Democracy Without Elections

It’s time for the courts to recognize the plain meaning of the 17th Amendment
Steve Chapman
August 13, 2009

The British Parliament consists of the House of Commons, which is elected by the people, and the House of Lords, which is not. How different that is from our Congress. We have the House of Representatives, which is elected by the people, and the Senate, which is…well, mostly elected by the people.

The unfortunate truth is that four of the 100 members of the Senate got there without the consent of the governed. They were appointed to fill seats abandoned by someone who moved on to another job (including Barack Obama and Joe Biden). In the House, by contrast, vacated seats can be filled only by special elections.

The number of unelected senators will soon rise. Republican Mel Martinez of Florida is stepping down rather than serve the last 17 months of his term, and Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison plans to leave this year to run for governor. Once their successors are sworn in, 27 percent of Americans will be represented by senators who didn’t get a single vote in a free election.

…Next month the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear a lawsuit arguing that when a Senate vacancy occurs, an election must be held within a reasonable period, and any appointee may serve only for that brief interim.

It’s an audacious argument—considering that in the last 96 years, 184 people have served in the Senate without winning an election. But audacity is in order when an entrenched custom violates the plain design of the Constitution…

…The lawsuit says the overall meaning is inescapable: Governors must promptly call elections, and they may appoint someone to fill in only until then. That claim rejects the prevailing assumption that a “temporary” appointment justifies dispensing with democracy for two years or more…

…Let the people decide, and sooner rather than later. The 17th Amendment, which was supposed to give power to the voters, should no longer be used as an excuse to take it away.

Read the entire article at ReasonOnline

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