Four Year Terms – Another Incumbent Protection Scheme

It’s bad enough legislators already get to pick their constituents through the horrific mess that is redistricting; now some legislators think that having to be held accountable to the voters every two years is problematic.

59 members of the NC House have signed onto legislation, HB 71, which would place a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot to allow for four-year terms for the General Assembly.

What’s interesting about this group of 59 is over half of them (31 to be exact) were unopposed last election cycle.  It must just be too much work for them to have to slog down to the county board of elections every other February and simply file for office in order to retain their seat; I know that can be a little taxing.  But since they were unopposed, it means, for all intents and purposes, they were elected to a four year term.

Of the remaining co-sponsors, only four really had competitive races.  The rest won by margins of anywhere from 10 to 80 points.

Some of these members have been elected year after year with minimal opposition.  Some of these members have NEVER had an opponent.  One, that I know of, was appointed to his/her seat and has never had an opponent.  So what are these members afraid of?  Why the need for four year terms when they are practically guaranteed re-election by simply filing for office?

The bigger problem here is not the length of terms for the General Assembly, it the sheer lack of competition for many of the seats.  Over half the General Assembly was re-elected last fall without opposition; many more faced token or severely underfinanced opponents.  In actuality, there were maybe a total of 20-25 truly competitive races out of the 170 seats up for grabs.  That, not the length of term, is the problem.

Perhaps though, Doug Clark of the Greensboro News and Record said it best:

“These are the same legislators who draw their own gerrymandered districts designed to eliminate competition. Most of them are virtually guaranteed victory.

Now this bunch wants not only guaranteed victory, but guaranteed victory every four years instead of two.

I would support four-year terms for legislators on one condition: That they create an independent authority to draw fair legislative districts. Give voters a real choice in legislative elections. Then they’d be worth waiting four years for.”

This article was posted in Elections & Voting by Chris Hayes on February 24, 2009 at 10:05 AM.

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