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Oklahoma Term Limits, State Question 747 (2010)

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The Oklahoma Term Limits Question, proposed as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, was on the November 2, 2010 ballot in the state of Oklahoma. The measure was being sponsored by Randy Brogdon. It was approved.Approveda

The measure proposed an eight year lifetime limit for the governor, lieutenant governor, state auditor and inspector, attorney general, state treasurer, labor commissioner, state schools superintendent and insurance commissioner. Before the measure, the governor could not serve more than eight consecutive years, however he could seek election again after a 4-year period had passed.[1]

Election results

See also: 2010 ballot measure election results

Official results of the measure follow:

Question 747 (Term Limits)
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 695,592 69.88%
No299,78930.12%

Results via the Oklahoma Election Board.

Text of amendment

Ballot title

The ballot title that Oklahoma voters saw on the ballot readd:[2]

This measure amends sections 4 and 23 of Articles 6 and section 15 of Article 9 of the State Constitution. It limits the ability of voters to re-elect statewide elected officers by limiting how many years those officers can serve. It limits the number of years a person may serve in each statewide elected office. Service as Governor is limited to eight years. Service as Lieutenant Governor is limited to eight years. Service as Attorney General is limited to eight years. Service as Treasurer is limited to eight years. Service as Commissioner of Labor is limited to eight years. Service as Auditor and Inspector is limited to eight years. Service as Superintendent of Public Instruction is limited to eight years. Service as a Corporation Commissioner is limited to twelve years.

Service for less than a full term would not count against the limit on service. Years of service need not be consecutive for the limits to apply.

Officers serving when this measure is passed can complete their terms. All such serving officers, except the Governor, can also serve an additional eight or twelve years.

Shall the proposal be approved?

For the proposal

Yes: __________

Against the proposal

No: __________

Summary

The summary of the measures read:[3]

This measure amends sections 4 and 23 of Articles 6 and section 15 of Article 9 of the State Constitution. It limits the ability of voters to re-elect statewide elected officers by limiting how many years those officers can serve. It limits the number of years a person may serve in each statewide elected office. Service as Governor is limited to eight years. Service as Lieutenant Governor is limited to eight years. Service as Attorney General is limited to eight years. Service as Treasurer is limited to eight years. Service as Commissioner of Labor is limited to eight years. Service as Auditor and Inspector is limited to eight years. Service as Superintendent of Public Instruction is limited to eight years. Service as a Corporation Commissioner is limited to twelve years.
Service for less than a full term would not count against the limit on service. Years of service need not be consecutive for the limits to apply.
Officers serving when this measure is passed can complete their terms. All such serving officers, except the Governor, can also serve an additional eight or twelve years.

Constitutional changes

State Question 747, Constitutional text changes

According to the Oklahoma Secretary of State, the measure was proposed to amend Article VI, Sections 4 and 23 and Article XI, Section 15 of the Oklahoma Constitution.[4]

Support

Supporters

  • Representative Jason Murphey sponsored the legislation to place the measure on the ballot. According to Murphey at the time, a new wave of lawmakers in the legislature would benefit the state, due to new ideas coming in and it would stop legislators from abusing influence that could build up over years of being in office.[5]
  • The Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise have taken stances on a number of the 11 questions on the November ballot. The group's position on State Question 747 is to vote yes on the measure.[6]

Arguments

  • Oklahomans for Responsible Government, a strong proponent for term limits, argued that term limits historically have continued to bring new ideas to the state. Additionally the state organization stated that, if passed, the amendment would help "put a stop to the recent problems Oklahoma has had with our state-wide elected officials.” Brian Downs, executive director of the group, added,“This is such an important measure that will change the way state government operates. Oklahomans overwhelmingly supported legislative term limits and I’m confident that voters will be in favor of term limits for statewide elected officials, too.”[7]
  • Downs also stated, "Can people on both sides say certain policies have not been met since term limits have been in place? Sure they can. But I think that it gives them more opportunities, and gives less power to the special interests. That is one of the arguments that I do not understand.”[8]

Opposition

Opponents

Arguments

  • According to Attorney General Drew Edmondson, on term limits, “I think they have had a horrible impact on the Legislature, on the institutional wisdom on both the House and Senate. We’ve lost the service of some awfully good people. As bright as some of the new people may be, by the time they figure out what’s going on, they’ve got limits on their own terms. We’re electing a Speaker of the House who only has two years left to serve.”[8]
  • Edmondson also stated, "“Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does power. It will go somewhere. If it is not being held in the hands of veteran officeholders, then it’s going to be lobbyists and bureaucrats who are not elected by anybody. But the power will still be wielded by someone.”[8]

Media endorsements

See also: Endorsements of Oklahoma ballot measures, 2010

Support

  • The Oklahoma Daily was for the measure, stating, "This state question would set term limits statewide for all elected offices. Opponents contend it takes officials years to become efficient at their jobs, and turnovers would mean inefficient leaders. Proponents say it will keep new ideas and leadership flowing in and reduce incumbent influence. We feel the latter argument wins out."[9]
  • The Tulsa Beacon made recommendations for all the state questions on the ballot, and recommended a 'yes' vote on the measure.[10]

Opposition

  • The Oklahoman recommended a 'no' vote on the measure, stating "Partial terms would not count against the limit; existing service would only count against the governor. Oklahomans like term limits. They aren't necessarily a bad idea for statewide officeholders. But it takes the six statewide officials outside the governor and lieutenant governor's offices a great deal of time to become experts at running their respective areas of state government."[11]
  • The Enid News and Eagle recommended a 'no' vote on the measure, stating, "We typically support term limits for policy makers such as governor, lieutenant governor, senators and representatives, but the other statewide positions are more specialized. In these instances, expertise is crucial to running these state agencies."[12]
  • The Tulsa World was against the measure, recommending a 'no' vote: "The proposal would do nothing to deter voter fraud. Further, there is no evidence the measure would solve any problem with Oklahoma elections. It would, however, slow the election process and discourage elderly and poor people, who often do not have driver’s licenses, from voting. The League of Women Voters strongly opposes the measure, and so do we."[13]

Controversies

According to some, the ballot language could have mislead and confuse voters. The state question was reviewed by the attorney general’s office, who recommended the language be changed to include a statement that says the proposal "limits the ability of voters to re-elect statewide elected officers.”

