Legislative Term Limitations No. 229
ADA opposes efforts to limit the number of terms which a legislator may serve as a quick-fix solution to a much deeper problem. Term limitations will do nothing to lessen frustrations and will, in more than a few cases, prevent very able people from serving the public.
Supposedly aimed at ensuring that representatives are more "responsive" to the voters, these simplistic initiatives actually deprive citizens of the right to vote freely for the candidate of their choice.
One significant incentive an official has to pay attention to the voters is the prospect of reelection. Take away the specter of electoral defeat and that valuable incentive is eliminated.
Indeed, the people already have the right to limit the terms of elected officials by denying them re-election. As a result, in fact, we already experience significant turnover among legislators:
The turnover that is occurring now is the result of democracy. By contrast, constitutionally mandated term limitations rob the nation and states of valuable expertise, experience, and effective leadership, and deny voters the opportunity to exercise power over the situation. Such proscriptions also discriminate against those who are willing to pursue public service careers without outside income or other careers. Moreover, term limits threaten the gains of minorities, whose electoral successes are fairly recent and only now are yielding the benefits derived from legislative experience and seniority.
Those who are concerned about the responsiveness of our electoral system would better serve their cause by focusing attention on the need for campaign finance reform, increased voter registration and higher voter turnout. Neither increased democracy nor the quality of elected officials will be enhanced by restricting the choices available to the electorate.
We are encouraged by the growing number of states and localities that are repealing term limits and encourage all other states and localities that currently have such laws to follow suit.
# # #
No. 229 Politics and Government Commission