Term Limits


#4

TERM LIMITS QUOTES

Assembled by Dennis Polhill (1990 – 2007)

Quotes Directly Related to TERM LIMITS

REF #

QUOTE

AUTHOR

DATE

SOURCE

A7 I am for making of terms annual, and for sending an entire new set every year. John Adams
A8 Where annual elections end, there slavery begins … Humility, patience, and moderation, without which every man in power becomes a ravenous beast of prey. John Adams
A420 Politicians are like diapers: they must be changed often and for the same reason. Paul Harvey
A483 My reason for fixing them in office for a term of years, rather than for life, was that they might have an idea that they were at a certain period to return into the mass of the people and become the governed instead of the governors which might still keep alive that regard to the public good that otherwise they might perhaps be induced by their independence to forget. Thomas Jefferson
A490 No person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six. Thomas Jefferson
A510 The ordinary affairs of a nation offer little difficulty to a person of any experience. Thomas Jefferson
A562 The Governor (President) would serve a five-year term and be ineligible for reelection. Thomas Jefferson 1784 In his model Constitution
A881 The security intended to the general liberty consists in the frequent election and in the rotation of the members of Congress. James Madison & Alexander Hamilton 1782
A886 No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic value or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty than that … the accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. James Madison
A1367 Term limits would cure both senility and seniority– both terrible legislative diseases. Harry S. Truman
A1407 The people must remain ever vigilant against tyrants masquerading as public servants. George Washington
A1439 Term limits would make Congress bolder, more independent, and less risk-averse. George Will
A1440 I am opposed to term limits because if we did not have seasoned professionals, we would not have the good government that we have. George Will [The statement he made that lead him to reverse his opinion]
27 Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on office, a rottenness begins in his conduct. Thomas Jefferson
61 There is a long and honorable tradition of citizens in service to their nation that goes back at least as far as Cincinnatus, the Roman citizen who, more than once answered his country’s call, then returned to his farm and his family and his work. Tom Clancy 1996 Executive Orders Rights.com

1/5/2001

118 The short memories of American voters is what keeps our politicians in office. Will Rogers 1879-1935 Rights.com 11/9/2000
436 A fondness for power is implanted in most men, and it is natural to abuse it when acquired. Alexander Hamilton
437 That the members (of the three branches of government) may be restrained from oppression by feeling and participating in the burdens of the people, they should at fixed periods be reduced to a private station, return into that body from which they were originally taken, and the vacancies be supplied by frequent, certain, and regular elections, in which all or any part of the former members shall be again eligible or ineligible, as the laws shall direct. George Mason
439 If many have their turns to rule, … this will encourage all men to advance Righteousness and that the Commonwealth will hereby be furnished with able and experienced men, fit to govern. Gerrard Winstanley
572 The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted. James Madison 1751-1836 Rights.com
863 The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with the power to endanger the public liberty. John Adams 1772 Rights.com
1160 Those who formerly usurped the name of federalists, which, in fact, they never were, have now openly abandoned it, and are as openly marching by the road of construction, in a direct line to that consolidation which was always their real object.  They, almost to a man, are in possession of one branch of the government, and appear to be very strong in yours.  The three great questions of amendment now before you, will give the measure of their strength, I mean, 1st, the limitation of the term of the Presidential service; 2nd, the placing the choice of President effectually in the hands of the people; 3rd, the giving to Congress the power of internal improvement … Thomas Jefferson Feb. 14, 1824 Letter to Robert J. Garnett
1355 Nothing so strongly impels a man to regard the interest of his constituents, as the certainty of returning to the general mass of the people, from whence he was taken, where he must participate in their burdens. George Mason June 17, 1788 Speech at Virginia Ratifying Convention Founder’s Almanac 2001
1357 I leave to others the sublime delights of riding in the storm, better pleased with sound sleep & a warmer berth below it encircled, with the society of neighbors, friends & fellow laborers of the earth rather than with spies & sycophants … I have no ambition to govern men.  It is a painful and thankless office. Thomas Jefferson Dec. 28, 1796 Letter to John Adams Founder’s Almanac 2001
1358 The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust. James Madison Feb. 19, 1788 Federalist No. 57 Founder’s Almanac 2001
1407 Those gentlemen, who will be elected senators, will fix themselves in the federal town, and become citizens of that town more than of your state. George Mason June 14, 1788 Speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention Founder’s Almanac 2001
1664 Politics and self-interest have been so uniformly connected, that the world, from being so often deceived, has a right to be suspicious of public characters. Thomas Paine Feb. 1791 Rights of Man

p. 210

2071 Government is too big and too important to be left to the politicians. Chester Bowles 1901-1986
2154 Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question. Thomas Jefferson
2202 It is tempting to believe that social evils arise from the activities of evil men and that if only good men (like ourselves, naturally) wielded power, all would be well.  That view requires only emotion and self-praise – easy to come by and satisfying as well.  To understand why it is that ‘good’ men in positions of power will produce evil, while the ordinary man without power but able to engage in voluntary cooperation with his neighbors will produce good, requires analysis and thought, subordinating emotions to the rational. F.A. Hayek 1944 The Road to Serfdom

p. xii  preface by Friedman

2402 Judging is a matter for mature people and the breadth and depth necessary for maturity can better be acquired in the private sector than by a total lifetime on the bench. Judge Malcolm R. Wilkey 1995 Dilger
2528 A (constitutional) amendment (for congressional term limits) could never achieve the blessing of Congress; it could be initiated only by the states. Dwight D. Eisenhower 1965 Dilger
2587 Of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their careers by paying obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants. Alexander Hamilton Dilger

Federalist No. #1

2794 The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite. Thomas Jefferson Rights.com
2893 All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree. James Madison

Federalist Papers

Your Money or your Life by Sheldon Richman, for ward by Walter E Williams
3029 The member (of Congress) who is not making a career of politics looks quite differently at the world. Robert Novak 2003 Breach of Trust

P. XI

3031 Careerism: the self-centered philosophy of governing to win the next election above all else. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. XIX

3034 The career politicians in Washington had transformed a government “for the people” into a government for themselves and for special interests. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. XXI

3037 Careerism in Washington “goes to the heart of what’s wrong in America right now.” Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 10

3040 The voting records of virtually every member of Congress reveal that the oath of office is more a ceremonial gesture than a sacred commitment. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 16

3045 When I came to Washington, I was troubled to observe so many similarities between the behaviors of drug-addicted patients and my political colleagues.  In Washington power is like morphine. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 32

3046 It is easy to see how after receiving this adoration for a term or two most members become convinced they are indispensable. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 33

3049 Career politicians do not have the courage to prioritize spending and say no to demanding special interest groups who do not reflect the best interests of the country. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 45

3050 What makes this mentality dangerous is that when the team is held together by careerism and mindless partisanship, individual members are punished for thinking for themselves. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 79

3056 If the voters really understood what we were up to they’d vote us out of office. Senator Robert Byrd 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 123

3058 People that had the guts to put their loyalty to the Constitution ahead of their loyalty to their political party were citizen legislators. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 139

3059 The founding fathers never once rationalized getting in power and having control so they could stay in power. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 164

3066 Critics may blame self-imposed term limits for encouraging fiscally conscientious Members of Congress to leave, but they fail to give term limits credit for developing that conscience. John Berthoud 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 178

3069 Statesmen exhibit five key commitments:

1)      A commitment to principles above politics;

2)      An ability to compromise without abandoning principle;

3)      A commitment to truth over spin;

4)      A commitment to courage over cowardice; and

5)      A commitment, or willingness, to give up power.

Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 188

3078 Few things infuse a member of Congress with more courage than self-imposed term limits or an imminent retirement.  The issues they choose to focus on in their final months say a great deal about what are really the most important issues in the country. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 208

3079 I would like to believe I would not have behaved differently had I not made a term limits pledge, but my own frailties and human desire for prestige and position tell me my term limits pledge did make a difference in how I approached my job in Congress. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 209

3080 “I’ve become a huge fan of term limits,” the former aide said, “because Armey and the others in leadership used to be just like you and your crew in their approach to spending.  They have changed over the years.” Former Dick Armey aide 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 208, quote from Mark Sanford’s book, The Trust Committed to Me

3081 “Of course, it’s easy for Coburn to rebel.  His six-year, self-imposed term limit ends in 2000, so there are no threats leadership can make to dissuade him.” Roll Call 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 209

3082 “Term limits set him free.  Having kept his word on term limits, Coburn also is more inclined than House careerists to make Congress keep its word.” Debra Sanders 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 209

3083 Coburn has little to fear in challenging the leaders because he came to Congress promising to stay no more than three terms, and his time is almost up. Washington Post 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 209

3086 The longer a politician bears power, the more he is controlled by that power. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 213

3089 The traits in career politicians the public detests most are produced when ego triumphs over principle. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 215

3090 We can achieve much greater representation through term-limited members. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 218

3092 I often found it ironic that many of my colleagues from the Class of 1994 who were accused of being partisan ideologues were far more willing to work with members from the other side of the aisle than some career politicians. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 221

3094 I still believe that term limits is the best way to ensure that the next generation, not the next election, is the central concern in our elected bodies. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 247

3095 Those who have once been intoxicated with power … can never willingly abandon it. Edmund Burke 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 253

3266 Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived. Thomas Paine 1776 Future of Freedom Foundation 11/5/04

Common Sense

3343 Power is sweet; it is a drug, the desire for which increases with a habit. Bertrand Russell 1872-1970 Rights.com, 1951

Saturday Review

3416 After a time, civil servants tend to become no longer servants and no longer civil. Winston Churchill
3819 Those who have been intoxicated with power  … can never willingly abandon it. Edmund Burke Rights.com
3843 We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. Aesop Future of Freedom Foundation, Sept. 18, 2005
3920 It’s time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers.  James Madison said, ‘We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.’ This idea that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power, is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man.  This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves. Ronald Reagan Oct. 27, 1964 Rights.com
4197 I still spit on authority today, the people who have the power and everyone trying to get it. Professional politicians are the biggest bunch of lazy f**ks in the world. We ought to forbid politicians from being professionals. Politics is a way of life, and if you make your living from it you don’t know anything about life anymore. This country is being run by politicians who don’t understand anything about life. They control more and more people, and it’s disgusting. Roger Daltrey of ‘The Who’ in ‘Le nouvel Observateur’ July 12, 1994 Right.com
4443 The short memories of American voters, is what keeps our politicians in office. Will Rogers Rights.com
4489 Government is too big and too important to be left to the politicians. Chester Bowles
4565 Republicans believe in certain things and Democrats in certain other things. But once in office, they both believe in one thing above all else: incumbency! Paul Jacobs “Common Sense”
4871 No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent. Abraham Lincoln 1854 Rights.com
4956 I apprehend… that the total abandonment of the principle of rotation in the offices of President and Senator will end in abuse. Thomas Jefferson 1788 Future of Freedom Foundation, Sept. 28, 2007  Letter to Edward Rutledge
5025 They wanted me to be a Washington. Napoleon Washington’s Christmas Farewell
5163 I know politicians well enough to be more than just skeptical.  They are ALL a bunch of lying SOB’s if you ask me… if they’re not when they start, it doesn’t take them long to become one. Dave Pearson Jan 4 2008
5326 There is a danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty. John Adams, Spring 1772 Future of Freedom Foundation, March 24, 2008 Notes for an Oration at Braintree
5353 Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself.  Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him?  Let history answer this question. Thomas Jefferson 1801 Rights.com

Investor’s Business Daily, November 25, 1998

UWSA, February, 1995

The Bigger Issue Within The Term Limits Issue

By Dennis Polhill

The Republican majority in Congress has a serious problem: term limits. Perhaps they didn’t really expect to gain majority control with their promises and “Contract With America.” Now they have to deliver, and their pain is exhibited by the schizophrenic conduct of that collective body. By the time you read this, all four proposed constitutional amendments on term limits will have died on March 28 for lack of the necessary 290 votes. What to do?

The process of “incremental amendment” to the U.S. Constitution evolved when the 17th and 19th amendments (popular election of Senators and women’s suffrage) were adopted. Incremental amendment was the product of several converging Populist era reforms: primary elections, secret ballots, and the initiative and referendum (I & R) process. Congress always blocks amendments it doesn’t like, usually when Congress has an inherent conflict of interest and the people are acting to limit abuse of power. Current examples are term limits, balanced budget, line item veto, unfunded mandates, devolution of responsibilities to the states. Count on the national referendum idea receiving similar contemptuous treatment.

To force Congress to act against its natural self-interest, pressure must build to eventually be unbearable. With incremental amendment, this occurs in a four stage process: first by citizen initiated action in I & R states (currently there are 24 and term limits has passed in 22). Stage two is action in non-I & R states (this year New Hampshire will become the first non-I & R state to pass term limits. On March 7, their Senate passed it unanimously after being purged over term limits in the 1994 election). Stage three is when Congress refers a constitutional amendment to the states for ratification. Stage four is when the states ratify the measure already passed by the people. By the time a dozen non-I & R states pass term limits the pressure on Congress will be sufficient to motivate action. The tactics of muddling the debate over scope is merely a stalling tactic. Who among us is shocked that the least restrictive version of term limits is the most popular in Congress? It’s a lot like having a first grader set his own bedtime.

Two important points can be concluded from this background:1 — The I & R process is very important. It should be protected and preserved in all I & R states. It should be adopted in all non-I & R states. The new UWSA issue of a national referendum is an appropriate and worthy goal. Actions by Congress or the Supreme Court to undermine states rights must be opposed.2 — It is premature for Congress to act on a constitutional amendment on term limits. Only the Sanford-Deal statute (which can be passed by the Republican majority) advances term limits by endorsing the rights of the states to impose term limits and simultaneously providing protection (of both term limits and I & R) against an adverse Supreme Court ruling in June.

If the Republican majority in Congress chooses to pass the Sanford-Deal bill, the term limit movement will consider them to have honored their campaign promise. Please urge your Congressperson to vote for the Sanford-Deal bill (H.R. 1104). For more information about term limits or to become active in the term limits issue, contact Dennis Polhill.

Policy Analysis no. 547

by Patrick Basham and Dennis Polhill

American representative government suffers from the handicap of a largely uncompetitive political system. American politics has fewer and fewer competitive elections. In arguing that political competition matters a great deal, this paper traces the increasing trend toward uncompetitiveness and details the role and nature of incumbency advantage in fostering an uncompetitive political system.

Current redistricting practices and campaign finance regulations, in tandem with publicly financed careerism, have significantly negative consequences for the health of the political system. This study analyzes several of the major instruments of campaign finance regulation, such as contribution limits, public financing, and the ban on soft money, in terms of their relationship to political competition. Simply put, campaign finance regulation and public financing have not improved political competition.

In the past, campaign finance restrictions and taxpayer-subsidized elections have generated unintended consequences. The most recent regulatory round is no exception to that rule. This study also looks at other reforms, namely, term limits and improvements to the redistricting process, in light of their comparatively successful record regarding political competition.

Changes in the manner in which districts are designed, campaigns are funded, and politicians are tenured require immediate implementation. In short, elected officials should be disconnected from campaign and election rule making and regulation. There will not be an improvement in political competition until the incumbent fox ends his tenure as guardian of the democratic henhouse.

Full Text of Policy Analysis no. 547 (PDF)

© 2005 The Cato Institute

Opinion Editorial

By Dennis Polhill

The Founders wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “whenever any form of government becomes destructive, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it.” Since 1990 Americans have sought to “alter” an out-of-control government by imposing new limits: term limits.

Other limits proposed include tax and expenditure limits, balanced budget limits, campaign finance limits and others. Forty-one state Constitutions prohibit omnibus bills. Omnibus bills, also called “Christmas Tree” bills, are those that append unrelated provisions (read: payoffs) in order to attract enough votes to pass. They offer a little something for everyone, but end up authorizing things that lack merit — bad public policy. Omnibus bills make virtually everyone worse off, except politicians. Acknowledging this flaw, the original Confederate constitution, with comparatively few departures from the U.S. Constitution, prohibited omnibus bills. If omnibus prohibition or term limits or other ideas are worthy, by what mechanism are they to be achieved? “Alter” infers a means for achieving alteration, short of revolution or creating an entirely new document.

A written constitution defines the structure of government and specifies the limits under which it may operate, partially in the form of enumerated individual rights. That is, we the people delegate limited powers to be governed by. Laws are conformity agreements between all citizens negotiated by representatives. Constitution limits government. Statutes are the rules for the people.

Thus, legitimacy is ascertained by who a Constitutions owner is; irrespective of the quality contained within, who controls the amendment process? If a government controls the amendment process, then the government owns the document, not the sovereign people. This problem is evident in fledgling democracies all over the world. They draft Constitutions, copying provisions of others, but rarely come to grips with the notion that the people are sovereign, not the state.

Article V of the U.S. Constitution addresses the amendment process. Three-quarters of the states must agree to ratify a proposed amendment. The control question hinges on drafting proposed amendments. Most familiar is drafting proposed amendments in Congress, because all 27 amendments originated via this path. Congress can effectively draft the proposal when there is a national consensus and no conflict of interest. However, limits on Congressional power, such as term limits, are conflicts of interest. Like a first-grader setting his own bedtime, Congress is paralyzed.

Aware of the problem, the Founders included a second path for drafting proposals: “two-thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments.” Since 1787 there have been about 400 applications from 49 states, including Colorado. Congress has neglected to define the rules that would either convene or govern a convention. After all, Congress would lose power if a convention occurred. Constitutional scholars are divided over interpreting the 400 convention applications and it is likely that someone will file suit to clarify the situation. Is it proper that Congress may frustrate efforts to set Congressional limits merely because Congress has neglected to set the rules? Should dereliction of duty be rewarded by empowerment?

Interestingly, the widely supported proposals for new limits originate from the left, the right and the center, suggesting a very broad and growing awareness of the need for new Congressional limits.

Some defend Congressman Tancredos betrayal of his word with “unilateral disarmament.” Meaning: with seniority Colorado will more effectively rip off other states using the corrupt omnibus system. For Colorado to win, other states must lose. This reasoning was rejected overwhelmingly in 1990 when Colorado became the first and only state to impose term limits on its Congressional delegation. Sixteen other states agreed in 1992. Colorado reaffirmed statewide support for Congressional term limits in 1994, 1996, and 1998.

Now the politicians hope that interest in term limits has faded. The statewide 65:35 vote against lifting District Attorney term limits proves otherwise. A Rocky Mountain News poll in mid-October discovered 62% support for term limits, virtually the same level as the 1990s. Support for term limits will not fade merely because politicians declare it so, or because they deceptively delete part of the Colorado Constitution under a false ballot title, or because they fail to exercise leadership and are unresponsive or lack accountability.

Did voters send Tom Strickland a term limits message when he appeared on the ballot as the only one of five U.S. Senate candidates who did not support term limits? Pundits and pollsters have thus far failed to offer an explanation for Allards surprise victory.

Arrogant politicians should be cautious in their contempt for term limits. How likely is it that Americas political establishment can continue to succeed in denying the peoples will? We, the people, patiently, but eagerly, await political leaders who will provide the kind of government we wish. The longer they dawdle, the more this is a measure of power and control without merit, and an indication of the need for possible further limitations to be placed on the politicians.

###
Copyright 2002, Independence Institute

INDEPENDENCE INSTITUTE is a non-profit, non-partisan Colorado think tank. It is governed by a statewide board of trustees and holds a 501(c)(3) tax exemption from the IRS. Its public policy research focuses on economic growth, education reform, local government effectiveness, and Constitutional rights.

JON CALDARA is President of the Institute.

DENNIS POLHILL is a SENIOR FELLOW with the Independence Institute.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES on this subject can be found at: www.i2i.org

NOTHING WRITTEN here is to be construed as necessarily representing the views of the Independence Institute or as an attempt to influence any election or legislative action.

PERMISSION TO REPRINT this paper in whole or in part is hereby granted provided full credit is given to the Independence Institute.

Denver Post, October 10, 2002

Decision 2002: Referendum D Yes: Get Rid of Outdated Laws

By Jerry Kopel Almost everyone agrees: Get rid of dead and obsolete laws. For the past 14 years, I’ve taken on the Herculean task of cleaning out the Colorado stables.

And I’ve been successful in spearheading the removal of many dead and obsolete statutes and constitutional sections.

This year, Referendum D, sponsored by Sen. Dave Owen and Rep. Tambor Williams, both Republicans, removes 12 obsolete constitutional sections. No one minds removing 11 of the 12 sections. David Ottke and Dennis Polhill of the Colorado Term Limits Coalition object to repealing their 1996 term-limits amendment.

Their amendment required federal and state legislators to vote exactly as they were told to place a term-limit amendment in the U.S. Constitution.

Raise your hand when you’re not supposed to, or be in the restroom when a vote is taken, and you would be branded on the ballot as having “disregarded voter instruction on term limits.”

“No way,” wrote the Colorado Supreme Court, seven to zip. “No way” wrote the. U.S. Supreme Court, nine to zip on the same boilerplate language from Missouri. Both ruled the language violated Article 5 dea1ing with amending the U.S. Constitution. Freedom to debate and voting your conscience are essential in a republic, wrote the courts. The coalition doesn’t deny the court decisions. They argue “we wuz robbed” when the legislature voted on Referendum D.

They explain, “The term-limit repeal wasn’t in the bill title,” but they fail to mention that none of the 12 repealed sections appear in the title. The legislative drafting office drafts the title. They concentrate on the word “obsolete” and tie it to constitutional articles where the sections appear.

After the bill title, a one-page bill summary describes the repealed sections. In this case, “A congressional term limit amendment held unconstitutional by the Colorado Supreme Court in 1998.” Some legislators don’t read bills. Almost everyone reads a one-page bill summary. Probably everyone read this bill summary except the Colorado Term Limits Coalition. The legislature voted 100 to zip for Referendum D.

The coalition complains, “It was introduced near the end of the session.” The constitution only allows the legislature to amend six articles every two years. Dumping obsolete sections had to wait until 16 substantive amendment bills were decided. Then Referendum D was introduced.

The coalition claims, “It wasn’t discussed in committee,” How would they know? They weren’t there. I testified in the House and Senate committees and discussed the term-limit repeal. All legislators there voted for Referendum D.

The coalition whines, “Why pick on us and not other unconstitutional amendments?” We repeal six pages, of which the term-limit language is one and a half.

The coalition argues, “Some court in the future might rule in our favor.” Well, the word “obsolete” has legal meaning: “That which is no’ longer used, disused, neglected, not observed.” The term-limit amendment fits each of those definitions.

