What hope there might be for democracy in America is ill-served by a United States Senate that is, by design and in practice, strikingly unrepresentative. Voters got a reminder of that in November. They cast 52,539,754 ballots for Democratic Senate candidates versus just 34,787,898 for Republican contenders, yet Mitch McConnell’s GOP caucus actually expanded its majority. But that’s not the worst of it. The Senate is so antidemocratic that candidates who are rejected by the voters can still end up taking seats in the chamber. Case in point: Martha McSally. McSally was the Republican nominee for an Arizona US Senate seat this year, and she got beat. The voters chose Democrat Kyrsten Sinema by 55,900 votes. Yet, come January, McSally and Sinema will both be senators. That’s because, on Tuesday, Arizona’s Republican governor, Doug Ducey, appointed McSally to fill the state’s other Senate seat. She’ll replace another unelected Republican senator, Jon Kyl, whom Ducey appointed to serve a portion of the Senate term to which the late John McCain was actually elected in 2016.
McSally will serve in the Senate until a special election is held in November 2020, when the voters will finally have a chance to weigh in on who they want to represent them.
If the calculus embraced by Arizona Republicans—making the losing candidate for one US Senate seat the “winner” of the state’s other seat; and replacing one unelected senator with another unelected senator—sounds absurd, that’s because it is absurd. But this is not just an Arizona problem. And this is not just a Republican affront to democracy.
Governors of both parties regularly appoint senators to fill vacancies, making an unrepresentative Senate even more unrepresentative.
This is not how the other side of the US Capitol operates.
No one can serve in the US House of Representatives before first being elected by the people. There are no gubernatorial appointments of political cronies and defeated candidates. If a vacancy occurs, a special election must be held to fill the seat.