If you vote in Indiana’s primary elections, well, I’ve got some bad news for you.
Senate Bill 75 (http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2020/bills/senate/75), filed by state Sen. James Buck, R-Kokomo, last week and presented for a first reading on Monday, would strip Indiana residents of the right to vote in U.S. Senate primaries. Instead, party insiders would select Republican and Democrat candidates for the most influential wing of Congress at state conventions.
The voters themselves wouldn’t be allowed to weigh in on Senate races until the general election.
If passed, the bill would take effect on July 1. Since neither of Indiana’s senators are up for re-election this year, it wouldn’t alter things until 2022.
Why does Buck want to do this? I tried to ask him that question, but he didn't respond to requests for an interview.
That’s a shame, because I’d love to hear why he thinks it’s a good idea to yank power out of the hands of voters. Sure, Indiana primary-goers have made weird decisions in the past – sorry, Richard Lugar – but making weird decisions is the unimpeachable right of every American. Plus, it ain’t like Indiana’s bumbling political parties have a monopoly on wisdom.
But just like everything rifling through politics these days, none of this is new. SB 75 would actually draw Indiana closer to the way Senate elections were originally handled.
For the first 150-ish years of the country’s existence, state legislators all across the U.S. chose not only Senate candidates, but the senators themselves.
The Constitution decreed “the Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.”
But that, of course, caused problems. According to a lengthy post on the U.S. Senate’s own website, the process sparked fierce in-fighting in some states, leading to delays and vacant seats. Bribery and intimidation were fun byproducts as well.
All that ended in 1913, when Congress ratified the 17th Amendment, decreeing that the voters would choose their own senators.
More than 100 years later, a few pundits still rail against that. But it’s hard to argue it was a bad move. After all, it gave Americans one of the few national races in which their vote is guaranteed to count.
In presidential elections, the presence of the Electoral College means a vote from a progressive in Indiana or a conservative in California is basically worthless. And merciless gerrymandering has de-legitimized congressional races around the country.
Given that senators do everything from choose Supreme Court justices to hold impeachment trials, voters should have a say in who appears on their general election ballot.
But hey, maybe that's an unpopular opinion. After all, only 11 percent of Vanderburgh County voters bothered to hit the polls in the 2018 primary.
If SB 75 passes, will anyone notice?