Term Limits

Citizens Count Editor

A term limit blocks an elected official from holding the same office for an unlimited time.  For example, the 22nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution limits the president to two terms.

New Hampshire does not have any term limits for elected officials.

Federal law on term limits

In 1995 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton that states cannot set term limits for U.S. Representatives or U.S. Senators.  However, states may enact laws that limit terms for state officials, such as the governor.

New Hampshire term limits

New Hampshire does not limit terms for any elected officials, although elected officials also have relatively short terms in the Granite State.  State representatives, senators, executive councilors, and the governor all face election every two years.

Click here to learn more about the structure of the New Hampshire Legislature, including its shorter terms.

New Hampshire judges are the only government officials that face a limit on how long they can serve, although judges are appointed and not elected in the Granite State.  The New Hampshire Constitution states that judges must retire after age seventy

Term limits in other states

About one-third of states limit terms for state legislators.  Those limits vary from six to sixteen years in office.  However, in some of those states legislators can return to the same office after spending at least one election cycle out of office.

Almost three-quarters of states limit terms for governors.  In most cases, governors are limited to two consecutive terms in office.  Virginia is the only state that does not let governors serve more than one term in a row.

Lastly, many states have term limits for other government officials, such as the attorney general, secretary of state, and judges. 

PROS & CONS

"For" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

NH should limit terms for elected officials.

  • Term limits weed out “career politicians” who are most concerned with pandering to donors, enriching their businesses, and staying in office for the personal benefits.
  • A legislator who spends a long time in office is more likely to make policy decisions based on outdated data and knowledge.  Term limits increase the likelihood that new legislators will arrive with updated perspectives.
  • While low pay and high turnover might be reason to forego term limits in the legislature, the governor is paid over $100,000 and there is no shortage of candidates for the job.  Term limits are therefore especially needed for New Hampshire’s highest state office.
  • Some studies have shown that term limits increase voter turnout.  This is likely because term limits increase the number of competitive elections, giving voters more newcomers to consider.

"Against" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

NH should not limit terms for elected officials.

  • New Hampshire already has some of the shortest terms for elected officials in the nation, at just two years.  These short terms give voters ample opportunity to review each elected official’s performance and remove him or her from office if they so choose.
  • New Hampshire has a very large legislature (the third largest in the English speaking world), and the pay is only $100 per year.  This makes it difficult to attract enough interested and qualified candidates to fill every seat.  If New Hampshire instituted term limits, it would remove many legislators and make it even harder to fill the House and Senate with qualified candidates.
  • The longer a legislator is in office, the more he or she learns about policy and the complexities of state government.  This experience makes him or her better equipped to pass effective laws.  In fact, some studies show that legislatures with less turnover and more experienced legislators spend more frugally.
  • At least one study has shown that legislators who are not term limited are more likely to build cooperative relationships with fellow legislators from other parties, increasing bipartisan legislation.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Killed in the Senate

Allows municipalities to establish term limits for elected officials.

Killed in the House

Urges Congress to propose a constitutional amendment limiting term limits for Congress.

Killed in the House

Constitutional amendment requiring judges to be elected rather than appointed.

Killed in the Senate

Constitutional amendment changing the term of office for state representatives, state senators, executive councilors, and the governor to four years.

Should NH limit terms for elected officials?

AGAINST
REPRESENTATIVES

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Issue Status

Moves to impose term limits on municipal officials and judges were killed in the Legislature this year, as was a push for a resolution urging Congress to pass a federal term limits bill. 

Read what citizens had to say about term limits in NH.

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