This statement, said the Oklahomans for Responsible Government, at the time, should be removed: "It could be construed to mean that it doesn’t allow the re-election of any elected officials,” said Peter Rudy, communications director for the organization. In a May 5,2009 blog post, the organization wrote, ."..this is the same [Attorney General] Drew Edmondson who personally lobbied lawmakers last year to not pass term limits. And now that he’s failed in that regard, he’s trying to submarine the ballot measure with confusing language."[14]

In 2008, Attorney General Drew Edmondson urged state lawmakers to reject a term-limits bill. Edmondson, a fourth-term Democrat at the time, argued that the bill would make the mandated 12-year limit on terms retroactive.[15] Additionally, Edmondson spoke out against term limits in the 2008 court case, Yes on Term Limits v. Savage.

However, in regards to the 2010 proposed ballot language, the attorney general's office argued otherwise. The proposed language, they said, met strict requirements as set by law. The 10-day comment period for the ballot language ended May 12,2009.[16]

Polls

See also: Polls, 2010 ballot measures
  • In a survey conducted by SoonerPoll.com and powered by Tulsa World, 621 likely Oklahoma voters were polled on 5 of the 9 statewide ballot questions that was on the November 2, 2010 ballot. The poll, conducted via telephone during the dates of January 2-5, 2010, included only registered voters in the state, and surveyed 325 Democrats, 267 Republicans, 28 Independents and one Libertarian. According to reports, the margin of error was plus or minus 3.93 percentage points. The results of Question 747 are as follows:[17]
  • In a poll conducted by SoonerPoll.com, 77 percent of voters polled stated that they were for the measure. The poll surveyed likely registered voters in the state, which included 385 Democrats, 340 Republicans and 31 independents. The margin of error was reported to be 3.57 percentage points and was commissioned by the Tulsa World.[18]
  • In one of the last polls taken by SoonerPoll before the general election, the results showed strong support of the measure by those surveyed. The poll included 384 Democrats, 345 Republicans and 24 independents.[19]
Legend

     Position is ahead and at or over 50%     Position is ahead or tied, but under 50%

Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided Number polled
January 2-5, 2010 SoonerPoll.com 76% 17% 7% 621
July 16-21, 2010 SoonerPoll.com 77% 16% 7% 755
October 18-23, 2010 SoonerPoll.com 71% 17% 12% 753

Path to the ballot

The Oklahoma State Legislature can approve a proposed amendment by a majority vote. (However, if the state legislature wants the proposed amendment to go on a special election ballot, it has to approve the amendment by a 2/3rds vote.) Oklahoma is one of ten states that allows a referred amendment to go on the ballot after a majority vote in one session of the state's legislature.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed Senate Joint Resolution 12 in early 2009.[20]

Similar measures

In 1990, citizens approved a 12-year lifetime limit for the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In 2008, Oklahomans for Responsible Government attempted to put a term limits initiative on the ballot, however according to executive director Brian Downs, "We were unsuccessful last year because we had two competing measures that advocated for 8 and 12 year terms."[7]

See also

External links

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Additional reading

References

  1. News OK,"Oklahoma Capitol briefs: Term limit proposal heading to vote in Oklahoma Senate," April 15,2009
  2. Oklahoma Secretary of State, "Proposed State Questions," Retrieved on August 23, 2010
  3. Oklahoma Secretary of State, "Proposed State Questions"
  4. Oklahoma Secretary of State, "List of State Questions"
  5. Norman Transcript, "Term limits again a ballot choice," August 27, 2010
  6. Tulsa Beacon, "11 state questions may pose problems," September 15, 2010
  7. 7.0 7.1 U.S. term limits,"U.S. Term Limits Praises Oklahoma Legislature & OFRG for Putting Term Limits Expansion on the Ballot," April 20,2009
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 OKGazette.com, "Would State Question 747's term limits for a host of statewide offices weed out bad apples or lessen institutional wisdom?," September 15, 2010
  9. The Oklahoma Daily, "OUR VIEW: State Questions 747 and 752," October 29, 2010
  10. Tulsa Beacon, "Tulsa Beacon voting endorsements for the Nov. 2 Election," October 28, 2010
  11. The Oklahoman, "Our SQ choices," October 17, 2010
  12. The Enid News and Eagle, "Our take on the state questions," October 18, 2010
  13. Tulsa World, "State questions," October 24, 2010
  14. Oklahomans for Responsible Government,"Playing politics with term limits?," May 5,2009
  15. Legal Newsline,"Edmondson opposes term-limits legislation," April 21,2009
  16. News OK,"Language for Oklahoma ballot questioned," May 6,2009
  17. Tulsa World, "Term limit expansion finds hefty support," January 26, 2010
  18. The Tulsa World, "Education funding measure supported, Oklahoma Poll shows," August 5, 2010
  19. Tulsa World, "SQ 744 opposition rises," October 30, 2010
  20. Tulsa World,"Term-limit measures approved by Legislature," March 11,2009