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Nationally, state legislative term limits impact 6% of seats up in 2010

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August 23, 2010

Nevada State Senator Bob Coffin, who has served in the Nevada State Legislature since 1982, is one of four Democratic Party state senators terming-out in Nevada. 2010 is the first year that term limits apply in Nevada.

By Leslie Graves and Geoff Pallay

MADISON, Wisconsin: According to a Ballotpedia study, 6% of the 6,125 state legislative seats up election on November 2, 2010 are losing an incumbent due to state legislative term limits. Nationally, 15 state legislatures are subject to term limits and in 14 of those states, a general state legislative election in scheduled for November. Altogether, 375 state legislators who currently hold a seat must leave it after the November elections because of term limits. 375 limited legislators represents 23% of the 1,600 legislative seats up for election in the 14 states with term limits.

122 current state senators term-out in November, or 36% of the 337 total state senate seats up for election in the 14 term-limited state senates with November 2010 elections.

253 current state representatives term-out in November, or 20% of the 1,263 total seats up for election in the 13 term-limited states with November 2010 elections.

States with limits

Term limits apply in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota. They also apply in Louisiana, which is not holding a state legislative general election in 2010. In Arkansas, California, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada and Oklahoma, the term limits are for life. In the other states, the limits apply to the number of terms that can be served consecutively.

California, Colorado and Oklahoma were the first three states to pass state legislative term limits laws; all three states enacted their laws via ballot initiatives in 1990.

Nevada's term limits, first affirmed by the state's voters in 1996, take effect for the first time in 2010.

Michigan and Missouri are in a dead heat for the states losing the most incumbents. The Michigan State Legislature is losing 29 state senators and 34 state representatives, for a total of 63 legislators. The Missouri State Legislature is losing 10 state senators and 52 state representatives, for a total of 62 state legislators.

Impact on political parties

The Republican Party is taking more of a hit from term limits in the 2010 state legislative elections than the Democratic Party, both in terms of how many individual incumbent legislators the Republican Party is losing (190, versus 182 for the Democratic Party) and in terms of how many state legislative chambers are losing more Republicans (13, versus 10 for the Democratic Party).

Chart indicating impact on individual legislators by party:

Party # of termed senators # of termed representatives Total
Democratic 55 127 182
Republican 66 124 190
Non-partisan 1 2 3

Chart indicating impact on legislative chambers by party:

Party Senates with most losses Houses with most losses Total
Democratic 4 6 10
Republican 7 6 13
Equal D/R losses 2 1 3

See also