January 29, 2014
By illinoispolicy

More than any other state, Illinois is a case study in why term limits for elected officials are needed. In Illinois, entrenched incumbents control campaign finance laws and gerrymander electoral districts to consolidate political power with legislative leaders. They also deprive Illinois citizens of the right to participate in meaningful, contested elections.


1. Illinois has some of the longest-serving legislative leaders.

  • House Speaker Michael Madigan – 43 years
  • Senate President John Cullerton – 35 years
  • Leaders of the two Republican caucuses combined –36 years

2. Chicago is the only top 10 city without term limits.

Out of the nation’s top 10 largest cities, Chicago is the only one without some form of term limits

3. Term limits are overwhelmingly popular.

  • 79 percent of registered Illinois voters favor term
  • limits, according to a 2012 poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute
  • 37 other states have some form of term limits that apply to their legislatures or constitutional officers
  • Since 1990, term-limit state referendums have passed 20 of the 22 times attempted nationwide

4. Voters in states with term limits can replace career politicians who aren’t serving the public’s best interest.

  • States with term limits have average turnover rates that are 15 to 20 percentage points higher than states without term limits.
  • Turnover rates in 2010:
  • Term-limit states: 42 percent
  • Non-term-limit states: 25 percent

5. Illinois faces challenges to getting a term limit amendment passed in Illinois via referendum.

  • Gather more than 300,000 valid signatures to appear on the ballot
  • Survive any legal challenges attempting to pull issue from the ballot
  • Get a three-fifths majority to vote on an amendment or a simple majority of those voting in the election

Why it matters to you

Under term limits, residents would be able to remove career politicians who are no longer serving their needs. Long-sitting politicians are able to manipulate the system to remain in power, serving themselves and special interests. The state needs citizen legislators, not career politicians. Illinoisans frustrated with decades of Chicago’s political control over the state would have a chance to dethrone long-serving politicians.
With mountains of debt and the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the nation, Illinois needs to rid itself of the entrenched politicians who have created the mess.


The Illinois General Assembly should pass an amendment via referendum that places limits on Illinois’ General Assembly and executive members:
Illinois General Assembly members should be limited to eight years of service.
Illinois constitutional officers should be limited to eight years of service

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