The coalition claims, “The proposal eliminates the will of the people (on term limits).” Repeal of every constitutional amendment since 1876 does that, whether it’s refusing persons who engage in duels to be legislators, or ending civil service bonus points to Spanish-American War veterans.

Jerry Kopel is a retired state representative. He lives in Denver.

NO: Term limits not obsolete

By Dennis Polhill

Politicians eagerly assert that term limits are obsolete. They aren’t. The zeal of these tricksters illustrates bias and underscores the merits of term limits.

Haven’t the people said repeatedly (1990, 1994 1998 and 1998 in Colorado and in 23 other states) that they want term limits for politicians — especially Congress? Subversive and dishonest Referendum D seeks to delete the people’s directive that elected officials implement congressional term limits. Both the ballot title and the Blue Book are controlled by legislators and add to the deception by failing to properly inform voters.

When the U.S. rejected monarchy, we embraced the idea that we the people, are sovereign. Doesn’t this mean that government is created by and for the people? Neither politicians nor courts are superior. Those who view things differently undermine the foundation of self-government.

The term-limits issue is neither left nor right; it is the people versus the rulers. Americans intuitively grasp the inconsistency of lifelong officeholders. Though politicians don’t get it, the people do. We reject both monarchy and near-monarchy.

Polls show overwhelming support for term limits. The movement wanes only in that the political establishment is neither responsive nor accountable.

Citizens of 26 states are denied the right to petition their governments. Just as the move for women’s suffrage motivated the expansion of initiatives and referendums, the clamor for term limits is likely to do the same. The notion that the political establishment can frustrate the people’s will in a free and open society is absurd and cannot be allowed to prevail.

The contempt politicians hold for term limits influences their judgment of “obsolete provisions.” Obsolete items should be deleted. The list waiting a turn for deletion raises priority questions. Why the rush to delete a comparatively new law initiated by grueling statewide citizen petition drive in 1996? Their urgency to delete suggests that term limits are NOT obsolete after all. There is NO harm in retaining obsolete items; however, deleting non-obsolete items causes substantial harm. The cautious and informed vote on D is ”NO!”

The tricksters’ desperate and hostile actions provide compelling evidence of the effectiveness and importance of term limits for positive political change. For what other reason would politicians object so strongly?

Politicians control the ballot. If term limits have waned and men deletion, why not an honest ballot title saying “Delete Term Limits?” Why not use the Blue Book as a means of presenting pro and can arguments to help inform voters? Their success depends upon trickery. Voters would never agree, if told the truth.

Just like the unfaithful spouse, once the General Assembly has lowered itself to the use of misleading tactics, can we never trust them again? Must we the people forever doubt their integrity and sincerity? The Colorado General Assembly has proven itself cowardly and dishonest.

The deception and dishonesty of D demands that even those few people who still doubt the benefits of term limits must vote “NO.” Don’t allow Halloween trickster to play games.

More information about term limits is available at www.coloradotermlimits.org or 303-278-3636.

Don’t be duped by a deceptive title. Vote NO on D.

Dennis Polhill is co-chairman of the Colorado Term Limits Coalition.

Opinion Editorial

By Dennis Polhill

Professional politicians hate term limits. Their actions in 2002 reveal how much.

Voters know that term limits are most needed for the U.S. Congress. Colorado’s 1990 term limits initiative spawned nationwide clamor, because it included Congressional Term Limits. By 1994 twenty-three states, all but New Hampshire by citizen initiative, had term-limited their state’s Congressional delegation. In 1995 the U.S. Supreme Court said that Congressional Term Limits required a U.S. Constitutional Amendment. Also in 1995, the Republican controlled Congress proved by its hypocritical and manipulative handling of their “Contract with America” that Republican politicians are no more supportive of term limits than Democrat politicians and that politicians of all flavors must be forced if the will of the people was to be implemented. This is the genesis of Colorado’s “Congressional Term Limits Amendment” approved 1996.

Knowing that politicians would resist, the CTLA instructed all elected officials to do all in their power to achieve Congressional Term Limits, stated the exact language of the U.S. Constitutional Amendment, and implemented a means to inform voters about the actions of their elected officials. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled that elected officials could not be held accountable by this mechanism. The United States Supreme Court also ruled the enforcement mechanism to be unconstitutional in a case from another state.

The Colorado Supreme Court may have declared CTLA as a whole to be unconstitutional, but the statements it contains that term limits are the will of the people, can neither be overruled nor should they be ignored or deleted.
Yet not a single Colorado state or federal legislator has made any effort to follow CTLA’ s term limit instructions. Their refusal-to-act displays a high level of arrogance and contempt toward their constituents.

State legislator term limits swept out dozens of lifelong politicians in 1998 replacing hundreds of years of myopic Capitol dome experience with hundreds of years of experience of many kinds from the outside world. Legislation is no worse than before and occasional glimmers of innovative policy leadership fuel hope. But politicians are still politicians and though many of the newcomers might not have had the opportunity to serve for decades, they exhibit no more loyalty for term limits than their careerist predecessors. That politicians should stay in office forever is sheer dictatorial reasoning. Such reasoning is blatantly undemocratic and has been long-settled by the pro-term limits votes of 1990, 1994, 1996, and 1998.

In the 2002 legislative session, legislators decided that the CTLA was an “Obsolete Provision.” This will appear on the November ballot as Referred Measure “D.” During the last week of the session it cleared both Houses unanimously in a week. Duped legislators have expressed remorse for having been deceived. Had there been opportunity for public testimony, two-thirds votes would have been unlikely. The House Sponsor had to be convinced that deletion of CTLA was included in obsolete provisions and initially promised to take aggressive actions to stop it.

Generally the deletion of obsolete provisions is reserved for truly obsolete items; things that have fulfilled their purpose. When the Denver Post commented about Measure “D,” they wrote about items that had been obsolete since 1902, but failed to mention the 1996 initiative. If there is any question about obsolescence, then that information should be made known to the public. To do otherwise is deception. An honest title would be “Deletion of Congressional Term Limits.”

Supposedly there is a long list of obsolete items waiting to be deleted. If this is true then, why is a 1996 initiative at the top of the list? There must be a hidden agenda.

The Blue Book’s (voter information guide) reputation of objectivity is in jeopardy. Staff refused to allow any information to go to voters about the CTLA. Complaints are adjudicated by a committee of legislators; is there a little conflict of interest in this process?

The misguided attempt to delete the CTLA exposes the need for numerous legislative reforms: deceptive titles should be banned; limits should be installed on the last weeks of the legislative session; who controls legislature output deserves a look, since legislators evidently do not; Blue Book information that goes to voters is suspect; a mandatory mechanism of insuring testimony from informed parties is needed. Obfuscations aid those who wish to manipulate election outcomes, but injure the search for truth.

###
Copyright 2002, Independence Institute

INDEPENDENCE INSTITUTE is a non-profit, non-partisan Colorado think tank. It is governed by a statewide board of trustees and holds a 501(c)(3) tax exemption from the IRS. Its public policy research focuses on economic growth, education reform, local government effectiveness, and Constitutional rights.

JON CALDARA is President of the Institute.

DENNIS POLHILL is a Senior Fellow with the Independence Institute .

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES on this subject can be found at: www.i2i.org

NOTHING WRITTEN here is to be construed as necessarily representing the views of the Independence Institute or as an attempt to influence any election or legislative action.

PERMISSION TO REPRINT this paper in whole or in part is hereby granted provided full credit is given to the Independence Institute.

A Citizen’s Guide to Redistricting Abuses

By Dennis Polhill

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Representative democracy is a system of government whereby citizens rule the government through chosen representatives. In the U.S. representatives increasingly choose those they will represent, as elections tend to be predetermined by gerrymandering.

Originally the states decided their system of representation. At-large representation and single member districts have been the most common. Mixed representation systems and multi-member districts have been used. Only single-member equal population districts have existed since implementation of the 1962 Baker v. Carr U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The “one person, one vote” reasoning corrected outrageous population disparities among districts.

The U.S. House of Representatives with 65 members in 1788 grew to 435 members in 1910 and has stayed at 435. The U.S. Constitution requires that these be “apportioned” among the states based on population following the census. Congress must pass an apportionment statute each decade defining its number of members and the method of apportioning them among the states. Twelve U.S. House seats moved from one state to another to adjust for population changes after the 1990 census and again after the 2000 census.

The début of opposing political parties introduced the motivation for gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is named for the 1812 Governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry, who “packed” political opponents to yield more representatives for his party. By “packing” and/or “diluting” the opposition, the gerrymander exaggerates the influence of his ideological allies.

Proof that gerrymandering is active is overwhelming and indisputable. The surprise is how openly and with such great pride gerrymanders tout their work. The redistricting done in 2001 and 2002 will predetermine most election outcomes in the U.S. (particularly at the state and federal levels) for the next decade or more.

The Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s was the impetus for finally achieving equal population districts. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 required the creation of majority-minority districts. This has resulted in a greater number of minority elected officials. But evidence is surfacing that the ability of minorities to influence policy may be diminished by pro-minority gerrymandering.

The U.S. has always had a two party system; but it has not always been “closed” to third party challenges. Third parties regularly challenged the two parties with new ideas and occasionally displaced one of them. The advent of ballot access restrictions, beginning in 1888 has insured that the two parties cannot now be similarly challenged. This leads to an unhealthy complacency, stagnation of ideas, and lack of accountability for both parties and does injury to American democracy.

Turnover, as measured by the number of freshmen members, in the U.S. House has been as high as 74% in 1842, but has declined steadily to the current level of less than 10%. Subtracting turnover due to death, health, scandal, and indictment, leaves only 1% to 2% turnover due to election defeats. The U.S. Congress has become an aristocracy. Nearly 80% of U.S. House races nationwide are won with an overwhelming landslide (a victory margin in excess of 20%).

At the state level the problem is equally bad. Of the roughly 6000 state legislative seats elected every two years nationwide about 40% are so “safe” that one of the two parties declines to offer an alternative candidate. Profound insight and wisdom are not required to accurately predict the vast majority of state and federal election outcomes.

The trend to more gerrymandering should be no surprise. Lacking counterbalancing reforms, the introduction of powerful computers, extensive demographic databases and computer mapping tools, the gerrymander is executing his task with increasing skill and precision. More clear-cut abuses are forcing the courts to be more actively involved to moderate gerrymandering extremism. The barrage of post-1992 lawsuits will be eclipsed this election cycle.

The courts should not be the source for political leadership and reform. Judicial activism diminishes both the stature of the judiciary as well as the other branches of government. However, most political leaders acquiesce to their obvious conflict of interest. Perhaps the most viable path to cure gerrymandering abuses and to reform the redistricting process is via the exercise by citizen-statesmen’s of the initiative petition process in the states.

Redistricting can be improved by removing control from politicians and using rigid objective redistricting criteria, such as equal population, continuity and compactness.

INTRODUCTION

“It used to be the voters chose the politicians,” said Rep. Tom Davis. “Now the politicians choose the voters.”[1] Technology has introduced a new era. One thing proven by the 2000 presidential election in Florida is that things will never be the same. Systems that worked adequately in the pre-technology era are ineffective for the new world. Those reluctant to embrace new technology are doomed to be manipulated by it. With respect to how we elect representatives we are already there.

The introduction of every new technology brings with it the opportunity to use it for good or ill. Thus far computing abilities, married with Geographic Information Systems and Census Bureau DIME files and TIGER files have been a boon to the gerrymander. It is time to rethink the relevance of districts and the decision-criteria for creating redistricts so the powers of these new technologies can be used to improve rather than injure self-government.

SELF GOVERNMENT
Democracy – Democracy is a form of government in which a substantial proportion of the citizenry directly or indirectly participates in ruling the state.[2] Under indirect democracy citizens elect officials to represent them. The word democracy is derived from the Greek words demos (“the people”) and kratia (“rule”). All citizens, rich and poor, participated equally in the Athenian direct democracy. However, only 10% of the people qualified as citizens; the remainder were minors, women, slaves, and foreigners. The Greek democracies eventually fell to imperial rule.

Rome developed representative democracy for a time with popular assemblies called “comitia,” in which the citizens met to elect officials and make laws. The comitia lost their power first to the aristocratic Roman Senate[3] and ultimately to emperors. Interest in democratic institutions was overshadowed by the need for security during the Dark Ages, yielding to rigid systems of feudalistic and monarchical government. Democratic ideas did not reappear on a significant scale until the 17th century. Over the centuries, councils of knights, church clergy and feudal lords advised their kings. At first council was mandated by the king; later they claimed advisory powers to their kings; and eventually they asserted themselves as representative bodies. The Baronial Council with its genesis from Magna Carta in 1215 eventually evolved over hundreds of years into the British Parliament.

The modern understanding of democracy is that citizens are sufficiently free in speech and assembly to form competing political parties and voters are able to choose among them in regularly held elections. All modern democracies outside of Europe and North America are products of the 20th century. Although most governments now call themselves democratic, many unaccountable political leaders dictate: “in the name of the people.”

Representation – Representation, in politics, is the type of democracy by which one person stands or acts on behalf of a larger number of individuals in formulating the policies and operations of a government.[4] Direct democracy is awkward and impractical. As people become more democratically enlightened, more peaceful and government functions become more devolved, opportunities for greater citizen participation will increase. Forms of democracy that exercise representation, indirect democracies, are called Republics. Republics that are too far removed or otherwise fail to represent the interests of their constituents may not work well. The inadequacy of colonial representation in the British parliament was a contributing factor to the American Revolution.

The notion of representation is complicated by two diametrically opposite views of the representative’s duty. The Thomas Hobbes view is that representatives are empowered by their election; unlimited in their subsequent authority to act. On the other hand, the Jean Jacques Rousseau view is that representatives must articulate the views of constituents; limited by the people’s will. Is representation defined by initial authorization or by final accountability? In the real world elected officials display a mix of both philosophies. The extent to which a given personality gravitates more to one extreme is reflected in their actions. Generally citizens are content to yield great latitude to their elected officials. When persistent excess is evident, citizens set new limits, such as the taxpayer revolts of the 1980’s and 1990’s that resulted in tax and spending limitations in many states and took the nation as near to a Federal constitutional convention as did woman’s suffrage and direct election of U.S. Senators.

Another controversy relates to when the representative should decide against the wishes of his constituents because of superior knowledge, enlightened perspective or refined judgment. A large number of elected officials are as content to dictate when they know little, as when they know much. Politicians and political institutions are not only reluctant to change; they are resistant it. The thought of them reforming themselves is a fantasy. They do not exercise leadership to invent mechanisms of improved governance. There is not a single issue that at least a few citizen-constituents could not add to the knowledge of their representatives. Yet, systems to incorporate citizen-knowledge into policy lag. Is there no will to improve governance?

Effective Representation – All forms of democracy give a voice to the majority. The challenge is how to effectively provide a reasonable voice to every minority. Fundamental individual rights are enumerated in and are protected by the Constitution. Ensuring that minority voices are considered during policy making is another matter. Majorities sometimes impose unfair burdens upon a minority. This problem is most grievous when the state involves itself in policies of redistribution and of rewarding the worthy through a modern pork-barrel spoil system. To consider the extent and implications of spoils upon representation, the role of constitutional protections to individuals, the ultimate minority in any society, or the proper role and size of government in society is outside the scope of this analysis.

Monolithic Constituencies – Constituencies are not monolithic. People are different and view issues differently. People who agree on one issue do not necessarily agree when the issue changes. The two political parties preserve control by perpetuating the myth that people view issues monolithically: “If you don’t agree with me on this, then you must agree with them on everything.” The form precludes that you might actually think and have unique perspectives that permit you rationally to possess a variable set of ideas, change your mind, or even oppose both party-lines. As society grows more complex, issues become increasingly multidimensional and less bipolar. When there are many perspectives, the number of minority views increases dramatically. Because the number of issues is very large and the different ways people see them is also large, the number of minority views is nearly infinite.

HISTORY OF U.S. REPRESENTATION
The Evolution of Districts – Four states did not have Congressional Districts in 1788 when the first Congress was elected. All members of the U.S. House from these states were elected at-large from their respective state. At-large means, everyone votes for each Congressional seat. If a sharply dividing issue defined the election of Pennsylvania’s eight Representatives, all eight seats might be captured by the 51% side. This effectively leaves 49% of the population without representation.

Single Member Districts – A step in the direction of curing the problem of minority representation was to create smaller geographic districts. Though it is not specified in the Constitution, the Founders intended that states would create districts. Geographic districts do not necessarily insure minority representation. All of Pennsylvania’s seats could be won by the 51% if they were uniformly distributed over the entire geography or if district boundaries were artfully gerrymandered to capture or exclude pockets of voters. Without gerrymandering the randomness of concentrated pockets of minority voting interest would allow large minority interests to achieve a majority in some geographic districts. The first Federal mandate of single-member districts came in the Apportionment Act of 1842.[5]

Creating districts was a prerogative of the respective state. Conformity and consistency among the states evolved slowly. By the time of the 1790 election, ten of fifteen states had created geographic districts (two states had a single representative and three states elected representatives at-large). County boundaries were sacrosanct; the notions of equal-population, continuity, and compactness had not yet been conceived.

At-Large Districts – The trend from at-large elections was slow. At least one state elected all of its representatives at-large through the election of 1862. In the 53 elections between 1864 and 1968 one or more states elected all of its representatives at-large in 36 (68%) elections. No state with multiple representatives has elected representatives at-large since 1968. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s resulted in a barrage of court rulings and Federal legislation that changed districting forever, mandating single-member districts and equal population on the grounds of “one person, one vote.”[6] Hawaii was the last state to use an at-large Congressional election in 1968; New Mexico used it in 1966. Redistricting difficulties produced concerns that Oklahoma would be forced to return to at-large elections in 2002.[7]

Mixed Representation – Sometimes states chose to have both a number of geographic Congressional Districts as well as other representatives elected at-large. In 1862 Illinois became the first state to mix geographic and at-large representation with thirteen geographic Congressional Districts and one seat at-large. Nine other states mixed representation after the 1870 census.[8] Indifference to equal population allowed redistricting to be bypassed. Because there was no Congressional reapportionment after the 1920 census, only four of 48 states did any Congressional redistricting prior to the 1922 election. When additional Congressional seats were apportioned to a state, the need to redistrict was sometimes postponed or skipped altogether by electing the additional seat(s) at-large. The number of at-large seats nationwide regularly spiked up in the election following the census reapportionment year and diminished in subsequent elections as redistricting was achieved. Had Utah prevailed in 2002 to capture a North Carolina’s seat, the additional seat could have been an at-large seat.[9] Similar problems arose after the 1990 census when a Federal court stuck down Florida’s 3rd Congressional District as excessively racially gerrymandered. As a quick fix one suggestion was to revert to the pre-census districts and to make the additionally apportioned four congressional seats at-large statewide.[10]

Internal At-Large Districts – Another approach used was internal at-large districts, sometimes called multi-member or plurality districts. A state with several representatives designated an area as a single district with a number of seats. This was first done in 1792. Massachusetts divided its fourteen seats into three Congressional Districts; two with four and one with two representatives; one representative was at-large statewide. Maine was part of Massachusetts in 1792 and was treated as a single district with three internal at-large representatives.[11] Massachusetts went to fourteen single-member Congressional Districts in 1794. In 1796 Pennsylvania made eleven single-member districts and one two-member district. After the 1800 census Pennsylvania was apportioned eighteen representatives, redistricted into eleven districts: seven were single-member; one was two-member; and three were three-member districts. Maryland also placed two of its nine representative in a two-member district. New York experimented with six two-member districts after the 1810 census. After 1830 the practice declined and it ceased after 1840.

Apportionment – Apportionment is the process whereby the members of the U.S. House are allocated among the states. “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states … according to their numbers.”[12] The number of Representatives and the method of apportionment are not specified. Thus, there is an Appropriation Law approved by Congress in association with each census. It specifies the number of Representatives, the method of apportioning them among the states and the number each state shall receive. The size of the U.S. House changed regularly until reaching 435 members in 1910. The size of the House increased to 437 members when Alaska and Hawaii became states in 1958 but returned to 435 after the next census. Congress must choose from five known methods to apportion its members among the states. The Huntingdon Method has been used since 1950.[13] It first assigns one seat to each state and then distributes the remaining 385 seats. Although there has not been great controversy over this step, there is some. Utah contended in 2002 in a Supreme Court challenge that Congress erred in apportioning to the states and that Utah should have received a 4th seat that was mistakenly assigned to North Carolina.[14] The court ruled against Utah.

THE EXPERIMENT IN SELF GOVERNMENT

Republican Form – The Founders determined to “guarantee to every State a Republican Form of Government.[15]” This meant first that no state could have a monarchy; and secondly, of the many types of democracy conceivable, one that employed some form of elective representation was required. The specific design of a state’s “republican form” would be addressed outside of the U.S. Constitution. How many state representatives would there be; how would the representatives be chosen; how many branches and houses would there be; what qualifications might be there be for office; what would be the degree of and means of accountability; how would authority be granted or limited; what would be the state’s scope of responsibility; how much staff support would there be; what would be their compensation; what would be their privileges of office, and so on?

Initial Representation – Representation in the U.S. House shall be recalculated every ten years after the census beginning in 1790.[16] With no census data in 1787, the Founders agreed to 65 Representatives for the First Congress apportioned among the states as follows in Table 1.
Table 1

U.S. REPRESENTATIVES PRIOR TO THE FIRST CENSUS

STATE NUMBER OF REPRESENTATIVES

New Hampshire

3

Massachusetts

8

Rhode Island

1

Connecticut

5

New York

6

New Jersey

4

Pennsylvania

8

Delaware

1

Maryland

6

Virginia

10

North Carolina

5

South Carolina

5

Georgia

3

TOTAL

65

Apportionment Ratio – The U.S. House would now have over 9500 members, if the ratio of one Representative to each 30,000 of population were still used. But the Constitution says, “at least 30,000,”[17] which gives Congress the authority to adjust its number of members. Fear of loss of influence because of heavy immigration and rural to urban migration motivated rural interests to stall the 1920 apportionment legislation for nearly a decade. Table 2[18] is a History of Apportionment of the U.S. House seats to each state after every census. Table 3[19] shows the History of Apportionment in terms of the Changes. Twelve U.S. House seats changed states after the 2000 census. The number of seats that change after each census will slow as each district grows to represent greater population. With growth geographic population density disparities will moderate, making the threshold for moving Congressional Districts among the states increasingly difficult to achieve. Table 4 shows Apportionment of House seats assuming Uniform Population Density across the entire U.S. Although uniform population density is not likely to occur, this table provides a glimpse of future possibilities. For example, it is very unlikely that Colorado would ever grow to exceed thirteen Representatives; and if this happens, it will not occur for many decades.


