The Implications of Term Limits for Women and Minorities: Some Evidence from the States

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This article attempts to shed some light on an unintended consequence of the term limit movement, its likely impact on the representation of women and minorities in state legislatures. There has been a great deal of discussion recently about limiting the terms of elected officials. In 1990, 3 states, California, Colorado, and Oklahoma, led the way in adopting term limits for their state legislatures. The purpose of this research is to analyze extant characteristics and trends in the state legislatures to help inform the discussion of the effect of term limits on two groups who are presently underrepresented in most state legislatures, women and minorities. Proponents of term limits contend that state legislatures are becoming too much like the U.S. Congress, replete with the same problems: career politicians more concerned with their own electoral safety than the welfare of the people. It is argued that term limits will open up the legislature to new faces and fresh ideas, by diminishing the power of long-time incumbents, whom many view as being unduly influenced by special interests.

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