Livonia, Mich. – May 8, 2018 – Wayne State University political scientists Drs. Marjorie Sarbaugh-Thompson and Lyke Thompson, have been studying the effects of term limits in Michigan since they were adopted via ballot initiative in 1992. Their most recently updated research is the basis of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan’s latest report, “Evaluating the Effects of Term Limits on the Michigan Legislature.”

In a nutshell, they found:

  • Legislative term limits in Michigan have failed to achieve their proponents’ stated goals: Ridding government of career politicians, increasing diversity among elected officials, and making elections more competitive.
  • Term limits have made state legislators, especially House members, view their time as a stepping stone to another office. Term limits have failed to strengthen ties between legislators and their districts or sever cozy relationships with lobbyists. They have weakened the legislature in its relationship with the executive branch.
  • The chief problem rests not with term limits, but with the fact that among the 15 states with term limits, Michigan has the shortest and strictest limits. Lengthening time in office would help, as would improving the redistricting process and reforming the primary election system.

“Michigan is about to get a full dose of term limits,” said Eric Lupher, President of the Citizens Research Council. “Between legislators reaching the end of their terms and those leaving the House in hopes of filling vacated Senate seats, more than half of all legislators will be new to their chamber come January 2019.

“And state government leadership will change because of term limits. Michigan will have a new governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, Senate majority leader, and speaker of the house because everyone currently serving in those roles will have exhausted their eligibility to serve in those offices or chambers.”

And yet, term limits remain popular with voters; in a 2008 survey conducted by Michigan State University, 70 percent of respondents said they approved of them. Repeal in such an environment seems unlikely.

A few of the 15 states with term limits have tweaked their policies after adoption, but any such effort in Michigan has yet to advance beyond the discussion stage. Thompson and Sarbaugh-Thompson discuss other political reforms that could improve representation in Lansing without repealing or otherwise modifying term limits.

These include changing the way districts are drawn, as both parties will press majority advantages, when they have them, to draw lines that favor one party over another. Nonpartisan, “top-two” primaries could also increase participation across a wider range of voters.

The full report is available on the Research Council website.

Contact: Nancy Derringer, 734-548-0033;


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