Kids Voting, Oct. 19, 2009
Voters will be asked on Nov. 3 to extend the term limits for the offices of the Mesa County coroner, district attorney and sheriff. All three offices have a two-term limit with each term being four years.
The ballot issues this election are not to eliminate term limits but to extend them from two terms to three terms.
Voters saw a similar issue on the ballot in 2005 for the coroner and in 2007 for the sheriff. These ballot issues also asked to extend the term limits, but both were voted down.
A review of survey data from the 1992 American National Election Study provides insight into the arguments for and against term limits.
Opponents to term limits argue that voters can use their own judgment to expel politicians from offices simply by voting. Elected officials who perform poorly can be removed from office by the voters. However, when term limits are imposed, high-performing officials cannot be retained by the voters beyond a limited time frame.
Opponents also contend that individuals new to the political environment may be naïve and easily exploited. Their effectiveness may not fully develop until they are well into their first term.
“Term limits are kind of a lazy democracy,” said Ben Miller, a Mesa county voter. Yet he was not in favor of extending term limits either. He said that term limits should be reserved for policy makers such as congressional representatives.
Proponents of term limits counter that the limits encourage fresh faces and new ideas and reduce the “name recognition” advantage of incumbent candidates. Another argument for term limits is that having new candidates on the ballot encourages the public to learn about the political viewpoints of all candidates rather than voting to keep things the same.
Lower level offices, such as county offices, are sometimes hard to fill because of the qualifications and experience required of the positions.
Now serving Mesa County are Sheriff Stan Hilkey, Coroner Dr. Dean Havlik and District Attorney Pete Hautzinger. All three are serving their second term.
“Now I’m starting to feel I’m getting in step with managing my staff and other responsibilities,” said Hautzinger, now into his fifth year. “Twelve years is a good balance—giving the voters the best bang for their buck.”
Extending term limits has advantages and disadvantages. By being informed about the responsibilities of the positions as well as the qualifications of the candidates, voters can decide when and if term limits are needed.