Senate Chamber.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — State Sen. Casey Anderson called 1913 the worst year in American political history.

That's the year the states ratified the 17th Amendment, which established direct election of U.S. senators by popular vote. Under original provisions in the Constitution, state legislatures elected U.S. senators.

Anderson, R-Cedar City, says Utah's U.S. senators need to be more accountable to the Legislature.

To that end, he has proposed a resolution that would require the 104-member Legislature to conduct a secret, informal poll regarding their preferences among candidates running for the U.S. Senate in any given election year. The poll would be conducted within 30 days of the candidate filing date. Results would be made public.

"To be clear, this is about principle, not politics," Anderson, R-Cedar City, told the Senate Government Operations and Political Subdivisions Committee on Tuesday.

The freshman senator, however, couldn't get enough of his colleagues on the committee to support SJR11. The measured died in a 3-3 tie, with three Republicans in favor and two Republicans and a Democrat opposed.

"I could not agree more that the 17th Amendment is directly responsible for every federal overreach in the last 90 years," said Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley.

But Thatcher said he could not support the resolution because former GOP state Sen. Dan Liljenquist is running for Senate. "It will appear to give a benefit and leg up to a friend and colleague," he said.

Thatcher said he would support the measure if Anderson changed the effective date to be after the 2012 election. Anderson refused.

"I feel like if we amend the bill it would be politics over principle," Anderson said.

Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, favored the resolution because she said it's important to send the message that states don't exist just to do the "clerical bidding" of an overreaching federal government.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com

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