Front Page Forums Government Term limits

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    At each level of government, the constitution should clearly state that 1) each elected and appointed position in government must have a term limit; 2) that elected officials shall not serve consecutive terms; and 3) that no elected or appointed official shall serve more than a cumulative total of 10 years in the same office.

    The reasons for these limits include:

    * Facilitate the peaceful transfer of power; any attempt to stay in office past the term limit would be clearly unconstitutional and the incentive to rig elections is reduced without a direct personal benefit
    * Improve focus on the elected duties without the distraction of a re-election campaign in the final year
    * Deter corruption; the limited term creates frequent opportunities to discover improper conduct
    * Improve accountability; officials elected to a single term have a clear mandate based on their campaign promises and prohibition on consecutive terms provides ample time to evaluate whether they fulfilled those promises or not before they run again

    Note that without consecutive terms, there is not a direct personal benefit to rig an election but there can still be indirect benefits when an elected official engages in a conspiracy to rig the election in favor of a preferred candidate who will then reward the prior elected official. Prohibiting consecutive terms is a tool for the peaceful transfer of power but does not guarantee it. The people must always be vigilant of attempts to subvert the democracy.

    Whenever the same people are involved in running an operation for a long time, there is a concern that some of them might be corrupt because the longer they stay in the position, the more time they have to cover up misdeeds or abuse the position.

    Some examples of the cumulative total: two 5-year terms, two 4-year terms (serving 8 years which is less than the maximum of 10), two or three 3-year terms, five 2-year terms, or ten 1-year terms in a lifetime.

    Executive Branch

    Without a prohibition on consecutive terms, a significant percentage of an executive’s time in office is spent campaigning for re-election. For example, in the Executive Branch of the United States Government, the president’s term limit has been two 4-year terms, and campaigns generally start a year in advance of the election which means a first-term president has a significant re-election distraction for 25% of their time in office. A second problem with consecutive terms is that when an elected president runs for re-election, is at that time the president may have the means, the motive, and the opportunity to “rig” or interfere with the election in some way that would be advantageous to getting re-elected. Even if a president doesn’t act unfairly, the mere possibility that the president did act and it just hasn’t been discovered yet, and the history of political accusations of rigged elections around the world, are enough justify a constraint on this activity in a society that values the peaceful transfer of power. The same situation applies to state governors and mayors.

    Any time served as acting president, for example if the person was the vice president when the elected president died or became incapacitated, should not count towards the cumulative limit (because the office is “acting president” not “elected president”) but does count towards consecutive terms meaning the acting president oversees the next election but cannot be a candidate, but could still run for and get elected twice in the future for non-consecutive terms.

    Legislative Branch

    Elected officials in the Legislative Branch don’t pose the same direct threat to elections that officials in the executive branch do, but the risk of corruption with continuing service is still there.

    Judicial Branch

    Appointed officials in the Judicial Branch don’t pose a direct threat to elections, but should also have term limits to defend against political appointments that last far beyond the majority in the legislature that appointed them. Instead of a lifetime appointment, the term of judges should be limited like the other branches. This is important to ensure that judges are responsive to recent social trends. The term limits also facilitate a career in justice by forcing judges to “re-shuffle” and move to different positions and participate in a different way, for example different levels of the court or different jurisdictions.

    Investigative Branch

    Although the Investigative Branch has a purpose to keep all other branches of government (and the public) honest, the elected official in the Investigative Branch itself has an opportunity to directly interfere with elections by opening sham investigations into political opponents and leaking information or disinformation about them. Therefore the term for elected officials in this branch should be limited.

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