Rod Miller: Term Limits And Vox Populi In Wyoming

Columnist Rod Miller writes, "I hope that the Supreme Court will reject anyone telling Wyoming voters whom they can and cannot vote for. I hope they affirm the right of the individual Wyoming voter to support whatever candidate they damn well please."

Rod Miller

July 09, 20244 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

My mental calculus about term limits has oscillated over the years, from “what a great idea” to “this sucks.” But, in my golden years, the issue is settled for me.

On one hand, term limits are really seductive. The attraction is enhanced when we see doddering old politicians limping into the chambers of power with decades under their belts. It makes one wonder what manner of life support system is propping these codgers up long enough to vote on issues that affect us.

These geriatrics are nearly impossible to dislodge in order to make room for newer blood. They’ve been in power long enough to memorize the rules of procedure, and they use their seniority as a firewall against change. 

They are such fixtures in their home districts that voters choose them time and time again, seemingly out of sheer habit. 

Whether in legislative or executive positions, they seem to consider their offices lifetime appointments like Supreme Court justices. And, in so doing, they clog up the system and fossilize the workings of government.

We great unwashed react by trying to limit how long a person can be in office or how many times they can appear on a ballot. We invoke vox populi as we try to oust them from their secure positions, thinking “that will teach the bastids!” and “We the People have spoken!”

Term limit laws and other pushback against political longevity have codified our dissatisfaction. That’s on the one hand.

On the other hand, our Constitution places responsibility for choosing elected officials squarely on the shoulders of us voters. The sanctity of the individual’s vote is the cornerstone of our civic life. 

Wars have been fought and people killed to preserve that basic democratic right. Our right to choose our own government come hell or high waters is worth it, I am convinced.

The individual citizen’s right to exercise agency over her or his own political life overrides any other consideration in our Great Experiment. In other words, nobody can tells who to vote for or force a political viewpoint upon us. Again, blood has been shed protecting this right.

Just as true is the notion that nobody can tell us who we CAN’T vote for. Trying to do that is an equally egregious infringement upon our citizenship.

To me, that is precisely what term limit laws try to do. They tell us that, because someone has served x number of terms or x number of years, we can’t vote for them.

Term limits, viewed from this angle, are nothing more than a disenfranchisement of the voters. 

If voters in some district of Elsewhere like their incumbent enough, even though he or she may be hooked up to wires and tubes to keep them alive, and even though their vote on the floor makes other folks pull their hair out in frustration, the voice of voters in that district should prevail if they return the ol’ codger to office.

That is nothing more than the voice of the people being expressed.

Wyoming is positioning itself to confront the concept of term limits, if Gov. Gordon chooses to run for another term. And running for office is another cornerstone of our citizens’ government.

In the eventuality of another Gordon candidacy, the issue will no doubt be decided by the Wyoming Supreme Court. The Wyoming Supremes have already struck down as unconstitutional the Wyoming statute that limited the terms of legislators and other statewide officials.

I foresee and I hope that the Court will treat term limits as applied to the Wyoming governor in a similar manner. 

I hope that the Court will reject anyone telling Wyoming voters whom they can and cannot vote for. I hope they affirm the right of the individual Wyoming voter to support whatever candidate they damn well please.

THAT is truly the voice of the people.

Rod Miller can be reached at:

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Rod Miller

Political Columnist