Table 2

CONGRESSIONAL APPORTIONMENT HISTORY

Table 3

CONGRESSIONAL APPORTIONMENT CHANGES

Table 4
CONGRESSIONAL APPORTIONMENT

UNIFORM POPULATION DENSITY

Genesis of Parties – Aware of the difficulties they caused in British government, the Founders opposed political parties and naively anticipated that there would be none in the U.S. Evidence of their error soon surfaced in the form of increasing friction between the members of George Washington’s superstar cabinet. Believing that Washington too frequently sided with Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson resigned his post as the nation’s first Secretary of State in December 1793.[20]

The friction did not end there. Alarmed at Washington’s choice of John Adams to be his successor, Jefferson opposed Adams for the presidency in 1796 and 1800. The election of 1800 is called the “Revolution of 1800,”[21] referring to the first peaceful transfer of power between ideological opponents. Adams left in the night before Inauguration to avoid meeting Jefferson. Both the military and the judiciary had become heavily populated with Federalists. During the eighteen months that the Alien and Sedition Acts were in force 25 writers, publishers and printers were prosecuted[22] and ten were imprisoned for making statements against the government. They were freed and their fines returned in 1801. In his first inaugural address on March 4, 1801, Jefferson called for less partisanship. “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all republicans; we are all federalists.”[23]

Text Box:   Elections are Destabilizing – The tension of the two-party doctrine identifies popular sovereignty with choice, and then limits choice to one party or the other.   Defenders of the closed-two-party system argue that it provides stability.  If stability is the critical measure, then their logic would weigh equally in favor of a monarch, a dictator, an aristocracy, or a one-party system. Such alternatives are absurd and fundamentally undemocratic.  Democracy is a relative term.  More citizen-control is generally better than less.  Democratically mature societies are more capable of keeping the stress of political conflict within a rational perspective.  No American was willing to harm himself or others over whether Gore or Bush became president.  The same maturity has yet to develop in younger democracies.  Who should decide how much democracy is right?  Believers in self-government owe gratitude to John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, defeated-Federalists, for their actions during the GERRYMANDERING

Text Box: Figure 1. Gerrymandered district as published in the Boston Gazette, March 26, 1812. Origin – As quickly as the U.S. decided to have Congressional Districts, the controversy about how to create them began. The reality of two competing parties was alive. The Democratic-Republicans (Jeffersonians) advocated the polar-opposite perspective to the Federalists (Hamiltonians). Elbridge Gerry, Democratic-Republican, signer of the Declaration of Independence, delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention, and fifth Vice President of the U.S. was Governor of Massachusetts. The Democratic-Republicans controlled the Massachusetts legislature and “packed”[24] known pockets of Federalist voters into a state senate district. This left a long meandering narrow Democratic-Republican district surrounding the Federalist district. Gerry disliked the district, but refused to veto it. The Federalist press likened the shape to a salamander and initiated the term “gerrymander.” [25]

How Gerrymandering Works – Consider a hypothetical state with ten districts. The Blue Party accounts for 41% of voters; the Yellow Party has 59%. If the Blue Party controls redistricting, it can maximize the number of Blue representatives by concentrate eight districts with 51% Blue voters. On the other hand, if the Yellow Party controls redistricting, the number of Yellow representatives can be exaggerated by “packing” the Blues into a few districts. This might yield four safe Blue and six safe Yellow districts. The Yellows may also “dilute” Blue representation by creating ten districts, each with 41% Blue population. At-large districts would yield ten seats for the Yellows.
TABLE 5[26]
GERRYMANDERING SENSITIVITY ANALYSIS

Blue Population per District

Population Representatives

Scenario

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Blue %

Yellow %

Blue Seats

Yellow Seats

Blue-Control

51%

51%

51%

51%

51%

51%

51%

51%

0

%

0

%

41%

59

%

8

2

Yellow-Control

Blues Packed

100% 100% 100% 100% 10%

0

%

0

%

0

%

0

%

0

%

41%

59

%

4

6

Yellow-Control

Blues Diluted

41%

41% 41% 41% 41% 41% 41% 41% 41% 41% 41%

59

%

0

10

The potential effect of gerrymandering is not trivial. Blue’s 41% of the population might yield anywhere from zero to eight representatives out of ten. As long as gerrymandering is permitted, control of redistricting will have more influence on election outcomes than any other factor, including voters.

Gerrymanders also ply their talents locally. That is, the gerrymander can insure that Sally Smith ends up with a district friendly or unfriendly to her election. “Representative Peter Deutsch (D-Florida) chaired the Congressional redistricting committee in 1992, when he drew himself a House seat.”[27] It appears that Florida’s redistricting committee chairman in 2001, state Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, will also soon become a Congressman.[28] In North Carolina, “the chairman of the state redistricting committee is running for a new congressional seat that he himself mapped out.”[29] In 45 states redistricting is the domain of the state legislature.[30] The conflict of interest is brutally obvious when legislators are allowed to determine their own districts. To the extent that political parties cooperate and compromise with each other, the process degenerated into a conspiracy against competitive elections, undermining the notions of representation and accountability. At least 80% of the 80 state house seats in California will be “safe” as a byproduct of redistricting: 38 “safe” Democratic and 27 “safe” Republican.[31]

Gerrymandering Sensitivity – The example illustrated in Table 5 shows the possibilities when 41% of the voters favor the Blues. Figure 2 shows the effect of Blue-Controlled redistricting versus Yellow-Controlled redistricting as the percent of voters loyal to Blues varies. This illustration reveals that control over the redistricting process can result in a swing in representation of about five out of ten seats (50%).

Figure 2. The effect of redistricting control on the number of seats elected.

In the real world the gerrymander’s mission is complicated by additional variables: about one-third of voters are not affiliated to either party; about half of affiliated voters are not loyal to their party; 1% does not provide sufficient margin of risk protection for fixing elections; voter loyalties are not clearly identifiable or conveniently concentrated. That said, the concept holds true and gerrymandering at the beginning of the 21st century is as serious a problem as it has ever been in American history and he who control redistricting has an enormous advantage.

Redistricting Rules – Redistricting was a state-right. Federal Apportionment Statutes did not attempt to impose gerrymandering uniformity rules until 1842. That law required contiguous single-member districts. The contiguity requirement was the first Federal effort to reign in gerrymandering. No longer could a state use disconnected pieces to make up districts. The 1872 Act added the requirement: “nearly equal population.”[32] “Nearly equal” is not the same as “equal” and morphed into a subjective term. In 1901 the word “compact” appeared for the first time as a districting criteria. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was one of many reforms during the Civil Rights Movement. It prohibits practices that “dilute the effectiveness of votes cast by racial and ethnic minorities” and prevents practices “designed to make it difficult for racial minorities to elect candidates of their choice.”[33] Redistricting has evolved from state-control to Congressional-control to court-control.

Malapportionment – Malapportionment is the process of creating districts with unequal populations. Although Federal law required equal population districts beginning in 1872, districts did not become equal in population until the Baker v. Carr[34] Supreme Court ruling of 1962. The logic of “proportionate share of political influence”[35] easily evolved to “one person, one vote,” when contrasted with outrageous population disparities. Tennessee had not redrawn its state legislative districts in over 50 years. Population migration from rural to urban setting resulted in over-representation of rural areas and under-representation of urban areas: de facto pro-rural/anti-urban gerrymandering. Baker v. Carr applied to Congressional and state legislative districts, but more importantly the court intervened, asserting jurisdiction as a “political concern.” Baker v. Carr distinguished, “the defense of political rights from imprudent intervention into political disputes.”[36] In 1946 the court had refused to consider, on the grounds that redistricting was a political concern outside the court’s jurisdiction, the Colegrove v. Green[37] case in which neighboring Illinois Congressional districts had population disparities of 8:1. In the summer of 1964, 130 resolutions and bills were introduced to restore Congressional jurisdiction over redistricting.[38] None passed. Remarkably similar to the Pope’s effort to invalidate the Magna Carta in 1216,[39] the actions of Congress illustrate that political institutions are incapable of reforming themselves and resist reform with every fiber of their might. The Baker v. Carr ruling was expanded by a flurry of court cases. The Reynolds v. Sims[40] case was against the Alabama practice used since 1901 whereby one-quarter of the population could elect a majority of state senators and representatives. Population variation between state house districts was as high as 41:1.[41] Chief Justice Warren wrote, “The weight of a citizen’s vote cannot be made to depend on where he lives. Legislators are elected by voters, not farms or cities or economic interests … The right to vote freely for the candidate of one’s choice is of the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government. And the right of suffrage can be denied by a debasement or dilution of the weight of a citizen’s vote just as effectively as by wholly prohibiting the free exercise of the franchise.”[42] Wesberry v. Sanders[43] reconciled a Georgia Congressional District population disparity of 3:1. Kirkpatrick v. Preisler tightened “nearly equal” to “no population variance is excusable without compelling evidence.”[44] In 2002 a Pennsylvania Court invalidated a Congressional redistricting plan supposedly because of a population disparity of 3/1000th of one percent.[45] Population equality, like continuity, has evolved to be a rigid objective redistricting criteria.

VOTING RIGHTS

Color-Blind Society – In a truly color-blind society blacks and whites would be unaffected by race. All would consider the character, intellect, leadership and creativity of individual candidates and both blacks and whites would vote indiscriminately for candidates irrespective of race. In office the color-blind legislator would also advance color-blind policies. The same would hold for every race, nationality, religion, and ethnic group: Hispanics, Asian, Native American, Arab, Jew, Muslim, or Buddhist. This color-blind legislator would apply the same neutral values in formatting policy regarding other oppressed minorities; the disabled, obese, short, blind, baled, insomniac and asthmatic. The potential list of minorities is inexhaustible. Every conceivable trait of an individual personality might also be defined as an oppressed minority. Every possible combination of traits is another minority, each a potential victim of oppression. Even the context for traditional racial, religious and ethnic minorities is clouded as more families become inter-racial, inter-religious and inter-ethnic. Tiger Woods’ deflected focus from his ethnicity by labeling himself: Cablinasian (Caucasian, Black, Indian, and Asian). When America someday achieves this color-blind ideal, elected bodies will more closely approximate the demographic profile of the population. Congress will have more minorities, more women, more teachers and more engineers; and fewer attorneys and professional politicians.

America’s obsession with black racism is fueled by a history inconsistent with the Founding principles and the simple fact that the black minority is large (12% of U.S. population). How smaller minorities are handled will reveal how much has been learned from the sad and embarrassing plight of blacks. Are we truly as enlightened and compassionate as we convince ourselves we are?

Bad History – By the end of the Civil War, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1868, stated that no law shall deny any citizen—determined now by birth or naturalization—the privileges of U.S. citizenship. This meant that the right to vote would not be denied or abridged to any male of 21 years of age. The 15th Amendment followed two years later, in an attempt to override state laws that directly prevented black suffrage. It stated that the right to vote would not be denied or abridged on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Laws disenfranchising blacks arose instituting poll taxes, literacy tests, vouchers of “good character” and disqualification for “crimes of moral turpitude.” These measures were successful at removing nearly all black legislators from state posts, and barring black voters from significant involvement for decades.[46] Figure 3 illustrates the disfranchisement of black voters following reconstruction that led to the elimination of black southern legislators by 1900, and the re-enfranchisement of black citizens after 1960.

 

Section 5 – Section 5 of the VRA lists sixteen states guilty of discriminatory redistricting practices. These states are required to submit redistricting plans for approval by the U.S. Justice Department. After the 1990 Census, North Carolina created a reapportionment plan with one of twelve Congressional Districts being a “majority-minority” district. Majority-minority means the majority of voters in that district are of a racial minority. But the Justice Department rejected the plan under the VRA stating that because 20% of North Carolina’s population was black, that North Carolina must have two majority-minority districts. This was the genesis of the infamous NC-12th Congressional District (Figure 5). It snaked along Interstate 85, occasionally ballooning out to capture pockets of black residents and, at times, remaining contiguous only at a single point. The district’s bizarre shape was challenged in Shaw v. Reno.[51] It was remanded by the U.S. Supreme Court to federal district court for review under strict scrutiny. The lower court upheld the shape, but the district was challenged again in 1996 in Shaw v. Hunt and the Supreme Court ruled against the shape.

Limits – The Shaw cases set an important historic voting rights precedent. It is possible to go too far in creating majority-minority districts. Voting rights observers eagerly await each successive court ruling for clearer direction as to how much racial gerrymandering is proper. A standard for compactness appears to be lacking, but a plausible means of reconciling apparently conflicting redistricting criteria has yet to be devised.

Black Representation – The VRA has resulted in greater numbers of black-majority districts and more black state legislators and U.S. Representatives. But whether these numbers have helped or hurt black representation is a different question. The VRA assumes that people vote racially. Gradual achievement of the color-blind ideal will reveal the impropriety of the assumption. “Is it better for political minorities to wield a modest amount of influence in many districts or substantial influence in only a few?” is the question posed by Columbia University political scientists in their work, “Do Majority-Minority Districts Maximize Substantive Black Representation in Congress?”[52] The professors found that dilution of minority influence in surrounding areas leads to an overall decrease in support for minority-sponsored legislation. Using regression they empirically determined that “Outside the South, substantive minority representation is best served by distributing black voters equally among all districts. In the South, the key is to maximize the number of districts with slightly less than a majority of black voters. We note that black candidates have a healthy chance of winning election outside majority-black districts and that the 65% rule enforced by the court is almost certainly too stringent; it dilutes rather than increases overall minority voting strength. Overall, maximizing the number of minority representatives does not, necessarily maximize minority representation.”[53] Another researcher interviewed all black members of the U.S. House in 1990 and concluded, “black representatives can win election outside majority-black districts by emphasizing issues important to their broad constituency and white representatives will advance some of the issues important to their black voters. A majority-minority districting strategy has only limited possibilities and multiracial districts offer the greatest avenue of advancing minority political interest.”[54] Craig Washington, black U.S. Representative from Texas in 1993, said, “If you have four districts in a state like Alabama, for example, with a sufficiently large black population to neutralize Republicans on some issues, and if you can create one black district by gathering up all the blacks, and in the process you lose the leverage that you had in the three other districts, then that’s foolish to me. Every time the one person votes for the things that the black community is for, the other three will probably vote against them.”[55] “Voices from within and without the civil rights community have begun to doubt the efficacy of majority-minority districts.”[56]

THE TYRANNY OF TWO PARTYS
Contentment or Control – The U.S. has always had two dominant parties. Two major parties had far more support than other parties. The “winner-take-all electoral system ensures that we will have only two major parties.”[57] A major distinction between the 19th and 20th centuries is the movement to a closed-two-party system. The National Republican Party displaced the Federalist Party in 1820; the Whig Party replaced the National Republican Party and in 1854 the Republican Party replaced the Whigs.[58] Competition surfaced for the last time in the 1890’s when the Populist Party captured numerous Governor and Congressional seats. There has been no serious challenge to the two current major parties in over a century. Is this because of contentment or because two-party control?

Ballot Access – “The Democrats and Republicans, who control ballot access procedures, would have us believe that no major third party has emerged because the voters see no need for one. … voter apathy, low turnout and the decline in major party affiliation would seem to indicate otherwise.”[59] The parties have insulated themselves from competition with difficult and restrictive ballot access laws. There were no ballot access laws before 1888.[60] In 1924 a new party could reach the ballot in every state with 50,000 signatures, or 0.15% of voters.[61] A party can achieve the same thing in Russia now with about the same (0.15%) percentage. However, in the U.S in addition to the complexity of different requirements and deadlines in every state, the qualification requirement is estimated to have grown to over 3.5 million signatures,[62] about 3.5%, over 20 times more restrictive. The two parties do not impose similar restrictions upon themselves. “America’s ballot-access laws are so stringent, and third parties are repressed to such a degree, that the U.S. is probably in violation of the Copenhagen Meeting Document, an international agreement the U.S. signed in 1990.”[63] It states, “… respect the right of individuals and groups to establish, in full freedom, their own political organizations and provide such political parties and organizations with the necessary legal guarantees to enable them to compete with each other on the basis of equal treatment before the law and the authorities.” Billionaire, Ross Perot, spend hundreds of millions to overcome ballot access barriers, to mobilize disaffected voters, and to form the Reform Party. In 1992 he received 20 million votes, but no electoral votes. His staggering effort produced only minor shockwaves to the intransigent status quo.

Need for Competition – Closing off competition from third parties also closes off the two parties to new ideas, injuring them, the election process and the formation of viable and relevant public policies. The two parties need the threat of being displaced in order to be open to issues and ideas important to the people. Isolation from competition leads to electoral and policy stagnation. A USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll found that “46% of Americans want to take on the two-party system”[64]
Voter Turnout – Observers lament the persistent decline in voter participation. “According to Census Bureau figures, almost 80% of the eligible population went to the polls from 1875 to 1892.”[65] Voter turnout is now less than 50%. Gridlock and low voter turnout are “signs of a two-party system that is not operating properly.”[66] The right of voters to abstain is as inherent as the voting right itself. Voter turnout critics see problems with the individuals who chose to not vote, but fail to recognize the deeper message sent by their refusal to vote. Efforts to make voting easier such as mail-in-ballots and early voting are good, but fail to address the serious problem that elections no longer matter.
Elections are Destabilizing – The two-party doctrine identifies popular sovereignty with choice, and then limits choice to one party or the other.[67] Defenders of the closed-two-party system argue that it provides stability. If stability were the critical measure, then their logic would weigh equally in favor of monarchy, dictatorship, aristocracy, or a one-party system. Such alternative forms are absurd and fundamentally undemocratic. Democracy is a relative term. More citizen-control is generally better than less. Democratically mature societies are more capable of keeping the stress of political conflict within a rational perspective. No American was willing to harm others or himself over the Gore or Bush vote-counting debacle. The same maturity is developing in younger democracies. Who should decide how much democracy is the right amount?

Believers in self-government owe gratitude to John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, defeated-Federalists, for their actions during the “Revolution of 1800.” This was the first example of peaceful transfer of political power between ideological opponents and teaches an invaluable lesson to other democracies and to subsequent generations. The U.S. might have gone down the path of violent civil conflict. But instead, the U.S. showed the world that elections are civilized tools for reconciling conflicts wisely.

Elections do fuel the same passions as violent conflicts. Election losers find no contentment in defeat. Therefore, every player who courageously congratulates his victor reinforces the legacy of Adams and advances the goals of civilized self-government for all people. Americans now share over 200 years of similar experiences. It seems trite, disingenuous and self-serving of those who suggest that more competitive elections would destabilize American society.

THE STAKES

How Big? – As long as government is doles pork to its friends, the two parties must compete to determine the friends. This “modern spoil system” is the rationale for special interest campaign contributions as “investments.” Contributors are rewarded for investment. Some donors cover their odds by investing with both political parties. Privilege is financed at the expense of wise and fair public policy. Similar incentives were far less extreme in 1902 when all government combined consumed only 5.4%[68] of the nation’s wealth. The pork incentives worked and by 2002 combined outlays for federal, state and local governments consumed 32.1%[69] of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Over the last 100 years the U.S. economy has grown by 90 times; government has grown 5.9 times faster than the economy, to be 535 times bigger. Another source estimates consumption of the nation’s wealth at 43% and Nobel Prize Economist, Milton Friedman believes that 43% is low.[70] As government pork distribution grows, so do special interest campaign contributions. It would be unnatural indeed if enlarged rewards were not sought more aggressively with more funding. Counterbalancing systems that resist growth of the spoil system are inadequate.

Public Choice Theory – Every special privilege government grant does injury to every citizen. Though each tyranny is ever so small the net effect is not small and equates to a torturous death by a thousand cuts. Dr. James Buchanan earned the 1986 Nobel Prize in Economics for the development of “public choice theory.” The theory asserts that the behavior of political actors is predictable on economic grounds. That is, special interests succeed most when benefits are concentrated and costs are distributed widely. Public choice theory is proven by the disparity in testimony. In Colorado, “chances are 96% that a witness is a beneficiary”[71] of the bill. Before the U.S. Congress, a witness favors more spending over 99% of the time.[72]

Resistance is Futile – The cards are stacked such that even the fiscally restrained legislator is overwhelmed. In fact their willingness to resist diminishes with tenure. The spending that Federal legislators support increase by 8.5 times[73] after only 6 years of Federal service. It does not take long for them to learn that they can use the spoil-system to buy votes and media exposure with taxpayers’ dollars, a benefit of office that no challenger can match.

WHEN ELECTIONS ARE NOT ELECTIONS
Election – The word election comes from the Latin electus meaning “to pick out” or “choose”. The dictionary defines election as: 1) The act or process of electing; The act or process of choosing a person for office, position, or membership by voting; An instance of the electorate’s exercising its function. 2) The fact or status of being elected.[74] All of these infer choice, competition, risk of losing and more. The data show that American elections no longer offer these elements. Lacking these features, Americans are fooled into believing that their votes matter.

Incumbent Protection Systems – Much has been written about the special advantages elected officials (especially Congresspersons) confer upon themselves to make challenges difficult. An abbreviated list of incumbent protection systems follows:

  • Pork to the home district. This type of pork takes the form of a museum, highway, disaster relief, etc. The impact on election competition is enormous.
  • Access to Media. They appear at every event, parade, disaster and catastrophe and are quoted. They orchestrate media coverage at will by releasing the results of a study, announcing a grant, calling for an investigation, or simply issuing a media advisory.
  • Name recognition. Over the span of election cycles, by repetitious drumbeat a name is conditioned into the psyche of voters.
  • Pork to special interests. Special interests reward a favorable voting record at election time with money and votes. Even a marginal voting record is preferred over an unknown challenger.
  • Closed Two-Party System. It insures that no third party or independent can mount a serious challenge.
  • “Safe” Districts. The two parties work together to minimize their respective election risk. It is better for the minor party to have a level of certainty regarding their base number of legislative seats.
  • Expensepaid District trips. Taxpayer-paid trips started in 1962 with three trips and increased gradually to become unlimited after 1977.[75]
  • Franking. This is a privilege that incumbent Congresspersons enjoy, whereby they send free mail to inform constituents. The average “frank” (from the Latin francus meaning free) allowance in 1995 was estimated at $109,000.[76] The frank rivals the average total funding a challenger is able to raise for the entire campaign.
  • Fundraising ability. U.S. House incumbents outspend challengers by five to one[77] and typically retain more in reserve for the next election than a challenger is likely to raise.
  • Constituent Services. Constituent service means bigger Congressional staffs. A single support person amounts to a taxpayer-paid re-election advocate. Before 1893 there were no personal staffs in the U.S. House. These grew to exceed 12,000[78] people in 1994. More constituent service safely secures more votes for the next election and leaves less time for the sticky business of legislating difficult policy issues. Less involvement in policy work also yields less exposure to voter accountability.

