Americans want term limits for members of Congress. It takes an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But most Americans are unaware of an important case headed to the Supreme Court that could move things in that direction.
It concerns a Missouri term limits initiative passed in 1996. Missourians passed an amendment to their state constitution. It followed the age-old practice of instructing elected officials. In this case, the amendment instructed congressional representatives from Missouri to use every effort to pass a term limits amendment to the U.S. Constitution. These instructions were not binding. Voters cannot force their representatives to vote a certain way.
But in our country’s early days, when elected officials could not in good conscience abide by the instructions of the voters, they almost always resigned from office. In those days, there was such a thing as honor. Not so much today. So the Missouri initiative went one step further. It provided that the voters would be informed on the ballot if congressional candidates refused to abide by the voters’ wishes.
Critics have decried the ballot notation as, in effect, telling the voters that a candidate is “unworthy to hold public office,” resulting in “potential political deaths” of those politicians who oppose term limits. And geez, we don’t want that. The Supreme Court must decide: Do voters have a right to instruct their representatives and to be informed on whether those instructions are followed? A favorable court decision would be a big step in the right direction.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.