Term Limits and Turnover in State Legislatures

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One of the enduring issues in representative institutions is the rate of turnover among elected officials. For at least 70 years now, political scientists have been interested in measuring state legislative turnover. What we know about state legislative turnover, historically, is that the rates were quite high in many states at least until after the "reapportionment revolution" of the 1960s. For example, at mid-century. the average turnover per electoral cycle was 45 percent in state houses and 40 percent in state senates. This situation led many observers to worry that the legislatures were lagging far behind the executive and judicial branches of state government in their ability to operate as an equal partner in policy-making. As one observer put it. "Whether the legislature will be strong enough to perform [its] functions depends in no small measure upon whether capable candidates will seek places in the legislature and stay there long enough to make a contribution."2

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