Imperial Congress – Table 6, U.S. House Turnover History, shows that Congress has become an aristocracy. The ratio of Representatives seeking reelection has increased
and their rate of reelection has also increased. Voters are increasingly obliged to return them to office hoping that they will recover pork due for taxes yielded. For most of history it was common for the number of freshmen in the U.S. House to exceed 50%. In 1842 the U.S. House had 74% freshmen. Total turnover in the second half of the 20th century has declined steadily to be less than 10%. The number of freshmen is an aggregate of all turnover factors. In addition to the occasional election loss, retirement, death, indictment, scandal and health are some of the other factors that elevate turnover numbers. As a matter of fact, losing an election is one of the smaller risk factors. “Many Congressmen feel that they’ve been elected for life. If they can control redistricting, stay alive and out of jail, they know that 99 times out of 100 they can have the job for as long as they want it,” said former representative James Coyne of Pennsylvania.[79]

Table 6 TURNOVER HISTORY IN US CONGRESS
Election year Prior # of memebers # who ran for re-elect # re-elected % of whole house who returned # members in this session # freshmen freshmen % of whole
1890 325 260 179 54.1 325 146 44.9
1892 325 264 208 62.6 356 148 41.6
1894 356 270 180 50.6 356 176 49.4
1896 356 288 210 58.8 356 146 41.0
1898 356 302 250 70.0 356 106 29.8
1900 356 303 268 75.1 356 88 24.7
1902 356 297 257 72.0 386 129 33.4
1904 386 338 303 78.5 386 83 21.5
1906 386 335 291 75.4 386 95 24.6
1908 386 354 310 79.3 386 76 19.7
1910 386 338 266 68.0 386 120 31.1
1912 386 341 280 64.4 435 155 35.6
1914 435 374 299 68.7 435 136 31.3
1916 435 400 351 80.7 435 84 19.3
1918 435 389 329 75.6 435 106 24.4
1920 435 385 314 72.2 435 121 27.8
1922 435 384 304 69.9 435 131 30.1
1924 435 401 357 82.1 435 78 17.9
1926 435 405 376 86.4 435 59 13.6
1928 435 404 364 83.7 435 71 16.3
1930 435 407 350 80.5 435 85 19.5
1932 435 392 271 62.3 435 164 37.7
1934 435 388 325 74.7 435 110 25.3
1936 435 388 340 78.2 435 95 21.8
1938 435 402 318 73.1 435 117 26.9
1940 435 407 361 83.0 435 74 17.0
1942 435 395 328 75.4 435 107 24.6
1944 435 405 357 82.1 435 78 17.9
1946 435 398 328 75.4 435 107 24.6
1948 435 400 317 72.9 435 118 27.1
1950 435 400 362 84.2 435 73 16.8
1952 435 389 354 84.4 435 81 18.6
1954 435 407 379 87.1 435 56 12.9
1956 435 411 389 89.4 435 46 10.6
1958 435 396 356 81.8 435 79 18.2
1960 435 405 375 86.2 435 60 13.8
1962 435 402 368 84.6 435 67 15.4
1964 435 397 344 79.1 435 91 20.9
1966 435 411 362 83.2 435 73 16.8
1968 435 409 396 91.0 435 39 9.0
1970 435 401 379 87.1 435 56 12.9
1972 435 390 365 83.9 435 70 16.1
1974 435 391 343 78.9 435 92 21.1
1976 435 384 368 84.6 435 67 15.4
1978 435 382 358 82.3 435 77 17.7
1980 435 398 361 83.0 435 74 17.0
1982 435 393 354 81.4 435 81 18.6
1984 435 409 390 90.1 435 45 10.3
1986 435 393 385 88.5 435 50 11.5
1988 435 409 402 92.4 435 33 7.6
1990 435 407 391 89.9 435 44 10.1
1992 435 368 325 74.7 435 110 25.3
1994 435 387 349 80.2 435 86 19.8
1996 435 384 361 83 435 74 17
1998 435 403 395 90.8 435 40 9.2
2000 435 401 392 90.1 435 43 9.9

Figure 4 shows turnover graphically. An aristocracy would have no turnover because of election defeats. Turnover in the British House of Lords, appointed for life, is virtually identical to turnover in the U.S. House. Thirty or forty fresh faces in a body of 435 and out of a population of 285 million people are hardly noticeable.

Figure 4. Freshmen in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Full Federal Picture – Of the 435 seats in the U.S. House after the 1990 census, experts estimated that redistricting yielded about 100 competitive[80] seats nationwide. This means, of course, that 335 (or 77%) were not competitive. They were “safe” seats. These estimates are reinforced by the Landslide Index computed by the Center for Voting and Democracy. CVD defines landslide as a winning margin of 20%. In 2000 landslides occurred in 337 U.S. House races (77.5%).[81] Experts predict even more “safe” seats after the 2000 census redistricting is completed. “Amy Walter, the House analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, predicted that 50 seats will be contested by the parties in 2002.”[82] Mark Gersh, Democratic Party redistricting guru, predicted “50 to 55 competitive seats.”[83] Of the 105 seats from California, Texas and Illinois, no more than four or five races in those three states combined[84] are expected to be competitive. A mildly informed political observer should be able to accurately predict the outcome of 90% to 95% of the 2002 U.S. House races.

2002 Redistricting Manipulations – “The two major parties have once again carved up the United States into bizarre little fiefdoms.”[85] “Many of the new maps were created with the help of computer programs that allow parties to design, with pinpoint accuracy, advantageous districts.”[86] Professor Michael McDonald, a University of Illinois redistricting expert calls the Illinois map “probably the most egregious case of incumbent-protection gerrymandering in the history of the United States.”[87]

The notion of fairness and objectivity evades the redistricting process. The general shift of twelve seats (both after reapportionment in 1990[88] and again in 2000) from predominantly Democratic Party north and eastern states to predominantly Republican Party south and western states might predictably have strengthened the Republican Party in the U.S. House. After the 1990 census with a majority of 100 seats it was not so important to Democrats, but after 2000 the Republicans had a six-seat majority. Democratic Party strategists determined to negate this Republican advantage after 2000 through state redistricting. The Democratic National Committee budgeted $13 million to “minimize expected GOP gains”[89] by influence on state redistricting. Greg Speed, spokesman for the Democratic Party said, “Redistricting has been an incredible success so far for Democrats.”[90]

In West Virginia, the lone Republican Congressman will unexpectedly retain her seat because “two veteran Democrats declined to remake their own districts substantially.”[91] “Members (of Congress) are all concerned about making their districts better, even if they have good districts, said Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.”[92] When Brown threatened to run for governor against Republican Robert Taft, if he was not granted a “safe” seat, Taft made it clear that Brown’s Congressional seat was to remain “safe.”[93] In New York, “the goal is … to give as many legislators as possible seats so safe that nothing short of a murder indictment could pry them out of power.”[94] In Pennsylvania an incumbent Congressman opened a media campaign on behalf of his preferred district.[95] A typical tactic of the gerrymander is to place two incumbents of the same party in the same district. The longest serving U.S. House member from Michigan was expected to have a primary contest for the first time since 1964 because he was placed in the same district with another Democrat incumbent.[96] In Florida an incumbent Congressman hired a lobbyist to insure that he received his preferred district.[97] Congressmen in New York also hired lobbyists to help form a favorable district.[98] In effect politicians are choosing the constituencies they wish to represent. The realization that such events occur proves that politicians manipulate the redistricting process and that gerrymandering is as much a malignancy today as ever.

“If elected officials were half as imaginative at solving the problems voters care about as they are in perpetuating themselves in office, government would have a much better reputation and voters would be much less cynical.”[99]

Friction – It is only natural that the two parties have friction over redistricting, especially when gerrymandering is allowed. Friction is better than the alternative. Like children at play, tranquility should be the greatest concern. Less friction implies agreement and cooperation between political opponents, which ought to trouble all people interested in fair and competitive elections. Agreement between the parties to carve out “safe” seats is not an alternative to friction; it is a conspiracy against democracy.

Relief in the Courts – It is not the role of the courts to provide leadership for political reform when leadership is otherwise lacking. “In five states (Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, New Jersey and Washington), Congressional redistricting is done by an independent commission. In remaining 45 states, redistricting is addressed by the legislature and the governors. When both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office are not controlled by the same party, an agreement often cannot be reached, and the redistricting map is then drawn by a court. … the political affiliation of the judges involved often makes a big difference.”[100] The naïve view is that the courts are objective, apolitical and above the political fray. Yet, in 2002 it appears that courts agree with redistricting when done by members of the same political party, and conversely: they change redistricting when the process was controlled by the opposite party. In Pennsylvania a Republican-created plan was overturned by a Democratic-controlled court.[101] In Michigan a Republican-created plan was upheld by a Republican-controlled court. And in Colorado a Democratic-created plan was upheld by a Democratic-controlled court. Redistricting problems invite the courts to enter the political realm and to exercise political will. Yielding to this temptation diminishes the stature of the court and compromises the court as fair arbiter for determining the rules of the political contest. Wise courts are well advised to stay clear of politics and to insist that redistricting be achieved with the utmost fairness and objectivity.

The Problem in the States – The problem of politicians creating “safe” seats for themselves is not limited to the U.S. House. Table 7 is a state-by-state itemization of the last five election cycles. “Safe” seats typically find a token opponent. But some seats are so safe that it is futile for anyone to bother. Of the roughly 6000 state legislative races nationwide elected in 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, and 2000 one of the two major parties failed to field a candidate in 32.8%, 35.8%, 32.7%, 41.1%, and 40.6% respectively of those races. State-by-state detail data is presented in Table 7. In 1988 and 1990, 36.6% and 35.9% respectively of state legislative races were uncontested. [102]

In 1992 over half of the state legislative seats were uncontested in nine states, with Arkansas being the highest at 75.6%. In 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000 the number of states with over 50% uncontested state legislative races was twelve, six, fifteen, and eleven respectively.

In a North Carolina court case, plaintiffs submitted deposition testimony of John N. Davis, Executive Director of NCFREE, a nonpartisan organization, that has forecast North Carolina state election results since 1992. In 2000 Davis correctly predicted the outcome in 193 of 200 elections (96.5%).[103] Davis asserted that the number of competitive state senate seats had dropped from fourteen in 1992 to six in 2001 out of 50; and the number of competitive state house seats had dropped from 32 in 1992 to fourteen

in 2001 out of 120 seats. These percentages are strikingly similar to those for the U.S. House and are probably very similarly in most states. Defining a landslide win as 55:45, most Colorado state legislators win by landslides; specifically 83%, 80%, and 80% in 1994, 1996, and 1998 respectively.[104]

MODERN GERRYMANDERING

It is more comforting to believe that gerrymandering is a thing of the past, a political abuse long since corrected. But gerrymandering is alive and more severe than ever. In the early 1960’s, political scientists aware of computer capabilities forecasted an end to gerrymandering.[105] Columbia University Professor William Vickrey noted, “Whenever the drawing up of the boundaries is left even slightly to the discretion of an interested body, considerable latitude is left for the exercise of art.”[106] It was thought that technology would rescue society from partisan bickering avoiding unneeded criticism, court challenges, pressures and delays. The process would evolve to one of intellectual purity based on mathematically unique solutions.

Figure 5. 1812 gerrymander (left) and New York’s 12th Congressional District in 1992 (right)[107]

Figure 5 tells us that gerrymandering is as aggressive now as ever and that technology has made things worse, not better. The 1992 New York 12th Congressional District rivals the infamous 1812 Massachusetts gerrymander. The introduction of greater technological capabilities, coupled with the experience of 180 years has yielded the most sever gerrymandering of history. But New York is not alone. Other states display equal

Figure 7. Illinois’ 4th Congressional District in 1992[109]

excess with their 1992 districts. North Carolina is famous for creative work with the 1st and 12th Congressional Districts in 1992 (Figure 6). Not as well known, but easily as extreme was the job done with the Illinois 4th Congressional District in the same year (Figure 7). Figure 8 shows three Texas Congressional Districts (30th, 18th, and 29th) as gerrymandered in 1992 and in 1996 as less-gerrymandered subsequent to court actions.

the need for action. “New software has made it easier to draw more reliable electoral maps—i.e., to be more exact in your partisanship.”[114] New technology “has turned gerrymandering—sorry, redistricting—from an art into a science.”[115] “This time around, faster and cheaper computers have allowed more people with an interest in the outcome – such as House incumbents – to use that software for their own benefit.”[116]

REFORM SUGGESTIONS

PART I

The history of redistricting is essentially a story about correcting abuse by moving in the direction of harder-to-abuse, objective criteria. Subjective criteria, because they are judgment-dependent, will always be the victim of manipulation. Redistricting that is favorable to one group is equally injurious to others. Recognition of this reality is the basis for the current dilemma unveiled in recent court rulings against some VRA districts. Voting rights observers eagerly await successive ruling for guidance. The Court seems equally frustrated at the lack of more objectivity.

The foregoing discussion proves that the U.S. has severe election problems. Defining the problem correctly is half of the solution to the problem. The political realm seems so intransigent and so resistant to change that it might intentionally misdefining the problem in order to avoid the remedy. As James Madison said, “the truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.” Beginning with Madison’s view leaves room for the occasional refreshing surprise of enlightened proactive political leadership.

The Broader Perspective – To focus strictly on redistricting cures, presupposes important questions. These are not mutually exclusive, meaning that any one or all can be implemented independently. None precludes the other. Any combination is viable. In addition to redistricting reforms, a hard look should be given to:

  • End the modern pork-barrel spoil-system.
  • Devolve government service.
  • Reduce the cost of government services.
  • Consider alternative representation systems.
  • Do no harm.
  • Reconsider ballot access restrictions.
  • Enlarge citizen participation systems.

Pork-barrel spoil-system – Voters are rational. The vast majority live without constant concern over personal injury, that political zealots might cause them. The freedom to focus on things relevant to their lives is positive. Political systems requiring less direct citizen-supervision would be viewed by most as an improvement.

Issues of true national concern are not particularly contentious. The two parties regularly form a unified front on national security, foreign policy, law enforcement, judicial administration, terrorism, trade, the economy, and more. Ideological differences about details stimulate debate and compromise to improve outcomes.

Petty partisan friction is more often than not over the distribution of spoils. The majority party takes credit for getting spoils to the right place. The minority party counters by pointing out the outrageous waste of taxpayer funds. These spoils are the “free money” boondoggles that would not happen except for “free money.” That these boondoggles would not happen without “free money” is proof that their value is less than their cost. Thus, all citizens are injured and are society more impoverished by “free money.” A system with less pork would enrich all. Deciding the special interest that should be winners or losers in the contest for pork is not the most important task of elected officials. Their talent and leadership should be freed to focus on important policy questions. Fewer spoils would leave less reason for partisan friction and diminish the incentive for aggressive gerrymandering.

The Founders warned that the natural course was for more power and control to gravitate to the central government. This is the reason they wrote a constitution that rigidly decentralized government functions. Irrespective of the forewarning and constitutional limitations, government has become too large and too centralized. Devolution, decentralization and privatization would free elected officials from the burden of the spoil system to do the job of setting important public policies that protect and improve the lives of the people.

Devolve government services – The implications of government redistribution policies would be lessened by devolving services to the lower levels. This will empower citizens with more customization of the services they elect to have. Congress’s conflict of interest to move in this direction raises questions about methods and systems to implement such policy, or for that matter any policy Congress does not like.

Reduce the cost of government services – When government services are privatized, individual taxpayers have more money, because of less tax, and individual consumers are empowered to use or not use the services they wish.

Alternative representation systems – The perception that single-member small geographic winner-take-all district elections are the only or best alternative should be challenged for what it is: an assumption. There is not sufficient knowledge or experience for informed evaluation. There are many ways to rethink how votes are counted, whether geography is more or less important than other factors, and whether larger districts with more representatives might result in better representation or better public policy. The alternative systems are too-many to discuss and consider in this work. Experimentation and objective evaluation of the effectiveness of every conceivable election innovation is encouraged. Such experimentation is easiest to first implement and observe at the local government level. Also, the risk of damage is lessened, isolated and more easily corrected at this level.

For more information about alternative systems, visit Elections: Results and Voting Systems at http://www.barnsdle.demon.co.uk/vote/vote.html or The Center for Voting and Democracy at www.fairvote.org. Books by Douglas J. Amy entitled Behind the Ballot Box: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting Systems and Real Choices/New Voices and The International IDEA Handbook of Electoral System Design by the international Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance are helpful tools in learning the functions of different electoral systems.

Do No Harm – Once there is common recognition of a problem, exuberance sometimes overshadows reason. The popularity of campaign finance limitations falls into this category of issues. The false assumption is that all parties will abide by the law and the influence of special interests will diminish, ultimately lead to better policy. Is it possible that CFR increases the advantage of incumbents over challengers? By what stretch of logic do people believe that Congress would pass any law that would give more advantage to their challengers than to themselves? In achieving the goal of a more level playing field so that there may be more competitive elections to gain greater citizen representation and better policy, CFR as it is currently conceived probably tips the field more in favor of incumbents and therefore is the wrong direction.

Reconsider Ballot Access Restrictions – All ballot access restrictions were put in place masked as needed reforms. Many of these do more harm than good and some may do no good whatsoever. These restrictions should be reviewed from the vantage of open, free and competitive elections. The method of modifying or lifting these is unclear, because of the hostility that state and federal legislators of both political parties have for political reform. Perhaps well-healed patriotic citizens will step forward in the exercise of the citizen initiative petition process in those states that allow it.

Enlarge citizen participation systems – Citizen involvement in government is a critical aspect of self-government that is under-appreciated and under-exercised. Citizen participation systems, such as the Initiative and Referendum process, merit considerable expansion. Systems that capture the right information at the right time and motivate good and timely legislation are pre-embryonic in development. Innovative students of democracy should exercise creativity to conceive and implement new and better systems. Systems that tap the vast wealth of knowledge and experience of the masses will evolve and will improve governance and will make the jobs of legislators less difficult.

REFORM SUGGESTIONS

PART II

Redistricting Reforms – Changes in the way districts are formed must be implemented immediately. In short, the fox must be removed from the henhouse. The political community must be disconnected from redistricting. Non-partisan or bi-partisan citizen commissions are insufficient. The Arizona model is a commission of two Democrats, two Republicans and one mutually agreed tiebreaker. This approach concedes that the process is and must continue to be politically dominated. When confronted with reform questions, the Arizona model degenerates to four partisans ganging up on one possible reformer. Worse, it concedes to subjective criteria and human judgment. As one of the five most reform-minded states, Arizona does not go far enough.

  • Install the Iowa System. “Iowa … draws the lines without referring to voter registration or even to where the state’s politicians live.”[117] The process of considering where an incumbent resides makes that a high priority redistricting criteria. It makes the process unnecessarily complicated and forces gerrymandering to accommodate incumbents. In effect this gives a heavier weight to incumbent residency than to rational formation of districts.
  • Install the Minnesota System. In many states senators are elected for 4-year terms with half of the senate elected every 2 years. In Minnesota senators elected in the census year serve a 2-year term so that the entire senate is elected from new districts after redistricting. The converse, the Colorado system, attempts to retain half of the senate in their districts while district boundaries change. This forces the redistricting process to consider where senators live and gives a heavier weight to the senator serving a full 4-year term than to the citizens choosing who should represent them.
  • “Nesting” should be considered. “Nesting” is the process of incorporating some districts completely within others. For example, a state with seven Congressional Districts and 35 state senators would first make its Congressional Districts and then make five state senate districts within each of the Congressional Districts. Among the benefits is that the messy task of redistricting is lessened.
  • Adopt and rigidly apply objective criteria. Objective criteria are those that are based upon fact and can be applied without the exercise of judgment. It took many years to fully implement the notion of equal population districts. Continuity is another objective criteria that initially did not exist, but was adopted and became accepted as a proper redistricting norm. Compactness should be added to the list of objective redistricting criteria.
  • Add Compactness as an objective redistricting criteria. Compactness, first mentioned in Federal law in 1901, has been clay in the hands of the gerrymander. Also required in many state constitutions, compactness sinks as a priority when it conflicts with the aims of the gerrymander. This conflict provides a clue. In order to gerrymander, compactness must be ignored. Installing compactness as another objective redistricting criteria would end gerrymandering.
  • Use technology to reduce gerrymandering. Eventually, possibly before the 2010 census, redistricting software will have the ability to create, evaluate, and compare a sufficiently large number of redistricting alternatives to insure that the most compact plan is found. Currently these software programs are effective at evaluating alternative plans. They should be used to apply a compactness measurement method.[118] Then the redistricting commission must be bound to select and implement the most compact plan.
  • Create positive incentives. Currently redistricting plans are devised and subsequently seek citizen input. Each political party uses redistricting software in private to find gerrymandered plans that benefit them. Then, they submit a plan to the redistricting commission. Any citizen should have an equal right to develop and introduce a plan. When the commission is obliged to implement the most compact plan, the citizenry will serve as a check against the possibility of both parties working together in private to create a mutually beneficial plan.

That things might stay the same or continue to regress is absurd. Soviet elections were less hypocritical. They made no pretense about being fair or competitive. Defenders of the status quo align themselves with Benito Mussolini, who said, “Give me the right to nominate and you can vote for whomever you please.” The many lawsuits about to transpire over 2001 redistricting will serve as a reminder that reform is needed.

CONCLUSION

Redistricting has come to mean gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is as widespread and as energetic today as it has ever been in U.S. history. The arrival of new technology has empowered the gerrymander. Under the control of politicians, redistricting is the most significant and controllable variable for predetermining the outcome of elections. Fewer elections are in doubt. To restore integrity to representative self-government in America:

  • Control of the redistricting process by the “political community” must cease.
  • Political criteria for redistricting, such as party, race, ethnicity and other demographic criteria and the incumbent’s place of residence must be replaced with objective criteria, such as equal population, continuity, and compactness.
  • Modern technology using rigidly applied objective redistricting criteria must be used to end gerrymandering.
  • The efficacy of single-member districts should be questioned. A wide array of alternative systems of voting and of representation merit experimentation and objective evaluation. These experiments may be most effective first at the local government level.
  • The rewards for gerrymandering should be diminished. Less tax money should be available for politicians to fund the current pork-barrel spoil-system.



Glossary
Apportionment – Apportionment is the process of determining the number of Congressional Districts that each state shall have.

