Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Nolan Kerr talks to Dan Liljenquist, right, at the Salt Lake County GOP convention at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, April 14, 2012.

SALT LAKE CITY — A secret poll of state senators found them favoring one of their former colleagues in the race for U.S. Senate.

Republican Dan Liljenquist came out on top in an informal poll conducted by the Office of the Legislative Auditor General. The former Bountiful senator garnered 11 votes, incumbent Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, received seven, while another former state senator, Democrat Scott Howell, got two.

The Utah Senate passed a resolution this year requiring the legislative auditor to poll the state's 29 senators to determined their preferred U.S. Senate candidate. Participation was voluntary.

Sen. Casey Anderson, R-Cedar City, sponsored the measure, saying Utah's U.S. senators need to be more responsible to the Legislature. He lamented ratification of the 17th amendment in 1913, which established direct election of U.S. senators by popular vote. Under original provisions in the Constitution, state legislatures elected U.S. senators.

The resolution initially failed in a committee meeting. But an amended version made it to the Senate floor where it passed 18-9, with Republicans and Democrats on both sides.

Twenty-six of the 29-member state Senate responded to the poll. In addition to the 20 who voted, six returned the ballots without voting and three did not respond.

Three senators who marked their ballots "I decline to participate," also offered unsolicited explanations as to why. Their reasons were:

• "Voted against the resolution in the Senate and do not want to participate now."

• "Felt the poll should have been delayed until future elections."

• "Concerned votes may become public if records not protected under GRAMA."

Dennis Romboy

Twitter: dennisromboy