Compromise Proposal on Election Reform Ideas

My County Councilman (and Council Chair) Mel Franklin and his fellow incumbents want to remove term limits, or at least have the ability to serve three terms.

I realize politics is about the art of the possible and compromise. Thus, I propose we merge my election reform ideas and the incumbents’ desire to have a third term. Before anything else, our Prince George’s County officials must put their weight behind election reforms to abolish the use of slates and their “sample ballot” advertisements. (As we know from experience, when our county politicians really want something, they can get it done. See: casino at National Harbor, school system reforms.) Once these desperately needed reforms are enacted, then let’s give the incumbents a chance at a third term.

The logic for my compromise proposal goes like this:

The current system of candidate slates and sample ballots provides nearly bullet-proof incumbent protection. As long as your fellow politicians like you well enough so that you appear on their slate and sample ballot, there is no realistic way an incumbent politician can lose an election. In this system of extreme incumbency protection, it would make absolutely no sense to tinker with the existing term limits for the County’s elected officials. Term limits are the only policy in place that provides an avenue for new candidates and fresh ideas to enter our political power structure. The added benefit is that, as elected county officials are out of office due to term limits, there is a good chance they start looking at opportunities to run for other elected, non-term-limited positions, such as seats in the Maryland Legislature. Such former office holders are likely to be well-qualified contenders, and they are more likely to be able to give a real challenge to a lackluster incumbent.

If we reduce the incumbency protection by getting rid of candidate slates and their sample ballot advertisements, I am inclined—in the spirit of compromise—to allow our county officials have a chance at a third term. But, in order for us to give such a gift to our incumbents, we do need something significant in return.

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