At-Large – At-Large representatives are elected from the full population of a state. When the first Congress was elected in 1788, the U.S. Constitution specified the number of representatives from each state. All representatives from each state were elected “At-Large” in 1788.

Cumulative Voting (CV) – Cumulative Voting is a system that allows the voter to express the strength with which they favor or oppose certain candidates. It is used in a multimember district. Each voter has many votes and may allocate them however desired among the candidates, including giving all votes to one candidate, distributing them among several candidates, or not using all of them.

Democracy – Democracy is a form of government in which a substantial proportion of the citizenry directly or indirectly participates in ruling the state.

Districting – Districting is the process of dividing a state or an area into districts. After the Congressional seats are apportioned among the states, each state divides itself into districts.

Gerrymander – Gerrymandering is the process of dividing a political unit into election districts to give a political party or interest group greater advantage.

Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) – Voters mark their priority preferences for candidates. The poorest showing candidate is eliminated from the list and those votes are reallocated to other candidates based on the voter’s second preferences. The process is continued until one candidate achieves a majority.

Malapportionment – Malapportionment is the process of apportionment where populations are not made to be equal between districts.

Majority-Minority District – A district in which a majority of the voters are of a minority; generally a racial or ethnic minority. Some sources use the term Minority-Majority or Black-Majority to mean the same.

Plurality District – A plurality district is an Internal At-Large district. It is a district that is represented by more than a single elected official.

Proportional Representation (PR) – Parties are allocated legislative seats in proportion to the share of the vote the party receives.

Representation – Representation, in politics, is the process by which one person stands or acts for a larger number of individuals in formulating the policies and operations of a government.

Safe Seat – A “safe” seat or safe district is one in which the outcome of an election is effectively predetermined because the party affiliation of voters in the district is sufficiently large to insure the outcome.

Voting Rights Act (VRA) – The VRA, a byproduct of the Civil Rights movement, became law in 1965 and protected the right of African American citizens to register and vote.


[1] “Redistricting Battles Come Down to Personal Issues as Well as Political.” By David Espo, Associated Press, June 18, 2002.

[2] Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, Deluxe Edition, 2000.

[3] Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, Deluxe Edition, 2000.

[4] Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, Deluxe Edition, 2000.

[5] “Behind the Ballot Box: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting Systems,” by Douglas J. Amy, Praeger, Westport, CT, 2000, p. 28.

[6] Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962).

[7] “Oklahoma Plan May Force At-Large House Races,” by Chris Cillizza, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, May 1, 2002.

[8] “The Historical Atlas of U.S. Congressional Districts,” by Kenneth Martis, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1984, p. 5.

[9] “Oklahoma Plan May Force At-Large House Races,” by Chris Cillizza, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, May 1, 2002.

[10] “Oklahoma Plan May Force At-Large House Races,” by Chris Cillizza, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, May 1, 2002.

[11] “The Historical Atlas of U.S. Congressional Districts,” by Kenneth Martis, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1984, p. 52.

[12] U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 2.

[13] “Congressional Redistricting: Comparative and Theoretical Perspectives,” by David Butler and Bruce Cain, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992, p. 18.

[14] “Oklahoma Plan May Force At-Large House Races,” by Chris Cillizza, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, May 1, 2002.

[15] U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 4.

[16] U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 2.

[17] U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 2.

[18] Assembled primarily from data available in “The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress 1789-1989,” by Kenneth C. Martis, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1989.

[19] Assembled primarily from data available in “The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress 1789-1989,” by Kenneth C. Martis, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1989.

[20] “Thomas Jefferson – A Life,” by Willard Sterne Randall, 1993, Henry Holt & Company, P. 510.

[21] “The Federal Union,” by Hicks, Mawry and Burke, 1964, Houghton Mifflin Company, P. 302.

[22] “Thomas Jefferson – A Life,” by Willard Sterne Randall, 1993, Henry Holt & Company, P. 537.

[23] “Thomas Jefferson – A Life,” by Willard Sterne Randall, 1993, Henry Holt & Company, P. 548.

[24] “Bushmanders and Bullwinkles,” by Mark Monmonier, University of Chicago Press, 2001, p. 1.

[25] “Bushmanders and Bullwinkles,” by Mark Monmonier, University of Chicago Press, 2001, p. 2.

[26] Table is modified from “Congressional Redistricting: Comparative and Theoretical Perspectives,” by David Butler and Bruce Cain, 1992, Macmillan Publishing Company, p. 77.

[27] “A look at Florida Redistricting,” by John Mercurio, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, Feb. 7, 2002.

[28] “Familiar Faces of 2000 Recount Line up for Seats in Congress,” by Mark Silva, Orlando Sentinel, July 15, 2002.

[29] “How to Rig an Election,” staff, The Economist, April, 27, 2002.

[30] “As Redistricting Unfolds, Parties Leverage Power to Get More of It,” by David E. Rosenbaum, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, 2002.

[31] “Choosing a Future California Assembly,” by William Saracino, California Political Review, April 2002, p. 23.

[32] “The Historical Atlas of U.S. Congressional Districts,” by Kenneth Martis, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1984, p. 7.

[33] “Full Representation,” by Bob Holmes, Goro O. Mitchell, and Robert Richie, Southern Center for Studies in Public Policy and Center for Voting and Democracy, 2001, p. 2.HoHH

[34] Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962).

[35] “Voting Rights and Redistricting in the United States” by Mark E. Rush, Greenwood Press, 1998, p. 37.

[36] “Congressional Redistricting: Comparative and Theoretical Perspectives,” by David Butler and Bruce Cain, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992, p. 27.

[37] Colegrove v. Green, 328 U.S. 549 (1946).

[38] “Congressional Redistricting: Comparative and Theoretical Perspectives,” by David Butler and Bruce Cain, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992, p. 28.

[39] www.iamm.com/uni-uni/caselaw.etc/magnacar.htm

[40] Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964).

[41] “Voting Rights and Redistricting in the United States” by Mark E. Rush, Greenwood Press, 1998, p. 23.

[42] Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964).

[43] Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1 (1964).

[44] Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S. 526 (1969).

[45] “Pennsylvania Redistricting Ruling Upheld,” by Steven Ertelt, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, April 12, 2002.

[46] “Before the Voting Rights Act,” U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, online at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/intro/intro_a.htm

[47] “The Effect of the Voting Rights Act,” U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, online at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/intro/intro_c.htm

[48] “Full Representation,” by Bob Holmes, Goro O. Mitchell, and Robert Richie, Southern Center for Studies in Public Policy and Center for Voting and Democracy, 2001, p. 2.HoHH

[49] “Full Representation,” by Bob Holmes, Goro O. Mitchell, and Robert Richie, Southern Center for Studies in Public Policy and Center for Voting and Democracy, 2001, p. 2.

[50] “Do Majority-Minority Districts Maximize Substantive Black Representation in Congress?” by Charles Cameron, David Epstein, and Sharyn O’Halloran, American Political Science Review, Vol. 90, No. 4, December 1996, p. 810.

[51] Shaw v. Reno, 113 U.S. 2816 (1993).

[52] “Do Majority-Minority Districts Maximize Substantive Black Representation in Congress?” by Charles Cameron, David Epstein, and Sharyn O’Halloran, American Political Science Review, Vol. 90, No. 4, December 1996, p. 794.

[53] “Do Majority-Minority Districts Maximize Substantive Black Representation in Congress by Charles Cameron, David Epstein, and Sharyn O’Halloran, American Political Science Review, Vol. 90, No. 4, December 1996, p. 809.

[54] “Black Faces, Black Interest: the Representation of African Americans in Congress,” by Carol Swain, Harvard University Press, 1993.

[55] “Do Majority-Minority Districts Maximize Substantive Black Representation in Congress?” by Charles Cameron, David Epstein, and Sharyn O’Halloran, American Political Science Review, Vol. 90, No. 4, December 1996, p. 798.

[56] Do Majority-Minority Districts Maximize Substantive Black Representation in Congress?” b by Charles Cameron, David Epstein, and Sharyn O’Halloran, American Political Science Review, Vol. 90, No. 4, December 1996, p. 798.

[57] “The Importance of Ballot Access,” by Richard Winger, 1994, Massachusetts School of Law.

[58] “The Importance of Ballot Access,” by Richard Winger, 1994, Massachusetts School of Law.

[59] “The Barriers to Third Parties,” by Editor, October 9, 1995, Rocky Mountain News.

[60] “The Importance of Ballot Access,” by Richard Winger, 1994, Massachusetts School of Law.

[61] “The Importance of Ballot Access,” by Richard Winger, 1994, Massachusetts School of Law.

[62] “Obstacles Litter Perot’s Path,” by Tony Snow, October 2. 1995, USA Today.

[63] “The Importance of Ballot Access,” by Richard Winger, 1994, Massachusetts School of Law.

[64] “Obstacles Litter Perot’s Path,” by Tony Snow, October 2. 1995, USA Today.

[65] “The Importance of Ballot Access,” by Richard Winger, 1994, Massachusetts School of Law.

[66] “The Importance of Ballot Access,” by Richard Winger, 1994, Massachusetts School of Law.

[67] “The Tyranny of the Two-party System,” by Lisa Jane Disch, Columbia University Press, 2002, p. 7.

[68] “Total Power of One in America,” by Fred Holden, Phoenix Enterprises, 1991, p. 386.

[69] “America Celebrates Tax Freedom Day,” Tax Foundation, April 2002, p. 2 & p. 10.

[70] “Gridlock in Government,” by Roger E. Meiners and Roger LeRoy Miller, Independence Institute, 1996, p. 15.

[71] “Who Testifies and Why,” by Dr. Barry Fagin, Independence Institute, Feb. 7, 2001, p. 1.

[72] “The Congressional Brainwashing Machine,” by J. Payne, Institute for Contemporary Studies, 1991, pp. 3-14.

[73] “The Longer They Stay, The More They Spend,” National Taxpayers Union, September 1, 1994.

[74] Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged, Merriam-Webster Inc., Publishers, 1993.

[75] “The End of Representation: How Congress Stifles Electoral Competition,” By Eric O’Keefe and Aaron Steelman, Cato Policy Analysis No. 279, August 20, 1997, p. 5.

[76] “The End of Representation: How Congress Stifles electoral Competition,” by Eric O’Keefe and Aaron Steelman, CATO Institute, August 20, 1997, p. 3.

[77] “How to Rig an Election,” staff, The Economist, April 27, 2002, p. 29.

[78] “Who Rules America: The People vs. The Political Class,” by Eric O’Keefe, Citizen Government Foundation, 1999, p. 33.

[79] James Coyne, letter to the New York Times, January 12, 1990.

[80] “Redistricting Creates Fewer House Battles Than Expected,” by Chris Cillizza, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, Oct. 24, 2001.

[81] www.fairvote.org

[82] “Redistricting Creates Fewer House Battles Than Expected,” by Chris Cillizza, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, Oct. 24, 2001.

[83] “Redistricting Creates Fewer House Battles Than Expected,” by Chris Cillizza, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, Oct. 24, 2001.

[84] “House Control Up For Grabs,” by David Espo, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, Jan. 20, 2002.

[85] “Redistricting Shifts Clout, But Plays it Safe,” by Liz Marlantes, The Christian Science Monitor, June 10, 2002.

[86] “Redistricting Shifts Clout, But Plays it Safe,” by Liz Marlantes, The Christian Science Monitor, June 10, 2002.

[87] “Redistricting Shifts Clout, But Plays it Safe,” by Liz Marlantes, The Christian Science Monitor, June 10, 2002.

[88] As Redistricting Unfolds, Parties Leverage Power to Get More of It,” by David E. Rosenbaum, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, August 13, 2001.

[89] “DNC Scales Back Redistricting Commitment,” by Ethan Wallison and John Mercurio, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, Jan. 24, 2002.

[90] “DNC Scales Back Redistricting Commitment,” by Ethan Wallison and John Mercurio, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, Jan. 24, 2002.

[91] “Redistricting Battles Come Down to Personal Issues as Well as Political.” By David Espo, Associated Press, June 18, 2002.

[92] “Redistricting Battles Come Down to Personal Issues as Well as Political.” By David Espo, Associated Press, June 18, 2002.

[93] “Redistricting Battles Come Down to Personal Issues as Well as Political.” By David Espo, Associated Press, June 18, 2002.

[94] “Time to Draw the Line,” by Editorial Staff, New York Times, May 11, 2002.

[95] “Members of Congress Fight Redistricting Battles,” by Chris Cillizza, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, Dec. 12, 2001.

[96] “Longest Serving Congressman Could Face Inter-party Challenge,” by Steven Ertelt, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, Jan. 2, 2002.

[97] “Florida Pols Hire Lobbyists to Help Protect Districts,” by Peter Wallstein, Miami-Herald, Nov. 28, 2001.

[98] “Redistricting Battles Come Down to Personal Issues as Well as Political.” By David Espo, Associated Press, June 18, 2002.

[99] “Pushing the Limits: California Legislators Try to Extend Their Terms — Again,” by John Fund, Wall Street Journal, June 12, 2002.

[100] As Redistricting Unfolds, Parties Leverage Power to Get More of It,” by David E. Rosenbaum, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, August 13, 2001.

[101] “Redistricting Challenges Heating Up,” by Robert Tanner, Associated Press National, May 6, 2002.

[102] “Ballot Access News,” by Richard Winger, Bx 470296, San Francisco CA 94147, 415-922-9779.

[103] Stephenson v. Bartlett, No. 94PA02, North Carolina Supreme Court, April 30, 2002, http://www.aoc.state.ne.us/www/public/sc/opinions/2002/094-02-1.htm

[104] “When Elections Are Not Elections,” by Dennis Polhill and David Ottke, Independence Institute, January 5, 2000.

[105] “Bushmanders and Bullwinkles,” by Mark Monmonier, The University of Chicago Press, 2001, p. 104.

[106] “Bushmanders and Bullwinkles,” by Mark Monmonier, The University of Chicago Press, 2001, p. 104.

[107] “Bushmanders and Bullwinkles,” by Mark Monmonier, The University of Chicago Press, 2001, p. 3.

[108] “Race, Redistricting, and Representation,” by David T. Canon, The University of Chicago Press, 1999, p.111.

[109] “How to Draw Redistricting Plans That Will Stand Up in Court,” by Peter S. Wattson, Minnesota Senate Counsel, October 3, 2001, p. 24.

[110] “How to Draw Redistricting Plans That Will Stand Up in Court,” by Peter S. Wattson, Minnesota Senate Counsel, October 3, 2001, p. 17.

[111] “How to Rig an Election,” staff, The Economist, April 27, 2002, p. 29.

[112] “How to Draw Redistricting Plans That Will Stand Up in Court,” by Peter S. Wattson, Minnesota Senate Counsel, October 3, 2001, p. 18.

[113] “How to Draw Redistricting Plans That Will Stand Up in Court,” by Peter S. Wattson, Minnesota Senate Counsel, October 3, 2001, p. 18.

[114] “How to Rig an Election,” staff, The Economist, April 27, 2002, p. 29.

[115] “How to Rig an Election,” staff, The Economist, April 27, 2002, p. 29.

[116] “House Incumbents Tap Census, software to Get a Lock on Seats.” By John Harwood, Wall Street Journal, June 19, 2002.

[117] “Time to Draw the Line,” by Editorial Staff, New York Times, May 11, 2002.

[118] Mathematicians have invented no less than two-dozen methods of measuring compactness. For more information about the various methods see: “Bushmanders and Bullwinkles,” by Mark Monmonier, The University of Chicago Press, 2001, p. 65.

Denver Post, Letter to the Editor, April 25, 2001

Term limits working

The Post’s April 4 editorial (“Term Limit bubble bursts “) requires clarification.

How many times will the death of term limits be declared?

Americans inherently understand that government by lifelong politicians frighteningly resembles feudalistic monarch prior to the Revolution. Support for term limits continues to be strong across, all segments of society: men, women; rich, poor; young, old; liberal, conservative; black, white. Opponents are the same insiders: politicians, lobbyists and bureaucrats.

For more than a decade the pro/con arguments have been publicly debated. Four times Colorado voters said, “We want term limits.”

Opponents fail to accept the message and warn of, without acting to avert, impending disasters.

It was asserted that HCR-1002, by extending term limits to 12 years, would prevent lobbyists from gaining power. But in committee hearing no lobbyist testified, against and some testified in favor. Are lobbyists foolish? If lobbyists would gain influence, shouldn’t they favor term limits, and oppose HCR-1002?

The large number of sponsors from both parties simply proves that politicians wish to stay in power. If their motives are, as they claim, good government, then where are the companion bills of other reforms? There is no shortage of needed reforms.

The Colorado Term Limits Coalition asked U.S. Term Limits for help to inform citizens about HCR-1002. The reaction is as if voters must be kept in the dark. What an extremist idea that voters might actually know a little about what goes on under the Capitol dome. Informing voters: would have no consequence, if public support for term limits had ceased.

U.S. Term Limits has been vilified as a, “special interest.” Most folks would agree that a special interest is one that uses political influence for curry favors from government for its own benefit. What benefit might accrue, to U.S. Term Limits by offending those who give out favors? None. U.S. Term Limits and those who support the term limits movement are motivated only by the desire to recapture government from special interests.

Term limits is about changing America’s political culture. It is only because term limits are working that those who dislike them make noise. Dennis Polhill, Golden, Colorado

The writer is chairman of the Colorado Term Limits Coalition.

Opinion Editorial

By Dennis Polhill, David Ottke

Subverting the will of the people by fixing elections strikes at the heart of the democratic process.

Shortly after the 2000 census is finished, powerful politicians will meet in virtual secrecy to decide who will be in power for the next decade.

It is a flaw of the winner-take-all two party system.  Gerrymandering is the process of redrawing election district boundaries to throw as many of the opposing party’s votes into as few districts as possible.  Thus, by conceding a few districts, the majority party enhances its margins in the legislative body and insures its control until the next census.  The natural consequence is that majority party voters living in minority party dominated districts lack both representation and an opportunity to achieve representation through the election process.  Minority parties never have a chance to become the majority. The threats of having third party views heard are suppressed even more than they are naturally.

In the November 1998 election, 79 of Colorado’s 100 General Assembly seats were filled.  Sixty-five House members and 14 Senators were elected.  One of the two major parties did not bother to field a candidate in 19 races. The number of uncontested races was an improvement over the 1996 high of 25.  Similar numbers were posted throughout the decade.  Is it that too few people care or are more sinister forces at play?

Candidates consider victories of over 55% as landslides.  By that standard 63 landslides occurred in the 79 General Assembly races in the 1998 election.  Otherwise stated fewer than 20 percent of the races had better than the faintest hope of a real election contest. But arguably 1998 may have been the most competitive General Assembly election of modern time due to term limits prohibiting 27 veteran legislators from running again.  Eighty per cent and 83% of Colorado House members were elected by landslides in 1996 and 1994 respectively.  If 80% of election results are predetermined, then the votes of 80% of voters do not matter.

The numbers at the federal level are worse.  Since World War II, Congressional re-election rates have ranged between 98% and 99%.  When turnover shot up to 7% in 1994, it was termed a “Revolution.”

If there is no election contest, “Is there an election?”  Americans ridicule the Communist system for providing only one candidate. Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, once said, “give me the right to nominate and you can vote for whomever you please.”  With superficial concern for declining voter turnout, election observers fail to comprehend the deeper message sent by voters as they increasingly exercise their right to abstain from voting.

Founding Father Elbridge Gerry, for whom gerrymandering is named, demonstrated how quickly commitment to democratic principles mutates into self interest.  As Governor of Massachusetts in 1812, he oversaw the drawing of election district boundaries to insurer the political result that he desired. Despite its profoundly undemocratic nature gerrymandering spread quickly. Early state constitutions always gave power to draw districts to the state legislature, usually with veto power given to the Governor.  This practice continues today in 32 states, including Colorado. More widespread than the well-known racial abuses, gerrymandering has become a tool for protecting incumbents from serious election challenges.

Recognition of the need for reform is not new.  At least four bills were considered by the Colorado General Assembly in 1981.  Two failed in the legislature and two were vetoed.  All four dealt with Congressional districting only and were seen by the Democratic Governor as maneuvering by the Republican Legislature to capture more Congressional seats. In 1990 State Senator Terry Considine introduced his Election Reform Amendment.  It was designed to restore competition to the election process.  In addition to term limits and campaign finance disclosure, ERA put redistricting in the hands of an independent commission and required that the number of party registered voters be balanced in each district. Lacking interest in such changes the General Assembly quickly disposed of the ERA.

The conflict of interest of having legislative bodies draw election districts is obvious.  Redistricting must be entrusted to a body of independent citizens more interested in increasing election competition than lightening the re-election load.  In addition to the current criteria of equal population and contiguousness, a compactness criteria must be enforced. The goal is to minimize the ratio of perimeter to surface area, making appendages to capture desired population clusters more difficult.

Elections are an integral part of both the democratic process and the American culture.  The notion of an increasingly constrained election process has no future.  Lacking the necessary changes, more extreme reforms such as abandonment of geographic representation altogether, may be on the horizon.

——————————————————————————–

Dennis Polhill is a Senior Fellow with the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden, http://i2i.org.

This article, from the Independence Institute staff, fellows and research network, is offered for your use at no charge. Independence Feature Syndicate articles are published for educational purposes only, and the authors speak for themselves. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily representing the views of the Independence Institute or as an attempt to influence any election or legislative action.
Please send comments to Editorial Coordinator, Independence Institute, 14142 Denver West Pkwy., suite 185, Golden, CO 80401 Phone 303-279-6536 (fax) 303-279-4176 (email)webmngr@i2i.org

Rockey Mountain News, 1999.

Professional pols will not yield quietly

Regarding Charles Roos’ recent column on term limits:

The vigor with which opponents decry the evils of term limits and declare their death is evidence that proponents are succeeding. A revolutionary change that wrests control of government from elitist, political insiders and restores self-government will not be yielded quietly. We can reasonably expect every tactic to resist the people’s wishes.

The people see through the phony rhetoric, though, and consistently vote for term limits because they know it is right.

The idea that term limits would deny Congress the great contributions of any particular representative is ridiculous. Term limits will magnify and expedite contributions. Under term limits the seniority system ceases. The real-world, real-life experience of people will be integrated into the process of government. The great will ascend and the mediocre will not be able to sit indefinitely in a perk-filled job. Term limits purge a constipated system.

Those who think that we will run out of competent people should contemplate where such thinking will lead them. There are about 260 million Americans who would be thrown out on the street if they ran their homes, their farms and their businesses the way Congress runs the country. A little more of that kind of knowledge and experience in Congress is unlikely to do great harm.

