Random term limits

We had this discussion today about how most congressmembers are in safe seats, where voters can only make a difference in the primary elections for the rare open seats. One solution to the problem is term limits, but Bob Erikson pointed out that then there’s a lame-duck problem, with congressmembers who are about to be term-limited no longer being moderated by the voters.

So here’s my solution: each year, select some congressmembers to be term limited. You can adjust the probability to match the turnover rate you want; for example if you do 40 a year, you’ll cycle through all of them every 10 years or so, on average. Then schedule a special election (or else do the lottery in February or so, to give candidates time to run in the primary).

I’m sure there are lots of reasons why this is a bad idea, but I kind of like it. When some really great congressmember gets term limited out, he or she can perhaps consider some appointive office or contribute to government in some other way.

P.S. Ted Dunning suggests a different solution (see comments below): move the district lines randomly after every election. I like this, since it seems cleaner to implement from a constitutional perspective. Also has the advantage of allowing the districts to equalize population more frequently, and, beyond this, it puts less pressure on each redistricting to be super-balanced, since the lines would be redrawn every two years.

4 thoughts on “Random term limits

  1. Perhaps better would be to have the district lines be somewhat randomized but still reasonably compact geographically.

    That would mean that some seats (say in rural Idaho) would still be pretty safe, but most seats could wind up with an influx of differently minded voters in any given election.

  2. But random districts means that some reps may wake up after a redraw and not live in their districts, which happens maybe only 1 a decade now. Fear of this makes implementation of this policy impractical.

    If we get to change things, why not just switch to a multi-member district system and elect congressmen by proportional representation?

  3. Having districts drawn algorithmically would be incredibly simple and would solve a lot of the arguments about various forms of discrimination.

    I have a very simple algorithm in mind, and might draw up some maps shortly just to illustrate.

    The main problem is that this would eliminate the ability to gerrymander.

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