In response to Congress’ 15 percent approval rating, a new bill has been introduced that would limit Congressional positions to 12 years. Term limits have the potential to diversify Congress, an issue many American voters believe will improve Congress’s performance.
While the holistic body of Congress is elected through multiple elections in order to produce an accurate representation of the diversity of views in America, younger age groups like the 18-25 demographic can feel isolated from politics, especially since the average age of Congress members is 57, the oldest it has ever been. In addition, changes in ballot design have made it more difficult to unseat an incumbent, further aggravating the issue.
“It is crucial for Congress members to better understand this generation and millennials’ perspectives, which can be made possible with a more diverse Congress by electing younger candidates,” Freshman Altay Uenal said.
In theory, term-limits would also rid the economic advantage that incumbents, or holders of office, have over rising challengers. In fact, Congressional incumbents have up to seven times more capital to spend on getting reelected. Under term limits, a party affiliated with an incumbent would invest less money into a candidate who will leave in a few years, and challengers would be on a more economically level playing field.
“As the less experienced underdogs, younger legislators have to fight desperately to get their name out. Incumbents simply pay the right people, and suddenly everyone has mail or a voice message asking for support in the coming election,” Freshman Daniel Man said.
However, term limits have paradoxical effects. A comprehensive study by the National Conference of State Legislatures showed no significant increase in minorities or younger representatives in states where term limits have been established. In fact, women’s representation decreased in a majority of term-limited states, with the exceptions of Calif. and S.D.
Instead, policymakers should seek to make the collective voting system more accessible to fulfill the same goal that term limits strive to fulfill: increase diversity within Congress. Through the Open Our Democracy Act, this would open primaries and require all candidates to appear on a single primary ballot, offering equal opportunity to all candidates. Without setting term limits, the policy would be able to shape Congress to ensure a more inclusive representation of the American populations’ needs and voices.