Dennis Polhill Co-Chairman Colo. Term Limits Coalition Golden

Jackson County Star, October 15, 1998

Some Back Term Limits for a Lifetime

By Dennis Polhill

When asked, the majority of the members of Congress will profess their strong support for term limits. In fact, many of these same politicians campaign on their support of term limits and a citizen legislature election after election after election on their way to a very long career in Washington.

Year after year, the careerist United States Congress has shown that it will not impose term limits on its members. Of course, members promise their constituents they will vote for term limits, but often self- interests — such as the nice office and six-figure salary — are just too much to walk away from. So every year Congress institutes a series of procedural maneuvers to guarantee members the opportunity to get on the record as supporting some type of term limits while all along ensuring that term limits will never pass.

In response to this refusal of Congress to pass a term limits law, the Colorado Term Limits Coalition has placed on the ballot an initiative (Amendment 18) that serves as an important step in taking Congress back from career politicians.

This initiative, known as the voluntary Congressional Term Limits Declaration Act, will allow candidates for Congress to sign a declaration limiting their own term in office. If the amendment is passed, every candidate for Congress will he offered a declaration stating they will serve no more than three terms in the House of Representative or two terms in the Senate. This will be strictly voluntary. If a candidate does not wish to sign, there will be no requirement to do so. This information, at the candidate’s request, will then be placed on the ballot to inform voters of their candidate’s position and actual intentions on term limits. If Amendment 18 passes, voters will be able to distinguish between those candidates who intend to limit their own terms and those who do not.

Amendment 18 is needed because many voters believe candidates cannot he trusted to honor their promises on term limits once they go to Washington. Unfortunately, this public distrust has proven to be well placed. Here in Colorado, U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, who initially promised voters that he would serve only four terms, has now stated publicly that he probably will break the term limit promise to his constituents. This despite polls that consistently show voters prefer candidates who agree to self-limit their tenure in Washington by a margin of seven to one. Furthermore, many Americans from all political spectrums feel they are not represented in Congress. They are tired of politicians who say one thing to the voters and do something entirely different once in Washington. They are tired of having representatives who are more receptive to special interests bearing donations than they are to the concerns of their constituents.

Despite the overwhelming support of term limits in Colorado, there are only two elected officials who have already agreed to self-limit U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard and U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer. But the voters have already exhibited their support of term limits. In the 6th Congressional District Republican primary, a candidate who signed a pledge to limit his tenure to three terms in Congress upset the favorite who had publicly state he would not agree limit his tenure if elected. Notwithstanding this support of term limits, some naysayers still exist. Opponents of term limits will claim that we need experience and longevity to look out for the interests of Colorado. This is an elitist attitude that many career politicians hold that Colorado voters don’t know what they are voting for. Three times this decade, Colorado voters have passed term limit initiatives. Coloradans have made it abundantly clear that they want citizen legislators not career politicians.

Here in Colorado, our U.S. senators and representatives are the only officeholders not subject to term limits. Every attempt by the voters of Colorado to do what Congress won’t do to itself has been thwarted by unelected judges.

Amendment 18 is an important step towards getting rid of career politicians. By informing voters of the term limits position of candidates for Congress. Voters are to make a more informed decision on what type of candidate they want in Congress – a citizen legislator who will limit their tenure in Congress or a career politician. Sending term-limit supporters to Congress will bring better, more responsive representation to Colorado citizens. And ultimately, Amendment 18 will bring Coloradans nearly 70 percent of Colorado voters have repeatedly said they desire Congressional term limits.

Dennis Polhill is the co-chairman of the Colorado Term Limits Coalition, based in Lakewood, Colo.

DENVER BUSINESS JOURNAL Denver, CO, October 30, 1998

Colorado needs term limits

When asked, the majority of congressmen and senators in Washington will profess their strong support of term limits. In fact, ironically, many of these same politicians campaign on their support of term limits and a citizen legislature election after election after election — on their way to a very long career in Washington.

Year after year, the careerist United States Congress has shown that it will not impose term limits on its members. Of course, member promise their constituents they will vote for term limits, but often self-interest — not to mention the nice office and six-figure salary are just too much to walk away from. So instead, every year Congress institutes a series of procedural maneuvers to guarantee members the opportunity to get on the record supporting some type of term limits, while all along ensuring that term limits will never pass Congress.

In response to this refusal of Congress to pass a term limits law, the Colorado Term Limits Coalition has placed on the ballot an initiative (Amendment 18) that serves as an important step in taking Congress back from career politicians.

This initiative, known as the Voluntary Congressional Term Limit Declaration Act, will allow candidates for Congress to sign a declaration limiting their own term in office. When the law is passed, every candidate for Congress will be offered a declaration stating they will serve no more than three terms in the U.S. House of Representative or two terms in the Senate. This will be strictly voluntary. If a candidate does not wish to sign, there will be no requirement to do so. This information, at the candidate’s request, will then be placed on the ballot to inform voters of that candidate’s personal position and actual intentions on term limits. When the Amendment 18 passes voters will he able to distinguish between those candidates who intend to limit their own terms and serve as citizen legislators and those who do not.

Amendment 18 is needed because many voters believe candidates cannot be trusted to honor their promises on term limits once they go to Washington. Unfortunately this public distrust has proven to be extremely well placed. Here in Colorado, Congressman Scott McInnis, who initially promised voters that he would serve only four terms, has now stated publicly that he probably will break the term limit promise to his constituents. This despite polls that consistently show voters prefer candidates who agree to self-limit their tenure in Washington by an overwhelming margin of seven to one.

Furthermore, many Americans, from all political spectrums, feel they are not represented in Congress. They are tired of politicians who say one thing to the voters and do something entirely different once in Washington. They are tired of having representatives who are more receptive to special interests bearing donations, than they are to the concerns of their constituents.

Despite the overwhelming support of term limits in Colorado, there are only two elected officials who have already agreed to self limit — Sen. Wayne Allard and Rep. Bob Schaffer. But the voters have already exhibited their support of term limits In the 6th Congressional District Republican primary, a candidate who signed a pledge to limit his tenure to three terms in Congress upset the favorite who had publicly stated he would not agree to limit his tenure if elected.

Notwithstanding this support of term limits, some naysayers still exist. Opponents of term limits will claim that we need more experience and longevity to look out for the interests of Colorado. But this is an elitist attitude that many career politicians hold, that assumes that Colorado voters don’t know what they are voting for. Three times this decade, Colorado voters have passed term limits initiatives. Coloradans have made it abundantly clear. They want citizen legislators not career politicians.

Here in Colorado, our U S. senators and representatives are the only officeholders not subject to term limits. Every attempt by the voters of Colorado to do what Congress won’t do itself – pass Congressional term limit has been thwarted by unelected judges.

Amendment 18 is an important step towards getting rid of career politicians. By informing voters of the term limits position of candidates for Congress, voters are able to make a more informed decision on what type of candidates they want in Congress – a citizen legislator who will limit their tenure in Congress or a career politician. Sending term-limit supporters to Congress will bring better, more responsive representation to Colorado citizens. And ultimately, Amendment 18 will bring Coloradans what nearly 70 percent of Colorado voters have repeatedly said they desire — Congressional term limits.

Dennis Polhill is the co-chairman of the Colorado Term Limits Coalition.

Delta County Independent, October 28, 1998 

Support voluntary term limits

 

Dear Editor: I am writing to encourage your readers to support the Voluntary Term Limits Declaration (Amendment 18). Amendment 18 would give each candidate for U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate the opportunity to sign a pledge stating they would serve no more than three terms in the House or two terms in the Senate. Then, at the candidate’s request, this information would be placed on the ballot.

Why do we need this initative? It is very simple. Three times already this decade Colorado voters have indicated they want term limits for Congress. Yet the courts have continually frustrated the will of Colorado voters by striking down term limits for federal officials. This leaves us with an odd situation where our congressmen and senators are the only elected officials in Colorado without term limits. Amendment 18 is the best method to achieve what the voters of Colorado want – term limits for Congress.

Dennis PohillCo-chairmanColorado TermLimits Coalition

DELTA COUNTY INDEPENDENTDelta, CO, October, 28, 1998

 

Clear Creek Courant, October 28, 1998

‘Yes’ on term limits Amendment No. 18

To the Editor: I am writing to encourage your readers to support the Voluntary Term Limits Declaration (Amendment 18).

Amendment 18 would give each candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate the opportunity to sign a pledge stating they would serve no more than three terms in the House or two terms in the Senate. Then, at the candidate‘s request, this information would be placed on the ballot. But no matter what the candidate’s position on term limits is, the designation would be strictly voluntary.

Why do we need this initiative? It is very simple. Three times already this decade Colorado voters have indicated they want term limits for Congress. In fact there is over 70 percent voter support of Congressional term limits in Colorado. Yet the courts have continuously frustrated the will of Colorado voters by striking down term limits for federal officials.

This leaves us with an odd situation where our Congressmen and Senators are the only elected officials in Colorado without term limits.

Amendment 18 is the best method to achieve what the voters of Colorado want —term limits for Congress.

On Nov. 3, vote “Yes” on Amendment 18. DENNIS POLHILL Co-chairman Colorado Term Limits Coalition Golden

CLEAR CREEK COURANT Idaho Spring, Co, October 28, 1998

Citizen Telegraph, Rifle, Colorado, October 28, 1998

 Readers support Amendment 18

 Dear Editor:

 I am writing to encourage your readers to support the Voluntary Term Limits Declaration (Amendment 18).  Amendment 18 would give each candidate for U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate the opportunity to sign a pledge stating they would serve no more than 3 terms in the House or 2 in the Senate.  Then, at the candidate’s request, this information would be placed on the ballot.  But, no matter what the candidate’s position on term limits is, the designation would be strictly voluntary. 

 Why do we need this initiative?  It is very simple.  Three times already this decade Colorado voters have indicated they want term limits for Congress.  In fact there is over 70% voter support of congressional term limits in Colorado.  Yet the courts have continually frustrated the will of Colorado voters by striking down term limits for federal officials.  This leaves us with an odd situation where our Congressmen and Senators are the only elected officials in Colorado without term limits.  Amendment 18 is the best method to achieve what the voters of Colorado what – term limits for Congress.  On November 3rd, Vote Yes on Amendment 18. 

 

Dennis Polhill,

Co-Chairman

Colorado Term Limits Coalition

DENVER POST, Denver, Colorado, October, 27, 1998

Politicians ignore voters’ call for term limits

 

The Denver Post’s editorial against Amendment 18 (“Vote no on term limits,” Oct. 19) was disappointing in that it missed the mark on term limits and the history of Colorado’s support for limiting politicians’ terms.

In 1994, Colorado voter‘s passed a six-year limit for members of the U.S. House of Representatives. We again voted in 1996 for these limits. What do we have to do to get elected officials to listen to our desire for term limits? Perhaps passing term 1imits a fourth time will do it.

Colorado has been well-represented in Congress with people like Bill Armstrong and Tim Wirth who did not stay forever. Even without representatives of their stature, the Founders protected small states from being overpowered by states like California, by establishing a Congress with two separate Houses.

It is arrogant to assume that “on-the-job” training is the only type of experience applicable to serving in office. Most Coloradans agree that businessmen, teachers and even journalists would bring a different type of experience to office that would be beneficial. In 1996, the Maine state legislature was made up almost entirely of new members. Former politicians, lobbyists, and journalists predicted a chaotic legislature due to ‘inexperience.” Yet somehow those ‘inexperienced” members were able to pass the budget on time for the first time in 20 years.

Colorado voters have supported term limits initiatives three times already this decade. We prefer citizen legislators to long-serving career politicians. Amendment 18 is a significant step toward achieving that goal for members of Congress. Vote YES on term limits. Vote YES on Amendment #18.

DENNIS POLHILL, co-chair, Colorado Term Limits Coalition

The Gazette Telegraph, Colorado Springs Colorado October 26, 1998

Term limits – a voluntary approach?

Yes: Voters already said they want it

By Dennis Polhill

When asked, the majority of congressmen and senators in Washington will profess their strong support of term limits. In fact, ironically, many of these same politicians campaign on their support of term limits and a citizen legislature election after election after election — on their way to a very long career in Washington.

Year after year, the careerist Congress has shown that it will not impose term limits on its members. Of course, they promise to vote for term limits, but often self-interest — not to mention the nice office and six-figure salary — are just too much to walk away from.

So instead, every year Congress institutes a series of procedural maneuvers to guarantee members the opportunity to get on the record supporting some type of term limits, while all along ensuring that term limits will never pass Congress.

In response to this refusal of Congress to pass a term limits law, the Colorado Term Limits Coalition has placed on the ballot an initiative (Amendment 18) that serves as an important step to taking our Congress back from career politicians.

This initiative, known as the Voluntary Congressional Term Limits Declaration Act, will allow candidates for Congress to take a declaration limiting their own term in office. When the law is passed, every candidate for Congress will be offered a declaration stating they will serve no more than three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives or two terms in the Senate. This will be strictly voluntary.

If a candidate does not wish to sign, there will be no requirement to do so. This information, at the candidate’s request, will then be placed on the ballot to inform voters of that candidate’s personal position and actual intentions on term limits. When Amendment 18 passes, voters will be able to distinguish between those candidates who intend to limit their own terms and serve as citizen legislators and those who do not.

Amendment 18 is needed because many voters believe candidates cannot be trusted to honor their promises on term limits once they go to Washington. Unfortunately this public distrust has proven to be painfully true. Here in Colorado, a congressman who initially promised to only serve four terms has now indicated publicly that he might break that promise. This despite polls that consistently show voters prefer candidates who agree to self-limit their tenure in Washington by an overwhelming margin of 7 to 1.

Furthermore, many Americans, from all political spectrums, feel they are not represented in Congress. They are tired of politicians who say one thing to the voters and do something entirely different once in Washington. They are tired of having representatives who are more receptive to special interests bearing donations than they are to the concerns of their constituents.

In spite of the overwhelming support of term limits in Colorado, there are only two federally elected officials who have already agreed to self-limit – Senator Wayne Allard and Congressman Bob Schaffer. But the voters have already exhibited their support of term limits. In the 6th Congressional District Republican primary, a candidate who signed a pledge to limit his tenure to three terms in Congress upset the favorite who had publicly stated he would not agree to limit his tenure if elected.

Despite this support of term limits, some naysayers still exist. Opponents of term limits will claim that we need experience and longevity to look out for the interests of Colorado. But this is an elitist attitude that many career politicians hold, that assumes that Colorado voters don’t know what they are voting for. Three times this decade, Colorado voters have passed term limits initiatives. Coloradans have made it abundantly clear. They want citizen legislators, not career politicians.

Here in Colorado, our U.S. senators and representatives are the only officeholders not subject to term limits. Every attempt by the voters of Colorado to do what Congress won’t do to itself — pass congressional term limits — has been thwarted by unelected judges.

Amendment 18 is an important step towards getting rid of career politicians. By informing voters of the term limits position of candidates for Congress, voters are able to make a more informed decision on what type of candidate they want in Congress — a citizen legislator who will limit their tenure in Congress or a career politician.

Sending term-limit supporters to Congress will bring better, more responsive representation to Colorado citizens. And ultimately, Amendment 18 will bring Coloradans what nearly 70 percent of Colorado voters have repeatedly said they desire — congressional term limits.

Polhill is the co-chairman of the Colorado Term Limits Coalition.

No: It curbs our choices

By Robert D. Loevy

Once again the issue of term limits is making an appearance in the state of Colorado. I am referring to the Voluntary Congressional Term Limits initiative that will be on our ballot Nov. 3. This particular version of the ever-returning proposal provides that candidates for the U.S. House and Senate may note on the ballot their voluntary acceptance of term limits.

There was a time when term limits could be defended on a partisan basis. Prior to 1994, the Democratic Party controlled the U.S. House of Representatives for multiple decades, starting with the congressional elections of 1954. Republican strategists, desperate to break the apparent Democratic stranglehold on the House, came up with term limits as the solution to the problem. If incumbent Democratic legislators were forced by constitutional fiat to leave office after six or eight years, the thinking went, the Republicans would have a better chance of winning what would automatically become an “open” seat.

I confess that political science professors such as myself played a role in the increasing popularity of congressional term limits during the 1970s and 1980s. We carefully documented the ways in which incumbent Democratic House members skillfully used the powers of their elected offices to almost automatically get reelected.

By sending mail to their constituents (often at government expense), getting on television and doing favors, Democratic legislators in Washington, D C., were able to virtually guarantee their reelection for, it seemed, decades to come. As this process became well-known, many Republicans throughout the nation became supporters of term limits and began pushing the idea forward, in a nonpartisan or bipartisan fashion, as good for all levels of government, not just the House of Representatives.

But this 1998 version of congressional term limits for Colorado might best be characterized as “The Irrelevant Monster from the Past.” It is irrelevant because the Republican takeover of the U.S House in 1994 eliminated all logic, partisan or otherwise, for congressional term limits. The GOP showed that, even without term limits, enough Democratic incumbents could be defeated. And the best part of that historic turnover was that it was orchestrated by current voters, expressing their will in an open election, rather than by legalistic lines written in a national or state constitution.

So Colorado voters should keep in mind, as they troop to the polls, that the logic for supporting such a measure is buried in a partisan Republican past that is no longer relevant to the current political situation. In fact, now that the Republicans are the majority party in the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, term limits actually work against the Republicans rather than for them.

It is true that term limits are rarely discussed in the directly partisan terms that I have presented them here. Term limit supporters do not like to admit that the original support for the idea came from a Republican desire to wrest control from the Democrats.

So, for those who want nonpartisan reasons to vote against Amendment 18, here they are:

· Term limits narrow the choices available to voters. When you go to the ballot box, you should be able to vote for any candidate you choose. If you like that 10-, 20- or even 30-year incumbent, you should be free to vote for her or him.

· Term limits unfairly penalize those with experience and proven skills in elective office. Do you automatically change your doctor every six years, even when he or she has done a great job of keeping you healthy? Voters should have the freedom to continue in office those elected officials who have served them well and demonstrated proven ability at successfully operating our government.

· Term limits increase the power of congressional staff members, who are not term-limited, and reduce the power of elected U.S. senators and representatives. Political scientists make good money teaching about the complex rules and labyrinthine legislative processes that characterize Capitol Hill. It is a system that places a premium on experience and knowing what has happened in the past. If elected officials are automatically forced out after six years or so in office, the only people who will “know the legislative ropes” will be the legislative bureaucrats who serve as Senate and House staff members. I would much rather be governed by an “old hand” who is an elected official, responsible to the voters, rather than by a paid bureaucrat, responsible to who knows what.

· Term limits attack the symptoms and not the underlying problems of electoral democracy in the United States. The real reason that members of the House get re-elected over and over again is that state governments fail to draw competitive U.S. House districts. Another reason is that incumbents tend to have a great deal more money than challengers have.

If we really want to make it easier for incumbents to be dislodged from office, let’s lobby for more competitive congressional districts and support campaign finance reform. Term limits just attack the superficial symptoms and leave the root causes of incumbency advantage unchanged.

Once again, it is time to reaffirm the idea that voters should have the greatest possible freedom to choose who will represent them in public office. Vote against Amendment 18.

Loevy is a professor of political science at The Colorado College. He is the author of “The Manipulated Path to the White House 1996: Maximizing Advantage in the Presidential Selection Process.”

Rocky Mountain News, October 25, 1998

Amendment 18: Pro: Con

Voter power crimped by the advantages of incumbency

By Dennis Polhill

The time is now. Colorado voters have a golden opportunity to change how things are done in the hallways of power.

A constitutional amendment on the Nov. 3 ballot, Amendment 18, will institute an official self-limit option for candidates. If you say yes, candidates for Congress will be able to take a pledge to limit their terms — to act as citizen legislators, not career politicians. The pledge would limit signers to three terms (six years) in the U.S. House of Representatives and two terms (12 years) in the U.S. Senate.

Saying yes to Amendment 18 would not force anybody to do anything. The pledge will be completely voluntary. Candidates who decline to sign will suffer no penalty. Those who do sign can choose whether or not to receive a notation next to their name on future ballots, indicating that they have signed. Those who decline to sign can ask, if they wish, for a notation on the ballot indicating their opposition to term limits.

Is self-limitation a good idea? Only if democracy is a good idea. And only if term limits are democratic. Pro-limiters agree with Lord Acton that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” They know that the longer a politician remains in office, the more susceptible he becomes to the lures of power, at the expense of the common good. Term limits aim to nip this corrupting process in the bud. Self-limitation allows individual representatives to make a clear commitment to voters.

Let’s face it. Deadlines concentrate the mind wonderfully. Instead of playing games, self-limited representatives will be eager to get to work, to accomplish something substantial before they must turn over the baton to the next citizen. They won’t have patience for political games or climbing the seniority ladder. They won’t have time for baloney.

To be sure, term limits are not a cure-all. Even under a completely term-limited legislature, we’d still get rotten apples, people who crave power for the sake of power. But the damage would be limited by the term limit. It’s a safety net citizens need and deserve.

Critics of term limits like to play a kind of trump card, one that seems persuasive at first glance — but only at first glance. “We already have term limits,” they often say. “They’re called elections.” The notion being that the public is perfectly free to eject the current occupant whenever the next election rolls around.

And if that were all that counted, if the only thing needed to sustain democratic institutions were the ability of registered voters to enter a booth and yank a lever, the argument would indeed trump. It would also prove too much, e.g., that every banana republic or totalitarian dictatorship that holds an election is a flourishing liberal democracy, no matter how meaningless that election might be.

Elections do count in this country. Voters do exercise real power at every level of government. But that power is crimped by the advantages of incumbency.

Name recognition is one obvious advantage. The chance to spend other people’s money on special interests (who then turn around and fund the incumbent’s campaign) is another. Franking privileges (the freedom to send large amounts of self-promotion mail at taxpayer’s expense, in the guise of “informing” the voters) are a third.

Challengers don’t get franking privileges. Challengers aren’t allowed to spend public money building dams and bridges. Challengers don’t have the kind of politically rigged, gerrymandered districts that so many incumbents enjoy.

Sometimes term-limit skeptics concede the undemocratic advantages of incumbency, but still reject term limits. They say reform should be engineered from within by the incumbents themselves. The problem is that already-ensconced incumbents have little incentive, as a group, to restrain their own collective power. But as a voter, you can demand that individual candidates limit themselves and you can hold your representative to that commitment.

Once upon a time, our statesmen typically served a couple of terms and then went home, following the lead of George Washington. Alas, the Founders took the virtue of rotation so much for granted that nobody bothered to write it into the Constitution (an omission that distressed Jefferson, for one). But the virtue of rotation is nowhere to be seen in today’s Congress.

