Term limits are one of most popular political issues of the day. Most think of achieving this with a Constitutional Amendment, but there is another way: with nullification.
Before 1995, states were legislating term limits. Then in Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779,(1995) in a 5 to 4 split decision, the Supreme Court ruled term limits unconstitutional. Their reasoning was that since the U.S. Constitution imposed some qualifications on Congress people, such as age restrictions and citizen requirements. The states could not legislate additional requirements.
In a well reasoned and clear statement for federalism, Clarence Thomas dissented with, “It is ironic that the Court bases today’s decision on the right of the people to ‘choose whom they please to govern them’.” Under our Constitution, there is only one State whose people have the right to ‘choose whom they please’ to represent Arkansas in Congress… Nothing in the Constitution deprives the people of each State of the power to prescribe eligibility requirements for the candidates who seek to represent them in Congress. The Constitution is simply silent on this question. And where the Constitution is silent, it raises no bar to action by the States or the people.”
Justice Thomas is correct. There is no real Constitutional basis for this split Supreme Court ruling. It is the ruling on the whims and political view of five lawyers. At the end of this Blog are states that still have federal term limits in their laws and/or constitution. As best I can determine, these states still have these statutes on the record. If the governor or Secretary of State deems that in Inc. v. Thornton, the U.S Supreme Court does not have the authority to make their ruling, then they could prevent these multi-term federal politicians from appearing on the ballot. A grass roots effort in these states might persuade one of them to do this.
“ U.S. Senator who have, at the end of the current term, been a senator 12 of the last 18 years. It would also apply to candidates for U.S. Representative who have, at the end of the current term, been a Representative 6 of the last 12 years. These candidates may still receive write-in votes.”
Arkansas Constitution, Amdt. 73, 3
“persons having been elected to three or more terms as a member of the United States House of Representatives from Arkansas shall not be eligible to appear on the ballot for election to the United States House of Representatives from Arkansas. Lastly, it provides that any person having been elected to two or more terms as a member of the United States Senate from Arkansas shall not be eligible to appear on the ballot for election to the United States Senate from Arkansas.”
Arizona Constitution, Art. VII, 18
“The name of any candidate for United States senator… for two consecutive terms”
“the name of a candidate for United States representative from Arizona shall not appear on the ballot … for three consecutive terms.”
Colorado Constitution, Art. XVIII, 9a;
“(2) The people of Colorado hereby state their support for a nationwide limit of twelve consecutive years of service in the United States Senate and six consecutive years of service in the United States House of Representatives and instruct their public officials to use their best efforts to work for such a limit.”
Florida Constitution, Art. VI, 4(b)(5), (6); N.D. Cent. Code 16.1-01-13.1 (Supp. 1993);
“SECTION 4. Disqualifications.—
(b) No person may appear on the ballot for re-election to any of the following offices:
(5) U.S. Representative from Florida, or
(6) U.S. Senator from Florida”
Michigan Constitution ., Art. II, 10;
“No person shall be elected to office as representative in the United States House of Representatives more than three times during any twelve year period. No person shall be elected to office as senator in the United States Senate more than two times during any twenty-four year period.
Missouri Constitution, Art. III, 45(a);
“serve more than two terms in the United States Senate, and no United States Representative from Missouri shall serve more than four terms in the United States House of Representatives.”
Montana Constitution, Art. IV, 8;
“ (d) 6 or more years in any 12-year period as a member of the U.S. house of representatives; and
(e) 12 or more years in any 24-year period as a member of the U.S. senate. “
“prohibit persons who have served three consecutive terms as a representative in congress or two consecutive terms in the U.S. Senate from being listed on any official ballot for re-election”
Ohio Constitution., Art. V, 8;
“United States Senator from Ohio for a period longer than two successive terms of six years. No person shall hold the office of United States Representative from Ohio for a period longer than four successive terms of two years.”
Oklahoma Constitution, Art. II, 12A;
“shall be eligible to serve as a Representative for a total of six (6) years and as a Senator for a total of twelve (12) years”
South Dakota Constitution, Art. III, 32;
“no person may be elected to more than two consecutive terms in the United States senate or more than six consecutive terms in the United States house of representatives.”