Term limits on the ballot
Term limits on the ballot: This subtopic of "elections and campaigns" refers to the use, increase or decrease of term limits on public officials. Term limits are a legal restriction on the number of terms a person may serve in a particular office. Ballotpedia also includes term lengths in this definition. Limits vary by state. State executives, state legislative representatives, judges and board officials are some of the offices with term limits.
- South Dakota Repeal Term Limits, Constitutional Amendment J (2008)
- Nevada U.S. Congressional Term Limits, Question 17 (1996)
A term limit is a legal restriction that limits the number of terms a person may serve in a particular elected office.
There are different types of term limits. Sometimes, there is an absolute limit on the number of terms a person can serve, while in other cases, the restrictions are merely on the number of consecutive terms.
Ballot measures lists
Use of term limits
Term limits have a long history: ancient Greece and ancient Rome, two early civilizations which had elected political offices, both imposed limits on some positions. In ancient Athenian democracy, no citizen could serve on the boule more than twice, or be head of the boule more than once. In the Roman Republic, a law was passed imposing a limit of a single term on the office of Censor.
Many modern presidential republics employ term limits for their highest offices. The United States, one of the first countries of the modern era to have elected political offices, has a limit of two terms on its presidency, and on a number of other political offices as well, such as state governors and some state legislators. Formal limits date back to 1776, when limits were placed on serving as Governor of Delaware. Term limits are also common in Latin America, where most countries are also presidential republics. In some countries, such as Mexico, it is strictly forbidden for a person to serve as president on more than one occasion, even if one of the appointments was only temporary.
Countries which operate a parliamentary system of government are less likely to employ term limits on their leaders. This is because such leaders rarely have a set "term" at all — rather, they serve as long as they have the confidence of the legislature, a period which could potentially last indefinitely. Nevertheless, such countries may impose term limits on the holders of other offices -- in republics, for example, a ceremonial presidency may have a term limit, especially if it has reserve powers.
Offices of local government, such as a mayoralty, may also have term limits.
In favor of limits
- "It prevents incumbents from using the benefits of office to remain in power indefinitely." In some situations, merely being in office provides an elected official with a distinct advantage in further elections. Supporters of term limits argue that this advantage is undemocratic, and means that incumbents no longer fear losing their offices and cease to be concerned with the needs of their constituents. Term limits ensure that all officials are eventually removed from power.
- "It makes room for fresh candidates, and encourages participation." Imposing term limits on an office ensures that there will always be vacancies for new candidates to pursue. This may encourage citizens who would normally not consider running for office to do so, as they will not be challenging an established, entrenched opponent. Many proponents claim that term limits will increase diversity in a legislature, bringing the law-making body's demographics more in line with those of the general population.
- "It stops politicians from making choices solely to prolong their career." If a politician can serve as many terms as they wish, they may be tempted to follow policies which will ensure their long-term political survival, rather than policies which further the interests of voters. Supporters of term limits sometimes argue that if politicians know from the beginning of their service that their time in office is limited, they will act differently (and less self-servingly) than “career” legislators.
- "It reduces the advantage which can be gained by a representative's seniority." In some legislatures, power and influence tend to increase as a legislator gains seniority — a politician who has served many terms will carry more responsibility than one who has just been elected, even if both are representing the same number of voters. If one district continually re-elects the same politician, while another district frequently changes its politician, the first district will have greater sway in the legislature than the second, because its representative has had time to accrue seniority. Term limits ensure that each district has representatives of similar seniority.
- "It is undemocratic." The most common argument against the use of term limits is that it takes away the right of voters to be represented by the politician of their choice. It is argued that if the public wish to re-elect their representative, it is undemocratic to prevent them from doing so. Allow the electorate to do its job, argue opponents, and non-responsive legislators can still be held accountable.
- "It results in a lack of experienced politicians." Term limit opponents argue that, with experience, comes greater skill. The very use of the term “freshman representative” is indicative of the fact that the first-term legislator is less likely to be able to “get things done” in the legislature. It is further argued that inexperienced politicians will be more reliant on advice and guidance from un-elected officials and lobbyists. Permanent committee staffers, who ostensibly work for the representatives, would become more knowledgeable and powerful than the members themselves. Moreover, lobbyists in the employ of special interests might tend to grow more powerful, as they can offer to “help” inexperienced members gain a foothold. Because both staffers and lobbyists are unelected, opponents argue, term limits are undemocratic because it places more power in the hands of the unelected.
- "It means that politicians approaching their term limit no longer have to worry about what voters think." Another argument against term limits is that it is the very fact that politicians need to go back to the voters for approval and re-election that keeps them responsive. With term limits, a lame duck legislator no longer has any motivation to continue heeding the concerns of his constituents. In such a circumstance, a legislator could use their last term to set themselves up for a job in the private sector after the end of their legislative career.
- "It simply results in frequent trading of office between the same people, not an influx of new people." In contrast to the claims that term limits allow new faced to enter politics, opponents claim that there are enough political offices for elected officials to simply "play musical chairs."In response to claims that term limits promote diversity, on August 15, 2006 the United States' National Conference of State Legislatures issued a report at its annual meeting stating that "term limits have not led to significant increases in female or minority representation in state legislatures, according to a survey of the 15 states with term limits."
- Term limits in the United States
- U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton
- Eric O'Keefe
- Paul Jacob
- U.S. Term Limits (advocacy group)
- Advocacy groups
- Ballot measure finance
- Media coverage
- Policy institutes