The best show of good faith that any politician, aspirant or incumbent, can make to prove he’s serious about political reform is to formally agree to limit his own terms.

To sign a public pledge to do so. To affirm that he’s a citizen legislator, not a career politician. That he means what he says.

Colorado voters have led the charge for term limits by passing the first congressional term limits in the nation back in 1990. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court wasn’t willing to let the will of the voters prevail. This time, there will be no way to overturn what you decide. Say yes to Amendment 18. The time is now.

Dennis Polhill is co-chairman of Colorado Term Limits Coalition

 

 

 

Voters don’t back up talk

By Charles Roos

For the fourth time in eight years the people of Colorado are going to vote on the issue of term limits, and the 1998 version — Amendment 18— is the zaniest yet.

It is not only half-baked, unnecessary and maybe unconstitutional, but it also could clutter and confuse Colorado ballots for years to come.

It is a sneaky attempt aimed, indirectly but surely, at forcing term limits on our members of Congress. It would set up a “voluntary” system for disclosure of candidates’ views on term limits by printing labels on the ballot.

Never mind that the Supreme Court has said no state may impose term limits on Congress.

Never mind what other views a candidate may have — on the economy, education or foreign affairs. The one and only ballot disclosure would be on term limits.

How silly can it get?

Of course the people who want this clinker in the Colorado Constitution will argue that it’s necessary to help get rid of members who have served much too long and who have refused to quit voluntarily.

Let’s look at that.

In Colorado’s delegation, we now have one senator serving his first term, Republican Wayne Allard, and one running for his second, Republican Ben Campbell. We have one representative running for his seventh House term, Republican Joel Hefley, one running for his fourth term, Republican Scott McInnis, and two running for their second terms, Democrat Diana DeGette and Republican Bob Schaffer. We also have two open districts in which the November winners will be first-termers.

As I figure it, as of now the delegation has an average of fewer than four years experience on the job, not counting Campbell’s and Allard’s previous service in the House.

But does that sound like we have a delegation of entrenched, doddering autocrats? Not to me.

But wait, say the backers of Amendment 18, the voters of Colorado have already said three times they want term limits. Well, yes, they have, on a statewide basis, but there’s another way to look at it.

Consider the career of six-term Congressman Joel Hefley. El Paso County, which dominates his district, voted 4-to-1 for the original, broad term-limit amendment in 1990 and reaffirmed, its support of the concept in 1994 and 1996.

Yet at the same time El Paso was giving Hefley majorities of upwards of 68 percent for his third, fourth, fifth and sixth terms. In 1994, he had no opposition in either party.

When it came right down to it, how strongly did Hefley’s backers believe in term limits?

Then there’s the case of Denver’s now-retired congresswoman, Democrat Pat Schroeder, who served 12 House terms — a whopping 24 years. Well, in 1990 Denver voters approved the original term-limit proposal by 63 percent, but on the same day they re-elected Schroeder to her 10th term by 64 percent.

OK. So what about 6th District Republican Dan Schaefer, retiring this year after 16 years? Same story. His two counties, Arapahoe and Jefferson, voted decisively for term limits three times. Yet they always gave Schaefer monumental majorities.

In the legislative council’s evenhanded analysis of 1998 ballot issues, one argument given for Amendment 18 is that it “provides an opportunity for members of Congress from Colorado to choose to limit the number of terms they will serve.”

Hey, they already have that opportunity. More important, voters have the same opportunity every time a member comes up for reelection.

The sad fact, folks, is that the term-limitation people, one way or another, by slogan and subterfuge, want to take away your freedom to elect the people you want for as long as you want them.

It’s as simple as that.

QUOTE: Trust democracy, U.S. voters don’t need any help throwing the bums out.” They already can and do.USA Today (1994) Charles Roos, retired political editor at the News, writes a weekly column that appears on Fridays.

 

 

 

Aurora Sentinel, October 21, 1998

Term limit liars

Editor: When asked, the majority of congressman in Washington will profess their strong support of term limits. In fact, ironically, many of these same politicians campaign on their support of term limits and a citizen legislature election after election — on their way to a very long career.

Year after year, the careerist U. S. Congress has shown that it will not impose term limits on its members. Of course, members promise their constituents they will vote for term limits, but often self-interest — not to mention the nice office and six-figure salary are just too much to walk away from. So instead, every year Congress institutes a series of procedural maneuvers to guarantee member the opportunity to get on the record supporting some type of term limits, while all along ensuring that term limits will never pass Congress.

In response to this refusal of Congress to pass a term limits law, the Colorado Term Limits Coalition has placed on the state ballot an initiative, Amendment 18, that serves as a important step in taking Congress back from career politicians.

This initiative, known as the Voluntary Congressional Term Limits Declaration Act, will allow candidates for Congress to sign a document limiting their own term in office. When the law is passed, every candidate for Congress will be offered a declaration stating they will serve no more than three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives or two terms in the Senate. This will be strictly voluntary. If a candidate does not wish to sign, there will be no requirement to do so. This information, at the candidate’s request, will then be placed on the ballot to inform voters of the candidate’s personal position and actual intentions on term limits. If Amendment 18 passes, voters will be able to distinguish between those candidates who intend to limit their own terms and serve as citizen legislators and those who do not.

Amendment 18 is needed because many voters believe candidates cannot be trusted to honor their promises on term limits once they go to Washington. Here in Colorado, U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, who initially promised voters that he would serve only four terms, has now stated publicly that he probably will break the term-limit promise to his constituents. This despite polls that consistently show voters prefer candidates who agree to self-limit their tenure in Washington by an overwhelming margin of seven to one.

Despite the overwhelming support of term limits in Colorado, there are only two elected officials who have already agreed to self-limit – Sen. Wayne Allard and Rep. Bob Schaffer. But the voters have already exhibited their support of term limits. In the 6th Congressional District Republican primary, a candidate who signed a pledge to limit his tenure to three terms in Congress upset the favorite who had publicly stated he would not agree to limit his tenure if elected.

Notwithstanding this support of term limits, some naysayers still exist. Opponents of term limits will claim that we need experience and longevity to lookout for the interests of Colorado. But this is an elitist attitude that many career politicians hold, that assumes that Colorado voters don’t know who they are voting for. Three times this decade, Colorado voters have passed term-limit initiatives. Coloradans have made it abundantly clear they want citizen legislators — not career politicians.

In Colorado, U.S. senators and representatives are the only office holders not subject to term limits. Every attempt by the voters of Colorado to do what Congress won’t do to itself — pass Congressional term limits — has been thwarted by unelected judges.

Amendment 18 is an important step towards getting rid of career politicians and will bring what nearly 70 percent of Colorado voters have repeatedly said they desire — Congressional term limits.

Dennis Polhill Co-chaiman of the Colorado Term limits Coalition

Intermountain Jewish News, Denver, Colorado, October 16, 1998

Term Limits Amendment 

Editor: When asked, the majority of congressmen and senators in Washington will profess their strong support of term limits. In fact, ironically, many of these same politicians campaign on their support of term limits and a citizen legislature election after election after election — on their way to a very long career in Washington.

Year after year, the careerist US Congress has shown that it will not impose term limits on its members.  Of course, members promise their constituents they will vote for term limits, but often self-interest — not to mention the nice office and six-figure salary are just too much to walk away from. So instead, every year Congress institutes a series of procedural maneuvers to guarantee members the opportunity to get on the record supporting some type of term 1irnits while all along ensuring that term limits will never pass Congress.

In response to this refusal of Congress to pass a term limits law, the Colorado Term Limits Coalition has placed on the ballot an initiative (Amendment 18) that serves as an important step in taking Congress back from career politicians.

This initiative, known as the Voluntary Congressional Term Limits Declaration Act, will allow candidates for Congress to sign a declaration stating they will serve no more than three terms in the US House of Representatives or two terms in the Senate.

This will he strictly voluntary. If a candidate does not wish to sign, there will be requirement to do so. This information, at the candidate’s request, will then be placed on the ballot to inform voters of that candidate’s personal position and actual intentions on term limits.

When Amendment 18 passes voters will be able to distinguish between those candidates who intend to limit their own terms and serve as citizen legislators and those who do not.

Many Americans, from all political spectrums, feel they are not represented in Congress. They are tired of having representatives who are more receptive to special interests bearing donations than they are to the concerns of their constituents.

Despite the overwhelming support of term limits in Colorado, there are only two elected officials who have already agreed to self-limit – Sen. Wayne Allard and Cong. Bob Schaffer. But the voters have already exhibited their support of term limits.  In the Sixth Congressional District Republican primary a candidate who signed a pledge to limit his tenure to three terms in Congress upset the favorite who had publicly stated he would not agree to limit his tenure if elected.

Notwithstanding this support of term limits, some naysayers still exist. Opponents of term limits will claim that we need experience and longevity for the interests of Colorado. But this is an elitist attitude that many career politicians hold, that assumes that Colorado voters don’t know what they are voting for. Three times this decade, Colorado voters have passed term limits initiatives. Coloradans have made it abundantly clear, they want citizen legislators not career politicians.

Here in Colorado, our US senators and representatives are the only officeholders not subject to term limits. Every attempt by the voters of Colorado to do what Congress won’t do to itself — pass Congressional term limits — has been thwarted by unelected judges.

Amendment 18 is an important step toward getting rid of career politicians. By informing voters of the term limits position of candidates for Congress, voters are able to make a more informed decision on what type of candidate they want in Congress  — a citizen legislator who will limit their tenure in Congress or a career politician. Sending term-limit supporters to Congress will bring better, more responsive, representation to Colorado citizens. And ultimately, Amendment 18 will bring Coloradans what nearly 70% of Colorado voters have repeatedly said they desire – Congressional term limits.  

Dennis Polhill, Colorado Term Limits Coalition

 

 

Denver Post, October 11, 1998

 

No Uncertain Terms

Measure seeks to Limit Congressional Stays

Less is more with career politicians

By Dennis Polhill

Colorado voters have another golden opportunity to lead the charge for term limits on Congress. Amendment 18, on the ballot this November, is the next crucial step in restoring Congress to a true citizen legislature through term limits.

Amendment 18 will do two important things. First, it allows candidates to sign an official pledge to live by self-imposed term limits and thus go to Washington as citizen legislators. These citizen legislators will better represent us because the temptation of a lavish career in Congress dangled before them by lobbyists, special interests and party bosses will not be possible. They will remain closer to the people of our state, because they know that one day soon they will again, be private Colorado citizens.

Of course, many of Colorado’s congressional representatives have already term-limited themselves. Former Sen. Bill Armstrong stepped down after two terms, and Hank Brown came back to Colorado after one term in the Senate. Senators Wayne Allard and Ben Nighthorse Campbell have pledged to serve no more than two terms, and ‘Campbell’s opponent, Dottie Lamm, has also pledged a two-term limit. And this list is far from complete. Amendment 18 will put these pledges officially on record.

Secondly, Amendment 18 means that as voters we’ll know whether a candidate for Congress seeks to be a citizen legislator, serving the people for a short period of time, or a professional politician seeking to cash in on the perks, privileges and lucrative pension of a career in Congress. We’ll know because it will be an official matter of record, and because candidates will have the option of putting that information next to their name on the ballot. Incumbents cannot be denied the opportunity to continue running for office even if they betray their promise.  But voters will have information to enforce the candidate’s pledge if they choose.      

The pledge limits signers to three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, and two terms in the U.S. Senate. These are the same limits Colorado voters passed statewide repeatedly, but the courts disallowed. Yet where those laws failed in court, Amendment 18 will be upheld because no candidate is forced to do anything. The pledge is completely voluntary. Candidates who decline to sign will suffer no penalty. Those who do sign can choose whether or not to receive a notation next to their name on future ballots, indicating that they have signed. Those who decline to sign can ask, if they wish, for a notation on the ballot indicating their opposition to imposing term limits.

It is an issue of character contrasting sharply with the hypocrisy of those who profess to favor term limits while doggedly pursuing a long-time career in Washington. Voters know, too, that the longer politicians remain in office the more susceptible they become to the lures of power, and the more they represent the special interests of Washington, not their own.

Let’s face it. Deadlines concentrate the mind wonderfully. Instead of playing games, term-limited representatives will be eager to get to work, to accomplish something substantial before they must turn over the baton to the next citizen legislator. They won’t have time for political games. Instead, our representatives to Washington will have every incentive to change the destructive and corrupting culture of Washington.

It’s an old story, almost as old as our republic. Once upon a time statesmen typically served a couple of terms and then went home, following the lead of George Washington. Alas, the founders took the virtue of rotation so much for granted that nobody bothered to write it into the Constitution (an omission that distressed Jefferson, for one). From 1790 until 1940 the average turnover in Congress was 40 percent. Since 1940 turnover has averaged a feeble 17 percent. Today, most politicians who go to Congress want to stay and stay and stay.

Voters can demand that candidates limit themselves, and they can hold their representatives to that commitment. Amendment 18 helps them do just that by providing candidates an opportunity to speak out on the issue (if they choose) and giving voters information that they consider important.

Colorado led the charge for congressional term limits by passing the first such law in the nation in 1990. We then passed term limits, for local elected officials throughout the state in 1994. Two years later, Colorado voters passed an initiative that instructed our legislators to do everything in their power to pass a constitutional amendment for congressional term limits.

But politicians, and the special interests that feed at the public trough, won’t give up without a fight. By arrogantly denying the people their will, not only do they frustrate one of the most needed congressional reforms, but they subvert the very foundation of our democratic process. Amendment 18 is your chance to reform an out-of-touch, out-of-control Congress. Vote yes on term limits.— yes on Amendment 18.

Dennis Polhill is a civil engineer and has been co-chairman of the Colorado Term Limits Coalition since 1994.

 

Don’t turn away experienced incumbents

By Robert D. Loevy

Once again the issue of term limits is making an appearance in the state of Colorado.

I am referring to the Voluntary Congressional Term Limits initiative that will be on the general election ballot in Colorado on Nov. 3.

This particular version of the ever-returning proposal provides that candidates for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate may note on the ballot their voluntary acceptance of term limits.

There was a time when term limits could be defended on a partisan basis. Until 1994, the Democratic Party controlled the U.S. Rouse of Representatives for multiple decades, starting with the congressional elections of 1954.

Republican strategists, desperate to break the apparent Democratic strangle hold on the U.S. House, came up with term limits as the solution to the problem.

If incumbent Democratic legislators were forced by constitutional fiat to leave office after six or eight years, the thinking went, the Republicans would have a better chance of winning what would automatically become an “open” seat.

I confess that political science professors such as myself played a role in the increasing popularity of congressional term limits during the 1970s and 1980s.

We carefully documented the ways in which incumbent Democratic House members skillfully used the powers of their elected offices to almost automatically get re-elected.

By sending mail to their constituents (often at government expense), getting on television, and doing favors, Democratic legislators in Washington, D.C., were able to virtually guarantee their re-election for, it seemed, decades to come.

As this process became well known, many Republicans throughout the nation became supporters of term limits and began pushing the idea, in a non-partisan or bipartisan fashion, as good for all levels of government, not just the U.S. House of Representatives. But this 1998 version of congressional term limits for Colorado might best be characterized as “The Irrelevant Monster From The Past.”

It is irrelevant because the Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994 eliminated all logic, partisan or otherwise, for congressional term limits.

In 1994 the Republicans showed that, even without term limits, enough Democratic incumbents could be defeated for the GOP to take over the U.S. House of Representatives. 

And the best part of that historic 1994 turnover in the U.S. House of Representatives was that it was orchestrated by current voters, expressing their will in an open election rather than by legalistic lines written in a national or state constitution.

So Colorado voters should keep in mind, as they troop to the polls to vote on Voluntary Congressional Term Limits, that the logic for supporting such a measure is buried in the past — a partisan Republican past that is no longer relevant to the current political situation.

In fact, now that the Republicans are the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, term limits actually work against the Republicans rather than for them.

It is true that term limits are rarely discussed in the directly partisan terms that I have presented them here.

Term-limit supporters do not like to admit that the original support for the idea came from a Republican desire to wrest control of the U.S. House of Representatives from the Democrats.

So, for those who want non-partisan reasons to vote against Voluntary Congressional Term Limits, here they are:

·        Term limits narrow the choices available to voters. When you go to the ballot box, you should be able to vote for any candidate you choose. If you like that 10-, 20-, or even 30- year incumbent, you should be free to vote for her or him.

·        Term limits unfairly penalize those with experience and proven skills in elective office. Do you automatically change your doctor every six years, even when he or she has done a great job of keeping you healthy? Do you stop going to your regular vacation spot after six years, even though it remains your favorite place in the whole world? Should married couples automatically divorce after six years, even if they are still madly in love with each other? Voters should have the freedom to continue in office those elected officials who have served them well and demonstrated proven ability at successfully operating our government.

·        Term limits increase the power of congressional staff members, who are not term-limited, and reduce the power of elected U.S. senators and representatives. Political scientists make good money teaching about the complex rules and labyrinthine legislative processes that characterize Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. It is a system that places a premium on experience and knowing what has happened in the past. If elected officials are automatically forced out after six years or so in office, the only people who will “know the legislative ropes” will be the legislative bureaucrats who serve as U.S. Senate and U.S. House staff members. I would much rather be governed by an “old hand” who is an elected official, responsible to the voters, than by a paid bureaucrat, responsible to “who-knows-what.”

·        Term limits attack the symptoms and not the underlying problems of electoral democracy in the United States. The real reason that members of the U.S. House of Representatives get re-elected over and over again is that state governments fail to draw competitive U.S. House districts.

Another reason is that incumbents tend to have a great deal more money than challengers have.

If we really want to make it easier for incumbents to be dislodged from office, let’s lobby for more competitive congressional districts and support campaign finance reform.

Term limits just attack the superficial symptoms and leave the root causes of incumbency advantage unchanged.

Once again it is time to reaffirm the idea that voters should have the greatest possible freedom to choose who will represent them in public office.

Vote “Against” the proposed initiative on Voluntary Congressional Term Limits.

Robert D. Loevy is a professor of political science at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He is the author of “The Manipulated Path To The White House 1996: Maximizing Advantage In The Presidential Selection Process.

 

 

 

 

Colorado Statesman, October 9, 1998

POLHILL: TAKE CONGRESS BACK FROM CAREER POLITICIANS

Vote yes’ on voluntary term limits

By Dennis Polhill

When asked, the majority of Congressmen and Senators in Washington will profess their strong support of term limits. In fact, ironically, many of these same politicians campaign on their support of term limits and a citizen legislature election after election after election on their way to a very long career in Washington.

Year after year, the careerist United States Congress has shown that it will not impose term limits on its members. Of course, members promise their constituents they will vote for term limits, but often self-interest — not to mention the nice office and six-figure salary are just too much to walk away from. So instead, every year Congress institutes a series of procedural maneuvers to guarantee members the opportunity to get on the record supporting some type of term limits, while all along ensuring that term limits will never pass Congress.

In response to this refusal of Congress to pass a term limits law, the Colorado Term Limits Coalition has placed on the ballot an initiative(Amendment 18) that serves as an important step in taking Congress back from career politicians.

This initiative, known as the Voluntary Congressional Term Limits Declaration Act, will allow candidates for congress to sign a declaration limiting their own term in office. When the law is passed, every candidate for Congress will be offered a declaration stating they will serve no more than 3 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives or 2 terms in the Senate. This will be strictly voluntary. If a candidate does not wish to sign, there will be no requirement to do so. This information, at the candidate’s request, will then be placed on the ballot to inform voters of that candidate’s personal position and actual intentions on term limits. When Amendment 18 passes voters will be able to distinguish between those candidates who intend to limit their own terms and serve as citizen legislators and those who do not.

Amendment 18 is needed because many voters believe candidates cannot be trusted to honor their promises on term limits once they go to Washington. Unfortunately, this public distrust has proven to be extremely well placed. Here in Colorado, Congressman Scott McInnis, who initially promised voters that he would serve only four terms, has now stated publicly that he probably will break the term limit promise to his constituents. This despite polls that consistently show voters prefer candidates who agree to self-limit their tenure in Washington by an overwhelming margin of 7 to 1.

Furthermore, many Americans, from all political spectrums, feel they are not represented in Congress. They are tired of politicians who say one thing to the voters and do something entirely different once in Washington. They are tired of having representatives who are more receptive to special interests bearing donations, than they are to the concerns of their constituents.

Despite the overwhelming support of term limits in Colorado, there are only two elected officials who have already agreed to self-limit— Senator Wayne Allard and Congressman Bob Schaffer. But the voters have already exhibited their support of term Limits. In the 6th Congressional District Republican primary, a candidate who signed a pledge to limit his tenure to three terms in Congress upset the favorite who had publicly stated he would not agree to limit his tenure if elected.

Notwithstanding this support of term limits, some naysayers still exist. Opponents of term limits will claim that we need experience and longevity to look out for the interests of Colorado. But this is an elitist attitude that many career politicians hold that assumes that Colorado voters don’t know what they are voting for. Three times this decade, Colorado voters have passed term limits initiatives. Coloradans have made it abundantly clear, they want citizen legislators, not career politicians.

Here in Colorado, our U.S. Senators and Representatives are the only officeholders not subject to term limits. Every attempt by the voters of Colorado to do what Congress won’t do to itself pass Congressional term limits has been thwarted by unelected judges.

Amendment 18 is an important step towards getting rid of career politicians. By informing voters of the term limits position of candidates for Congress, voters are able to make a more informed decision on what type of candidate they want in Congress a citizen legislator who will limit their tenure in Congress or a career politician. Sending term-limit supporters to Congress will bring better, more responsive, representation of Colorado citizens. And ultimately, Amendment 18 will bring Coloradans what nearly 70% of Colorado voters have repeatedly said they desire Congressional term limits.

Dennis Polhill is the Co-chairman of the Colorado Term Limits Coalition.

Steamboat Pilot, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, October 7, 1998

Guest comment

Congress won’t impose term limits on itself, so voters should

This week guest comments come from Dennis Polhill. Polhill is the co-chairman of the Colorado Term Limits Coalition headquarters in Lakewood.

When asked, the majority of Congressmen and Senators in Washington will profess their strong support of term limits. In fact, ironically, many of these same politicians campaign on their support of term limits and a citizen legislature election after election after election on their way to a very long career in Washington.

Year after year, the careerist United States Congress has shown that it will not impose term limits on its members.

Of course, members promise their constituents they will vote for term limits, but often self-interest — not to mention the nice office and six-figure salary — are just too much to walk away from. So instead, every year Congress institutes a series of procedural maneuvers to guarantee members the opportunity to get on the record supporting some type of term limits, while all along ensuring that term limits will never pass Congress.

