Term Limits and Voting Reform

A reform of a country’s political system can have a profound impact on the system’s  behavior.  Examples include our 1787 Constitution and De Gaulle’s 1958 Constitution which greatly improved the French Government’s stability and effectiveness with the same French electorate.

But in thinking about political reform one has to do due diligence. 

Unfortunately, those advocating legislative term limits failed to understand that for reasons set out in the following e-mail to my former state representative.  The upshot of that was a serious mistake that sorely needs to be corrected by repealing legislative term limits in Michigan along with instituting a better electoral system for the state.

From: John Howard Wilhelm
Date: Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 8:27 PM
Subject: Term Limits and Voting Reform
To: State Representative Jeff Irwin

Representative Irwin,  Last year at a meeting you held with constituents, I handed out a flier on voting reform and made some comments on term limits.  I want to bring your attention to the updated version of my flier, which is attached as a pdf file, and to formally outline my position on term limits as part of an effort to see if it might be possible to engage you on the issue of political reform in our state.

It is my contention that four essential elements of a well functioning legislature are: 1) Institutional memory, 2) The presence of members who have acquired a deep understanding and specialization in an area with which the legislature has to deal, 3) The presence of members who have the experience and trust to work across the partisan divide and 4) The presence of senior members with the background and experience to mentor new members.  All of these attributes require time to develop which a rapid turnover in legislative bodies and term limits seriously undermine.  In the case of term limits, I also
regard it as deeply undemocratic to tell a given constituency that it cannot reelect a representative whom it may want to represent it.  In addition, contrary to the assertion of proponents of term limits, it is my contention that they lead in our legislatures to promoting more dysfunctional partisanship, not less.

It is my belief that we could significantly improve governance in Michigan by repealing terms limits for our legislative representatives and by mandating a better voting system in their election.  We can do the latter by introducing approval voting in our primary and general elections.  Under approval voting, voters in multi candidate elections can give one vote each to that candidate or candidates they support with the
candidate having the most votes winning.  It is that simple.  But this essentially costless voting reform will get rid of the wasted vote, the spoiler role and assure a more representative outcome as those associated with the Center for Election Science and my electronic book on voting systems at www.nationalrenewal.org point out.

Our country sorely needs political reform to improve our political system.  Michigan could lead the way by considering such changes as I outlined here.  Would it be possible to engage you on the idea of promoting such changes?  And can we talk about it?

John Howard Wilhelm, PH.D.,