North Dakotans will decide Tuesday whether to endorse changing the state constitution to limit the terms of the governor and state legislators.
The citizen-led initiative would add a new article to the state constitution that limits lawmakers to eight cumulative years each in the state House and Senate. The governor could not be elected more than twice.
Supporters say it would bring in new blood more often and increase voter participation. Opponents say term limits are an attack on the electorate’s right to choose its preferred candidates, and that more frequent turnover would diminish institutional knowledge and shift power to lobbyists, agencies and the governor.
NORTH DAKOTA’S REPUBLICAN LEGISLATIVE MAJORITY LEADERS PREDICT VOTERS TO STRIKE DOWN TERM LIMIT
Many Democratic and Republican lawmakers have spoken out against the measure. Republican Gov. Doug Burgum supports it.
U.S. Term Limits, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that wants to pass term limits on all elected officials and whose Florida-based head has donated to Libertarian presidential candidates, contributed more than $810,000 in the past two years to get the ballot proposal before voters. Opponents of the measure have raised just over $40,000 to combat the proposal, with several contributions coming from Republican lawmakers, campaign finance disclosure records show.
The measure’s sponsoring committee includes several lawmakers linked to the Legislature’s ultraconservative Bastiat Caucus, as well as several new GOP district chairmen. It raised about $45,000 in addition to contributions from the out-of-state group.
ND VOTERS WEIGH STAGNATION AGAINST EXPERTISE IN TERM-LIMIT VOTE THIS NOVEMBER
Brooke Thiel, 35, an agriculture professor at North Dakota State University in Fargo and a self-described independent, voted against the term limits measure. She said most lawmakers spend their first term just trying to figure things out and “once things get clicking” in their second terms she might want to vote for them again.
Meghan Friese, a 25-year-old nurse, voted for term limits as she cast an early ballot in Bismarck. She said longtime incumbents are too difficult to defeat.
“Familiarity keeps them there,” she said.
The changes would take effect Jan. 1, but limits would not be retroactive — meaning the service of current officeholders would not count against them.
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Fifteen states have term limits for legislators and 36 states limit the terms of governors.