In response to this refusal of Congress to pass a term limits law, the Colorado Term Limits Coalition has placed on the ballot an initiative (Amendment 18) that serves as an important step in taking Congress back from career politicians.

This initiative, known as the Voluntary Congressional Term Limits Declaration Act, will allow candidates for congress to sign a declaration limiting their own term in office. When the law is passed, every candidate for Congress will be offered a declaration stating they will serve no more than three terms in the U.S. House of Representative or two terms in the Senate.

This will be strictly voluntary. If a candidate does not wish to sign, there will be no requirement to do so. This information, at the candidate’s request, will then be placed on the ballot to inform voters of that candidate’s personal position and actual intentions on term limits. When the Amendment 18 passes voters will be able to distinguish between those candidates who intend to limit their own terms and serve as citizen legislators and those who do not.

Amendment 18 is needed because many voters believe candidates cannot be trusted to honor their promises on term limits once they go to Washington. Unfortunately this public distrust has proven to be extremely well placed.

Here in Colorado, Congressman Scott Mclnnis, who initially promised voters, that he would serve only four terms, has now stated publicly that he probably will break the term limit promise to his constituents. This despite polls that consistently show voters prefer candidates who agree to self-limit their tenure in Washington by an Overwhelming margin of 7 to 1.

Furthermore, many Americans, from all political spectrums, feel they are not represented in Congress. They are tired of politicians who say one thing to the voters and do something entirely different once in Washington. They are tired of having representatives who are more receptive to special interests bearing donations, than they are to the concerns of their constituents.

Despite the overwhelming support of term limits in Colorado, there are only two elected officials who have already agreed to self-limit — Sen. Wayne Allard and Congressman Bob Schaffer.

But the voters have already exhibited their support of term limits.

In the 6th Congressional District Republican primary, a candidate who signed a pledge to limit his tenure to three terms in Congress upset the favorite who had publicly stated he would not agree to limit his tenure if elected.

Notwithstanding this support of term limits, some naysayers still exist. Opponents of term limits will claim that we need experience and longevity to look out for the interests of Colorado. But this is an elitist attitude that many career politicians hold, that assumes that Colorado voters don’t know what they are voting for.

Three times this decade, Colorado voters have passed term limits initiatives. Coloradans have made it abundantly clear, they want citizen legislators not career politicians.

Here in Colorado, our U.S. senators and representatives are the only officeholders not subject to term limits. Every attempt by the voters of Colorado to do what Congress won’t do to itself — pass Congressional term limits — has been thwarted by judges.

Amendment 18 is an important step toward getting rid of career politicians.

By informing voters of the term limits position of candidates for Congress, voters are able to make a more informed decision on what type of candidate they want in Congress — a citizen legislator who will limit their tenure in Congress or a career politician.

Sending term-limit supporters to Congress will bring better, more responsive, representation to Colorado citizens. And ultimately Amendment 18 will bring Coloradans what nearly 70 percent of Colorado voters have repeatedly said they desire — congressional term limits.

Lafayette News, October 5, 1998

‘Yes’ on Amendment 18 is ‘yes’ on term limits

By DENNIS POLHILL

When asked, the majority of Congressmen and Senators in Washington will profess their strong support of term limits. In fact, ironically, many of these same politicians campaign on their support of term limits and a citizen legislature election after election after election – on their way to a very long career in Washington.

Year after year, the careerist United States Congress has shown that it will not impose term limits on its members. Of course, members promise their constituents they will vote for term limits, but often self-interest – not to mention the nice office and six-figure salary are just too much to walk away from. So instead, every year Congress institutes a series of procedural maneuvers to guarantee members the opportunity to get on the record supporting some type of term limits, while all along ensuring that term limits will never pass Congress.

In response to this refusal of Congress to pass a term limits law, the Colorado Term Limits Coalition has placed on the ballot an initiative (Amendment 18) that serves as an important step in taking Congress back from career politicians.

This initiative, known as the Voluntary Congressional Term Limits Declaration Act, will allow candidates for Congress to sign a declaration limiting their own term in office. When the law is passed, every candidate for Congress will be offered a declaration stating they will serve no more than three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives or two terms in the Senate. This will be strictly voluntary. If a candidate does not wish to sign, there will be no requirement to do so. This information, at the candidate’s request, will then be placed on the ballot to inform voters of that candidate’s personal position and actual intentions on term limits. When the Amendment 18 passes voters will be able to distinguish between those candidates who intend to limit their own terms and serve as citizen legislators and those who do not.

Amendment 18 is needed because many voters believe candidates cannot be trusted to honor their promises on term limits once they go to Washington. Unfortunately this public distrust has proven to be extremely well placed. Here in Colorado, Congressman Scott McInnis, who initially promised voters that he would serve only four terms, has now stated publicly that he probably will break the term limit promise to his constituents. This despite polls that consistently show voters prefer candidates who agree to self-limit their tenure in Washington by an overwhelming margin of 7 to 1.

Furthermore, many Americans, from all political spectrums, feel they are not represented in Congress. They are tired of politicians who say one thing to the voters and do something entirely different once in Washington. They are tired of having representatives who are more receptive to special interests bearing donations, than they are to the concerns of their constituents.

Despite the overwhelming support of term limits in Colorado, there are only two elected officials who have already agreed to self-limit Senator Wayne Allard and Congressman Bob Schaffer. But the voters have already exhibited their support of term limits. In the 6th Congressional District Republican primary, a candidate who signed a pledge to limit his tenure to three terms in Congress upset the favorite who had publicly stated he would not agree to limit his tenure if elected.

Notwithstanding this support of term limits, some naysayers still exist. Opponents of term limits will claim that we need experience and longevity to look out for the interests of Colorado. But this is an elitist attitude that many career politicians hold, that assumes that Colorado voters don’t know what they are voting for. Three times this decade, Colorado voters have passed term limits initiatives. Coloradans have made it abundantly clear, they want citizen legislators not career politicians.

Here in Colorado, our U.S. Senators and Representatives are the only officeholders not subject to term limits. Every attempt by the voters of Colorado to do what Congress won’t do to itself – pass Congressional term limits has been thwarted by unelected judges.

Amendment 18 is an important step towards getting rid of career politicians. By informing voters of the term limits position of candidates for Congress, voters are able to make a more informed decision on what type of candidate they want in Congress – a citizen legislator who will limit their tenure in Congress or a career politician. Sending term-limit supporters to Congress will bring better, more responsive, representation to Colorado citizens. And ultimately, Amendment 18 will bring Coloradans what nearly 70 percent of Colorado voters have repeatedly said they desire – Congressional term limits.

(Dennis Polhill is the Co-chairman of the Term Limits Coalition.)

Denver Post Letter to Editor

Sunday, March 22, 1998 

Limits for Congress

Re: the March 1 Sue O’Brien column “Limiting terms also limits voters”:

The controversy over Scott Mclnnis breaking his promise to limit his congressional tenure flushes out media bias against term limits. Columnists have resorted to the standard and disproven anti-term limits claims as always. Unfortunately for opponents, voters remain unconvinced by the “parade of horrors.”

Because state, local and presidential term limits are a reality, the issue in 1998 condenses to: Should Congress be the lone political body in America without term limits? A related question is: To what extent in a constitutional republic should the will of the people be frustrated by the political establishment, when it has a clear conflict of interest?

Voter turnout trends prove that citizens know that elections are increasingly irrelevant. Why was it called a revolution in 1994 when congressional turnover shot up from 2 percent to 7 percent? Turnover for the Colorado Legislature is similar. The two political parties have colluded to marginalize their respective risks during elections. Because “safe seats” are the norm, term limits have brought competition to the election process.

Contrary to common assertion, citizens are protective of local limits. Over 95 percent of local politicians have accepted constitutionally defined limits. Of proposed changes referred to voters, 57 percent have been rejected outright. Of the “opt- out” elections approved, most were modifications, not rejections. Most of the rejections have occurred in tiny governments; which is consistent with the opt-out notion in the 1994 law.

At the core, term limits are about changing the culture of careerism in politics and restoring representative democracy. Those who defend the status quo deny the reality of a failed and corrupt pork barrel government by an elite class untouchable by elections.

Politicians know they can win elections by ‘pretending” to support term limits. They have cultivated to a fine art the distinction between lies and deceit. In 1998, the aim of the Colorado Term Limits Coalition is to make it more difficult for then to “pretend.” Politicians shouldn’t (as the column stated) be able to “have it both ways.”

DENNIS POLHILL, Co-ChairmanColorado Term Limits CoalitionLakewood

Palisade Tribune, Palisade, CO (Mesa County), February 19, 1998

Court Errs in Derailing Limits

By Dennis Polhill

The Colorado Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down Amendment 12 highlights the court’s overtly political agenda. Instead of respecting the people’s right to petition the government for change, the justices found in favor of professional politicians.

Amendment 12, approved by voters in the November 1996 election, would have notified voters of a candidate’s position on term limits through a notation on the ballot. It was struck down as “coercive.” Chief Justice Vollack wrote that the amendment “takes away from elected officials the right to exercise their own judgment and vote the best interest of their constituencies as they perceive them.” Take away their judgment? How so?

Amendment 12 would have given the voters information on a legislator’s legislative actions on Congressional term limits. It would not have prevented legislators from voting their conscience, nor would it have punished them for voting against Congressional term limits — unless you consider stating the truth about a legislator’s legislative actions as “punishment.”

The court’s conjecture that the ballot label would harm all legislators who vote against term limits is both false and stinks of the reasoning that politicians have a “right” to hold office. Popular legislators who do not support term limits would continue to be elected. In fact, many term limits detractors would find the ballot labeling a useful means to pick candidates who will vote against the reform.

Voting is not a knee-jerk reaction for the citizens of Colorado. Many factors are involved in picking a candidate, term limits being one of them. For the court to assume that all term limit foes will be thrown out of office infers an innate tunnel vision on the part of the electorate that is completely unfounded.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “And say, finally, whether peace is best preserved by giving energy to the government, or information to the people. This last is most certain, and the most legitimate engine of government. Educated and inform the whole mass of people … They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” But the court ruled against giving information to the people in favor of bolstering professional politicians. How far we have strayed from the Founding Fathers’ vision.

But all is not lost. In November of 1998, Colorado voters will have the opportunity to vote for the “Congressional Term Limits Declaration.” It will allow candidates to declare and demonstrate their support for term limits by pledging to voluntarily serve no more than three terms in the House of Representatives or two terms in the Senate (the same limits repeatedly approved by voters in Colorado and many other states). Candidates are also empowered to authorize information to appear on the ballot.

Because the declaration is completely voluntary, it differs substantially from Amendment 12. If a candidate did not want to sign the declaration, he or she would not have to, nor would any language describing a candidate’s legislative actions he on the ballot. On the other hand, a candidate may decide to sign the first or both parts of the declaration.

The first part pledges a candidate to serve only the specified amount of time. The second part asks the Secretary of State to place this information on the ballot. In the ease that a candidate breaks his or her pledge to serve three terms in the House and has signed the second part, the words “Running for fourth term after declaring intention to limit service to no more than three terms” will appear on the ballot next to his or her name. Since the Congressional Term Limits Declaration is 100 percent voluntary, the courts will not be able to insinuate that it coerces legislators to vote in a particular manner.

Candidates who take the declaration will be promising to represent their constituents as citizen legislators, not career politicians. Instead of promoting a long career in Washington, self-limiters will serve the interests of their constituents. Colorado voters want representatives who are connected to the people and the concerns of their state and who will work efficiently to promote those interests.

Dennis Polhill is a Senior Fellow at the Independence Institute. http://i2i.org.

Golden Transcript, February 13, 1998

Voluntary term limits?

The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision striking down Amendment 12 highlights the court’s overtly political agenda. Instead of respecting the people’s right to petition the government for change, the justices found in favor of professional politicians.

Amendment 12, approved by voters in the November 1996 election that would have notified voters of a candidate’s position on term limits through a notation on the ballot, was struck down as “coercive.”

Chief Justice Vollack wrote that the amendment “takes away from elected officials the right to exercise their own judgment and vote the best interest of their constituencies as they perceive them” Take away their judgment? How so?

Amendment 12 would have given the voters information on a U.S. legislator’s legislative actions on congressional term limits. It would not have prevented legislators from voting their conscience, nor would it have punished them for voting against congressional term limits – unless you consider stating the truth about a legislator’s legislative actions as “punishment.”

The court’s conjecture that the ballot label would harm all legislators who vote against term limits is both false and stinks of the reasoning that politicians have a “right” to hold office. Popular legislators who do not support term limits would continue to be elected. In fact, many term limits detractors would find the ballot labeling a useful means to pick candidates who will vote against the reform.

Voting is not a knee-jerk reaction for the citizens of Colorado. Many factors are involved in picking a candidate, term limits being one of them. For the court to assume that all term limit foes will be thrown out of office infers an innate tunnel vision on the part of the electorate that is completely unfounded.

But all is not lost. In November, Colorado voters will have the opportunity to vote for the Congressional Term Limits Declaration. It will allow candidates to declare and demonstrate their support for term limits by pledging to voluntarily serve no more than three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives or two terms in the U.S. Senate (the same limits repeatedly approved by voters in Colorado and many other states). Candidates are also empowered to authorize information to appear on the ballot.

Because the declaration is completely voluntary, it differs substantially from Amendment 12. If a candidate did not want to sign the declaration, he or she would not have to, nor would any language describing a candidate’s legislative actions be on the ballot. On the other hand, a candidate may decide to sign the first or both parts of the declaration.

The first part pledges a candidate to serve only the specified amount of time.

The second part asks the secretary of state to place this information on the ballot. In the case that a candidate breaks his or her pledge to serve three terms in the House and has signed the second part, the words “Running for xth term after declaring intention to limit service to no more than three terms” will appear on the ballot next to his or her name. Since the Congressional Term Limits Declaration is 100% voluntary, the courts will not be able to insinuate that it coerces legislators to vote in a particular manner.

While the Colorado Supreme Court finds that legislator have a “right” to be shielded from the electorate while holding office, they cannot object to a candidate voluntarily declaring and demonstrating his or her support for term limits. If Colorado voters decide to enact the Congressional Term Limits Declaration, they will be saying, like Thomas Jefferson, that the more the voters know the better.

Dennis Polhill senior fellow Independence Institute.

 

DENVER BUSINESS JOURNAL Denver, CO, February 6, 1998

Trying again at limiting a politician’s term

The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision last week striking down Amendment 12 highlights the court’s overtly political agenda. Instead of respecting the people’s right to petition the government for change, the justices found in favor of professional politicians.

Amendment 12 was approved by voters in 1996 and would have notified voters of a candidate’s position through a notation on the ballot. It was struck down as “coercive.” Chief Justice Vollack wrote that the amendment “takes away from elected officials the right to exercise their own judgment and vote the best interest of their constituencies as they perceive them.” Take away their judgment? How so?

Amendment 12 would not have prevented legislators from voting their conscience, nor would it have punished them for voting against congressional term limits — unless you consider stating the truth about a legislator’s legislative actions as “punishment.”

The court’s conjecture that the ballot label would harm all legislators who vote against term limits is both false and stinks of the reasoning that politicians have a “right” to hold office.

But all is not lost. In November 1998, Colorado voters will have the opportunity to vote for the “Congressional Term Limits Declaration’ It will allow candidates to declare and demonstrate their support for term limits by pledging to voluntarily serve no more than three terms in the House of Representatives or two terms in the Senate. Candidates are also empowered to authorize information to appear on the ballot.

Because the declaration is completely voluntary, it differs substantially from Amendment 12. If a candidate did not want to sign the declaration, he or she would not have to, nor would any language describing a candidate’s legislative actions be on the ballot.

The first part pledges a candidate to serve only the specified amount of time. The second part asks the Secretary of State to place this information on the ballot. In the case that a candidate breaks his or her pledge to serve three terms in the House and has signed the second part, the words “Running for xth term after declaring intention to limit service to no more than 3 terms” will appear on the ballot next to his or her name.

Candidates who take the declaration will be promising to represent their constituents as citizen legislators, not career politicians. Instead of promoting a long career in Washington, self-limiters will serve the interests of their constituents. Colorado voters want representatives who are connected to the people and the concerns of their state and who will work efficiently to promote these interests. Only a self-limiting member, who has six years (or 12 in the Senate) to make a difference, will fulfill those promises.

While the court finds that legislators have a “right” to be shielded from the electorate while holding office, they cannot object to a candidate voluntarily declaring and demonstrating his or her support for term limits. If Colorado voters decide to enact the “Congressional Term Limits Declaration’ they will be saying that the more the voters know, the better.

Dennis Polhill is a senior fellow at the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden.

 

Monument Tribune, February 5, 1998

You Can’t Object to Voluntary Term Limits

By Dennis Polhill, Independence Institute

The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision last week striking down Amendment 12 highlights the courts overtly political agenda. Instead of respecting the people’s right to petition the government for change, the justices found in favor of professional politicians.

Amendment 12, approved by voters in the November 1996 election that would have notified voters of a candidate’s position on term limits through a notation on the ballot, was struck down as “coercive.” Chief Justice Vollack wrote that the amendment “takes away from elected officials the right to exercise their own judgment and vote the best interest of their constituencies as they perceive them.” Take away their judgment? How so?

Amendment 12 would have given the voters information on a legislator’s legislative actions on Congressional term limits. It would not have prevented legislators from voting their conscience, nor would it have punished them for voting against Congressional term limits-unless you consider stating the truth about a legislator’s legislative actions as “punishment.”

The court’s conjecture that the ballot label would harm all legislators who vote against term limits is both false and stinks of the reasoning that politicians have a “right” to hold office. Popular legislators who do not support term limits would continue to he elected. In fact, many term limits detractors would find the ballot labeling a useful means to pick candidates who will vote against the reform.

Voting is not a knee jerk reaction for the citizens of Colorado. Many factors are involved in picking a candidate, term limits being one of them. For the curt to assume that all term limit foes will he thrown out of office infers an innate tunnel vision on the part of the electorate that is completely unfounded.

But all is not lost. In November of 1998, Colorado voters will have the opportunity to vote for the “Congressional Term Limits Declaration.” It will allow candidates to declare and demonstrate their support for term limits by pledging to voluntarily serve no more than three terms in the House of Representatives or two terms in the Senate (the same limits repeatedly approved by voters in Colorado and many other states). Candidates are also empowered to authorize information to appear on the ballot.

Because the declaration is completely voluntary, it differs substantially from Amendment 12. If a candidate did not want to sign the declaration, he or she would not have to, nor would any language describe a candidate’s legislative actions be on the ballot. On the other hand, a candidate may decide to sign the first or both parts of the declaration.

While the Colorado Supreme Court finds that legislators have a “right” to he shielded from the electorate while holding office, they can not object to a candidate voluntarily declaring and demonstrating his or her support for term limits. If Colorado voters decide to enact the “Congressional Term Limits Declaration” they will be saying, like Jefferson, that the more the voters know the better.

Dennis Polhill is a Senior Fellow at the Independence Institute, a free market think tank located in Golden, Colorado.

Summit Daily News, February 4, 1998

Court Sides with Professional Politicians

The Colorado Supreme Court’s decision striking down Amendment 12 highlights the court’s overtly political agenda. Instead of respecting the people’s right to petition the government for change, the justices found in favor of professional politicians.

Amendment 12, approved by voters in the November 1996 election that would have notified voters of a candidate’s position on term limits through a notation on the ballot, was struck down as ”coercive.” Chief Justice Vollack wrote that the amendment “takes away from elected officials the right to exercise their own judgment and vote the best interest of their constituencies as they perceive them.” Take away their judgment? How so?

Amendment 12 would have given the voters information on a legislator’s legislative actions on Congressional term limits. It would not have prevented legislators from voting their conscience, nor would it have punished them for voting against Congressional teem limits unless you consider stating the truth about a legislator’s legislative actions as “punishment.”

The court’s conjecture that the ballot label would harm all legislators who vote against term limits is both false and stinks of the reasoning that politicians have a “right” to hold office. Popular legislators who do not support term limits would continue to be elected. In fact, many term limits detractors would find the ballot labeling a useful means to pick candidates who will vote against the reform.

Voting is not a knee jerk reaction for the citizens of Colorado. Many factors are involved in picking a candidate, term limits being one of them. For the court to assume that all term limits foes will be thrown out of office infers an innate tunnel vision on the part of the electorate that is completely unfounded.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “And say, finally, whether peace is best preserved by giving energy to the government, or information to the people.

This last is most certain, and the most legitimate engine of government. Educate and inform the whole mass of people. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”

The court ruled against giving information to the people in favor of bolstering professional politicians. How far we have strayed from the Founding Fathers’ vision.

But all is not lost. In November of 1998, Colorado voters will have the opportunity to vote for the “Congressional Term Limits Declaration.” It will allow candidates to declare and demonstrate their support for term limits by pledging to voluntarily serve no more than three terms in the House of Representatives or two terms in the Senate (the same limits repeatedly approved by voters in Colorado and many other states). Candidates are also empowered to authorize information to appear on the ballot.

Because the declaration is completely voluntary, it differs substantially from Amendment 12. If a candidate did not want to sign the declaration, he or she would not have to, nor would any language describing a candidate’s legislative actions be on the ballot. On the other hand, a candidate may decide to sign the first or both parts of the declaration.

The first part pledges a candidate to serve only the specified amount of time.

The second part asks the Secretary of State to place this information on the ballot. In the case that a candidate breaks his or her pledge to serve three terms in the House and has signed the second part, the words, “Running for xth term after declaring intention to limit service to no more than 3 terms” will appear on the ballot next to his or her name. Since the “Congressional Term Limits Declaration” is 100 percent voluntary, the courts will not be able to insinuate that it coerces legislators to vote in a particular manner.

Candidates who take the declaration will be promising to represent their constituents as citizen legislators, not career politicians. Instead of promoting a long career in Washington, self-limiters will serve the interests of then constituents. Colorado’s voters want representatives who are connected to the people and the concerns of their state and who will work efficiently to promote those interests. Only a self-limiting member, who has six years (or 12 in the Senate to make a difference will fulfill those promises.

While the Colorado Supreme Court finds that legislators have a “right” to be shielded from the electorate while holding office, they cannot object to a candidate voluntarily declaring and demonstrating his or her support for term limits. If Colorado voters decide to enact the “Congressional Term Limits Declaration” they will be saying, like Jefferson, that the more the voters know the better.

Dennis Polhill is a Senior Fellow at the Independence Institute, a free market think tank located in Golden, Colorado.

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